Song Emperor Gaozong's order presented to Yue Fei

Imperial documents on display at the National Palace Museum include 1) "Imperial Mandates: Proclamations of the Emperor"; 2) "Memorials, Their Copies, and Archives"; and 3) "Official Documents and Historiographical Compilations". [Source: National Palace Museum, Taipei \=/ ]

According to the National Palace Museum, Taipei: Imperial Mandates “can be anything from imperial decrees to honors bestowed on officials and individuals, edicts issued to other states, or dealings with major military or state affairs. These were popularly known as "sacred edicts" but also had many official names, depending on their function or agency of issue, such as imperial mandates, decrees, imperial orders, imperial edicts, lists of successful candidates, volumes, documents, tallies, and summons. The edicts and decrees chosen for this part of the exhibit are all important proclamations of the emperor. \=/

“Every major event or ceremony that took place within the realm of the Qing empire required an imperial decree to inform officials and the general public alike. Such events included ascension to the throne, an important imperial marriage, appointment of imperial regent, death in the imperial family, political reform, amendment to the law, or major disaster. All of these had to be "proclaimed to all under the Heavens". \=/

“Decrees were written in a certain way and followed a set format. The text would start with the phrase, "The Emperor, who governs with the Mandate of Heaven, declares that..." and would end with one meaning, "Proclaimed to all under the Heavens, let it be known" or "Proclaimed to all the states, let it be known" (depending on the intended audience). The actual content of the decree would come in between these opening and closing phrases.” \=/

Specific Qing Dynasty Imperial Mandates included: 1) “Imperial Decree Proclaiming the Removal of Prince Regent Dorgon and his Mother from the Imperial Shrine,” 22nd day of the 2nd month of the 8th year of the Shun-chih reign (1651), Qing Dynasty, height 78.2 x width 185 centimeters; 2) “Imperial Mandate of the Hsien-feng Emperor,” 17th day of the 7th month of the 11th year of the Hsien-feng reign (1861), Q'ing Dynasty, 85.5 x 278 centimeters (H x W); 3) “Edict Bearing the "Yü-shang" and "T'ung-tao T'ang" Imperial Seals”, 13th day of the 11th month of the 11th year of the Hsien-feng reign (1861), Qing Dynasty, 22.3 x 20 centimeters (H x W).

Edicts, "Piao", "Chien", Credentials and Imperial Patents of Nobility

According to the National Palace Museum, Taipei: “ A "patent" was a means of making something known in writing. During the Qing dynasty, "imperial patents of nobility" were issued by the emperor to all officials above the fifth rank as well as those in the family line who could inherit title. The patent would describe the recipients' achievements, the reason they were being given the title, and also the what the title entails. During the Qing, these patents would be written on silk of either three or five colors, with text in both Manchurian and Chinese written variously with black, vermilion, or green ink, depending on the color of the background. The patents would often be in the handscroll format using beautifully paired writing, the beginning of which would state, "The Emperor, who rules with the Mandate of Heaven, proclaims that...". [Source: National Palace Museum, Taipei \=/ ]

“During the Qing dynasty, the most common type of patent was for recipients of inheritable titles. These patents tended to be especially long in order to leave room for the names of heirs to the title to be added later. Examples of Imperial Patents of Nobility included: 1) “Imperial Patent Bestowing Posthumous Title on Shen To,” dated from the 19th year of the Qianlong reign to the 14th year of the Guangxu reign (1754-1888), Qing Dynasty, 39.8 x 568 centimeters (H x W). \=/

“Throughout their rule, the Qing emperors believed theirs was a "heavenly dynasty in a superior country", which is why in the early Qing one finds no Chinese diplomatic documents with wording to suggest that other states were considered as equal to China. Some documents are "ch'ih-yü" edicts speaking in a condescending manner, while others are "piao" and "chien" that speak from a lower status. "Piao" and "chien" originally were documents for officials to convey birthday wishes and congratulatory remarks to the emperor and empress. "Piao" were offered to the emperor and his mother, the empress dowager, while "chien" were offered to the empress. The contents often dealt with congratulatory text extolling the merits and virtues of the recipient. "Piao" and "chien" were also presented to the Qing emperor by neighboring or vassal states. After the joint attack by Anglo-French forces in the 19th century, the Qing court was forced to establish offices for foreign affairs, from which time credentials treating other nations as equals gradually appeared.”\=/

“Examples of edicts, "piao", "chien", and credentials include: 1) “Gold Foil "Piao" from the Kingdom of Siam”, Qianlong reign (1736-1795), Qing Dynasty; 2) Dragon-decorated seal and pouch woven in gold silk thread, Piao: 16.3 x 28.5 centimeters (H x W); 3) Tribute List from Taksin the Great of the Kingdom of Siam, 26th day of the 5th month of the 46th year of the Qianlong reign (1781), Qing Dynasty, 24.5 x 100cm (H x W, ten bundles); 4) Gold "Chien" from the Kingdom of Annam Mourning the Death of the Qianlong Emperor, 10th day of the 5th day of the 4th year of the Chia-Qing reign (1799), Qing Dynasty, Book: 25 x 14.5 centimeters (H x W, 9 pages), Cover: 27.5 x 16.5 centimeters (H x W); 5) Diplomatic Credentials from the Qing Court to Great Britain, 31st year of the Guangxu reign (1905), Qing Dynasty, Credentials: 34.3 x 269.5 centimeters (H x W), Cover: 23 x 2.5 x34.5x 2.5 centimeters (H x W x D); 6) Credentials from Korea to the Qing Court, 8th year of the Gwangmu reign (12th year of the Guangxu in China, 1902, Qing Dynasty), Credentials: 41.4 x 53.3 centimeters (H x W), Pouch: 22 x 16 centimeters (H x W).” \=/

The “Edict for the Personal Rule of the Tongzhi Emperor”, dated the 12th year of the Tongzhi’s reign (1873), Qing dynasty, is 84 x 410.5 centimeters (99 x 447 centimeters overall). According to the National Palace Museum, Taipei: ““An edict is one of the "sacred instructions" (or decrees) issued by the emperor. Being an official document presented by the emperor, the beginning must start with the phrase, "Entrusted as such by the Heavens, the Emperor hereby proclaims...." The intended audience is also the widest possible, the purpose being to inform all officials, nobility, and commoners of the land about the emperor's orders. For this reason, the phrase "Announced to all under the Heavens, hereby be it fully heard and known" was included at the end. This and the general impression differ from the personal or clan type of "sacred instruction" kowtow. That type of imperial decree usually is in the form of a handscroll, the audience being only a single person or the family, in which the formal name was "order by decree" with the beginning of "Entrusted as such by the Heavens, the Emperor hereby 'produces'..." (emphasis added to note distinction).

“Edicts basically all deal with matters of great national importance, with almost all of them intricately bound to some major historical event. The edict on display in this exhibit involves the Tongzhi Emperor, who assumed the throne at the tender age of six in 1862. Two dowager empresses, however, ruled behind the scenes for eleven years, before the emperor personally assumed control of the country, proclaiming this fact to all with this document. The contents of the edict, written in both Chinese and Manchu, mention his praise of Dowager Empresses Tz'u-an and Tz'u-hsi as well as his dedication to the people. It also reveals the self-deprecatory and expectations of a young emperor through inclusion of the phrase, "From now on, I will be cautious and conscientious. From day one to tens of thousands, I dare not indulge in idle or leisure." Who would have thought that a year later this young life would come to an abrupt end?

Memorials with Imperial Rescripts in Vermilion Ink

Qianglong palace memorial

According to the National Palace Museum, Taipei: “Memorials were reports submitted to the emperor by high-ranking officials during the Qing dynasty. A system originating with the K'ang-hsi Emperor, in the early period only certain high officials were conferred with the right to send memorials in secret to him. They would be returned to the sender once he had reviewed and annotated them with his comments in vermilion ink. The Yung-cheng Emperor expanded the scope of uses for memorials, and also initiated a system for their return to the court. Without exception, all memorials that had been rescripted by the emperor were to be returned to the palace archives for storage. Officials were forbidden from keeping them in private possession. This practice was followed in subsequent reigns and gradually became systematized. After the Grand Council was established, all memorials rescripted by the emperor also had to be submitted to the Grand Council to be transcribed to serves as copies for future reference, hence the term "memorial copies". [Source: National Palace Museum, Taipei \=/ ]

“The collection of memorials (Tsou-che) in Museum dated from K'ang-hsi to Hsüan-t'ung emperor preserve the imperial edicts which were announced by rulers of Qing dynasty or rescripts to the officials. The origins of the memorial system began in the K'ang-hsi reign, then it was expanded by the Yüng-cheng emperor and the structure and form of court communication became well established by the time of Qianlong's reign. It was a unique official document style and played an important media in discussing political affairs and communicating affections between the officials and the emperor. During this exhibition, we select excellent imperial edicts which cover the reign of nine emperors after the reign of K'ang-hsi emperor. The content contains state and military affairs, local affairs, admission and recall of officials, finance, agriculture, matters of cultural, social security, and education. These excellent imperial rescripts of Qing emperors not only reveal their ideals for state, but represent their personal character in calligraphy. In addition, imperial edicts help us to investigate Qing emperor's individual opinions in state affairs and we can appreciate their accomplishment and achievements in calligraphy. \=/

Examples of memorials with imperial rescripts in vermilion ink include: 1) Memorial on surveying the completion of construction for the sacred tree at the Yung-ling imperial tombs along with supplementary illustration; 2) Memorial Copy from the Imperial Inspector General Gipu, et al., Dated the 23rd day, 9th month, 2nd year of the T'ung-chih reign (1863) with an imperial response on the 2nd day of the 10th month, Qing Dynasty, 21 x 80 centimeters (H x W); 3) Illustration of Preserving the Sacred Tree at the Yung-ling Imperial Tombs, Memorial and illustration submitted by Imperial Inspector Gipu, 23rd day of the 9th month of the 2nd year of the T'ung-chih reign (1863), Qing Dynasty, Imperial response on the 2nd day of the 10th month, 63.5 x 65 centimeters (H x W); 4) Memorial Report on New Sprouts from the Sacred Tree at the Yung-ling Imperial Tombs, Memorial copy from General Ioi-ming, Dated the 15th day, 4th month, 3rd year of the T'ung-chih reign (1864), Qing Dynasty 23 x 53 centimeters (H x W).

Official Chinese Historiographical Compilations

Song dynasty government seal

In the Qing dynasty, institutes were established for compiling and editing of various historical documents. They can generally be divided into the following three categories: 1) Regular institutes, such as the Veritable Records Institute and Imperial Records Institute; 2) Permanent institutes, such as the Historiography Institute, Military Institute, and Court Diary Institute; and 3) Temporary institutes, such as the Ming History Institute, Statutes Institute, and the Chronologies Institute. [Source: National Palace Museum, Taipei \=/ ]

The court editing of historical documents came mostly under the direction of Grand Academicians, the actual writers being mainly members of the Hanlin Academy. This assured quality of the texts and consistency with official thought. The historical books composed by institutes established by the court are commonly called "official documents". \=/

"The rise of a dynasty must accompany the history of another. Making it known to posterity is an important task indeed." This text is taken from an imperial edict dated to the eighth day of the first lunar month of 1649 by Dorgon, the Imperial Father Regent, for inaugurating an institute to compile the Veritable Records of Emperor Wen, T'ai-tsung, explaining the importance attached to the tradition of compiling and editing dynastic histories by the Qing court. \=/

Among the examples of official historiographical compilations are: 1)"Veritable Records of Emperor Wen, T'ai-tsung, of the Great Qing", 3rd month of the 6th year to 3rd month of the 7th year of the Ch'ung-te reign (1642-1643), Qing Dynasty, Large red silk version, 45 x 30 centimeters (H x W); 2) "Annals of Emperor Kao, T'ai-tsu, of the Great Qing"m Yellow silk version from the Historiography Institute, Qing Dynasty, 37.6 x 22.6 centimeters (H x W); and 3) "Biography of Prince Regent Dorgon", Historiography Institute edition, Qing Dynasty 40.5 x 24 centimeters (H x W).

Seal of the Emperor

According to the National Palace Museum, Taipei: “In Chinese culture, the stamp of a seal (chop) established credibility. From the Eastern Chou period (c. 770 B.C.-221 B.C.) till today, emperors to commoners have used seals to certify authenticity. The seal has been a mainstay in the lives of the Chinese people.” The seals in the Qing court's imperial collection at the National Palace Museum, Taipei are organized into three categories: "For the Emperor's Imperial Use," "For the Emperor's Appreciation," and "For the Emperor's Collection." [Source: National Palace Museum, Taipei \=/ ]

1) For the Emperor's Imperial Use: Found when opening the emperor's storage boxes were large jade seals used for imperial orders and seals used to stamp works of calligraphy and painting in his collection. Moreover, the emperor had his seals duplicated and placed in the various halls of his palace so that he could retrieve them at will. The Qing emperor Qianlong is known for "adding" his own artistic touch by stamping his seal onto most of the works in his collection. \=/

Porcelain mark of Qing Emperor Yongzheng

2) For the Emperor's Appreciation: Aside from "imperial use," the emperor also used seals for his enjoyment. The emperor combined his love of writing poems and collecting in the commission of the "Yüan-chin-yün" seals (including album of impressions). In this collection are nine finely carved t'ien-huang stone seals in the shape of mythical beasts. Each of the nine seals has a different engraving of a poem in which the characters are repeated but cleverly repositioned throughout the various lines. Carved in nine different versions of seal script, the characters also reveal the reverence emperors held for the ancient past. \=/

Emperor Qianlong commissioned the engraving of the poems on the seals in the "Pao-chang chi-hsi" seal collection (including album of impressions), which contain the character "hsi" (happiness). The "Four Aspects of the Seal to be Appreciated" (the stone, carved decorations/animal knobs, legend engraving and content of seal inscription) of the "Pao-chang chi-hsi" seal collection are particularly beautiful, but the collection was especially cherished because its borders are decorated with bats ("fu," or "bat," is a homophone for the word "luck") and the character "hsi" in red. \=/

3) For the Emperor's Collection: The collector's seal also indicated his love for antiquity. The Qing emperors not only collected items such as ancient bronze and jade seals from the Han to Wei dynasties (206 B.C.-280 A.D.) but also began to collect late Ming dynasty seals (1368-1644) and various types of early Qing seals. The Yü-Qing Palace held a collection of a hundred copper seals; some had been for the private use of Warring States period and Han dynasty officials; some seals were engraved with imperial admonitions and animals. As shapes of and carvings upon the seal itself diversified, the characters became more unique, becoming even more so a model for the study of seal script. \=/

“In the seal collection of the Qing emperors were seals with legends of "Ai-lien-shuo" and the "Ming-chuan chien-chen lou shih-ming," with characters collected from the engraved calligraphy of the Ming master Wen P'eng. Famous master carvers Wen P'eng and Ho Chen established the practice of seal carving in the seal script style among Ming and Qing dynasty scholars. While the inscriptions mentioned above are considered extremely elegant and dynamic, the side inscriptions and the lines are very different from the so-called "Wen-p'eng" carving style that had been passed down to successive generations of stone carvers, resulting in questions about authenticity. Though the seal inscriptions may not be originals, the then trend to imitate antiquity as well as the Qing emperor's tastes in seal collecting are apparent.” \=/

The Jade seal of the Qianlong Emperor (ruled (1736-1795), inscribed Ku-hsi t'ien-tzu chih pao, measures, 13 x 13 x 10.5 centimeters. The impression of this type of imperial seal of the Qianlong Emperor, which can be translated as "Treasure of the Seventy-year-old Son of Heaven", is often found on works of painting and calligraphy in the collection of the National Palace Museum. Several imperial seals of this type were stored at the Qing court.

Imperial Chinese Portraits

Portrait of Ming Emperor Taiching

Large wall-size portraits of ancestors were produced for the aristocracy and ruling class during the Qing dynasty. They feature realistic seated renderings of individual painted in bright colors. They were often placed over family altars. The paintings were regarded as mediums for communications to deceased relatives. The Chinese have traditionally believed the dead didn't die they just went to a different world where they could be contacted by the living. The dead were believed to want to hear news and receive offerings and sacrifices from time to time by living relatives.

In his article 'Images of Imperial Grandeur' in “The Three Emperors”, Jan Stuart wrote: the portraits were prepared for posterity and intended to transcend all notion of temporality (even the season and time of day) and also to only reveal the transcendent personality. Thus full realism was eschewed. She describes the context in which these imperial portraits or 'sacred likenesses' (shengrong, yurong and shenyu) were viewed, away from the modern museum: 'Only when they are imagined as the centre of a multi-sensory spectacle, with heady, perfumed incense smoke veiling the sitters' visages, with the sounds of rustling silk garments and tinkling jade girdle ornaments overheard as viewers kowtow and prostrate themselves before the paintings, and with their jewelled colours and accents of gold dancing in flickering candlelight do the portraits assume their intended magnificence'” [Source:“The Three Emperors, 1662-1795,” edited by Evelyn Rawski and Jessica Rawson, China: London: Royal Academy of Arts, 2005, more than 500 coloured illustrations, p.67]

According to China Heritage Quarterly: “Such portraits were housed in the ancestral hall of the imperial clan. This hieratic portrait of the Kangxi Emperor was hung, eight months after his death, in the Hall of Sovereign Longevity (Shouhuang Dian), a major hall erected by the Yongzheng Emperor for his father and later renovated by the Qianlong Emperor. This ancestral hall for the Qing emperors and the Qianlong Emperor in particular once stood in Jingshan, the imperial park opposite the north gate of the Forbidden City. Other portraits by anonymous court artists depict the Kangxi Emperor reading, as well as seated in informal dress poised to write with a brush; Yongzheng reading; and Qianlong viewing scroll paintings in a garden and, as a young prince, seated in his study, practising calligraphy on a plantain leaf. Apart from these literati portraits, Kangxi is depicted in armour, while Qianlong is portrayed engaged in hunting as well as in ceremonial armour on horseback in a painting attributed to Giuseppe Castiglione.” [Source: China Heritage Quarterly, China Heritage Project, the Australian National University, March 2007;Book Review of “The Three Emperors, 1662-1795,” edited by Evelyn Rawski and Jessica Rawson, China: London: Royal Academy of Arts, 2005, more than 500 coloured illustrations]

Imperial Chinese Maps

According to the National Palace Museum, Taipei: “Maps originated in pictorial depiction, which as visual representations was used in the remote time to convey messages or to pursue artistic expressions. From the Neolithic cave walls or potteries many man-made images have remained to show such early mental pursuits and serve as records of actual lives. Later during the development of graphical imitation skills, some came to use simple lines to depict what they perceived of their geographical surroundings, gradually lending a practical aspect to the art and concept of pictorial representation, and eventually giving rise to the art of mapmaking. [Source: National Palace Museum, Taipei \=/ ]

Grand Canal Map

“Despite practical purposes, maps in the process of development were also full of rich cultural elements. Hence two main branches emerged: one stressed lines for spatial representation of the real world, and the other complemented the function with aesthetic appeal. The same general trend existed in both China and the West, though in different ways. The latter tended to embellish their artistic-oriented maps with dazzling ornamental patterns, while the former emphasized brushwork, composition, and atmosphere, rendering their maps more in the sense of paintings. As Cordell D.K. Yee points out in his History of Chinese Cartography, poetry, calligraphy, and painting, all three are indispensable to the making of an ancient Chinese map. Through the fusion of image and text, maps inform as well as represent. They are not only pragmatic guides to use but also beautiful works of art to look at. \=/

“Indeed, the makers of Chinese ancient maps in essence were no different from art painters, and many Chinese art painters at times made maps, into which they constructed their interpretation of space and expressed their feelings toward natural environments, political boundaries, and social customs. Map reading therefore is not simply to look for "information about a geographical space". There are more profound meanings to be read, between the "lines", about the times of their making. It should be a dialogue across space and time between the map-reader and the mapmaker. \=/

Many of the river, mountain, sea, and territorial border maps made during the Ming and Qing dynasties express three mian themes: 1) "Charting the Rivers", 2) "Guarding the Seas", and 3) "Marking the Borders", showing both the traditional mapmaking techniques and particular concerns of the times. The spectacular landscape of mountains and rivers is an eternal subject of painting. Likewise, traditional maps frequently delineate mountains and rivers, with their geographical distribution and natural scenery being the main intent. Painters and mapmakers alike draw upon nature's appearance, but there is always more realism in the mapmaker's works.” \=/

Types of Imperial Chinese Maps

According to the National Palace Museum, Taipei: “When ancient mapmakers charted rivers, the focus was typically on waterworks and waterway navigation pertinent to the welfare of people. For centuries floods never stopped plaguing China, often devastating millions at a time. Every dynasty ranked river management and flood prevention as top priorities, devoting much efforts and resources yet never with complete success. Waterway transportation also greatly concerned the stability of a regime as for the past thousand years most dynasties had based themselves in the north. Their sustenance heavily relied on the southern rice supplies sent up north via the canal. Furthermore, convenient water routes afforded by networks of rivers and lakes made possible the prosperous trade activities which marked the modern times. [Source: National Palace Museum, Taipei \=/ ]

That the themes of waterworks and waterways appeared so prevalent among the Ming and Qing maps reflects the urgency of the issues during the two dynasties. These included: 1) Map of the Yangtze River; 2) Text-Narrated Atlas of Hangzhou Prefecture, Zejiang Province; 3) Map of Dikes in Zhejiang Province; 4) Map of Nine Rivers in Jiling Province; 5) Map of Daqing River; 6) Map of Floating Bridge in Lanzhou City. \=/

Boundaries and territories are the two most important subjects in traditional Chinese cartography. The jagged borders had to be defined and marked. The vastness of the imperial realm was hard to grasp conceptually. Maps came to help provide the needed information and definitions, especially in delineating the exterior borders as well as demarcating the interior administrative districts and ethnic groups. \=/

Territories consisted of coast and inland areas. Inside the boundaries over the thousands of miles of lands inhabit all my subjects. Outside the boundaries, the established national policy of the imperial China was to win over and control through conciliation. Therefore, dynasties through the ages spared no effort in all kinds of defense installations and placed military posts along the borders, all for safeguarding the integrity of the land. Internally, with the knowledge provided by maps on the respective migratory routes and settlement locations of different peoples, the Ming and Qing governments were also able to effectively enforce the rule over various ethnic minorities. Among these are: 1) Map of the Forest Guards and Limits in Jilin Province; 2) Map of the Northern Frontier in Ming Dynasty; 3) The Newly-Surveyed Concise Map of Jirim League in Mongolia; 4) Map of the Naval Bases in Guangdong Province; 5) Narrative Painting of Emperor Qianlong's Southern Inspection Tour; 6) Emperor's Travel Route from Shanhai Pass to Xiayuan Palace. \=/

"Sea ban" and "coastal defense" were two key maritime policies imposed by dynastic China in the modern era. The ban aimed to prohibit private seafaring activities and the defense to keep foreign powers at bay. The policies went strict or lax with time but in general they formed the most prominent characteristics of the Ming and Qing periods. \=/

“Maps of coastal frontiers figure significantly in the Ming cartography yet mostly modeled after the Illustrated Maritime Defense as general descriptions covering large areas. The approach indicates the conservative position held by the Ming court in its coastal policy. Despite the enterprising Emperors Kangxi, Yongzhen, and Qianlong, Early Qing followed suit. Not until the modern ships and guns of the West forced open the closed doors of China's coasts, had any major adjustments ever been attempted to the defensive mentality. Now something had to change in order to face the challenge coming across the oceans from the other side of the world. \=/

“The coastal maps since the mid-Qing feature in large quantity specific locality details or particular themes. It shows that the dynasty had to respond to the exigencies of the new situations These include: 1) Map of Naval Defenses along Bohai Sea; 2) Map of Bohai Bay, Liaodong and Shandong Peninsulas; 3) Map of the Northern Coast; 4) Map of the Coast Defense in Jiangsu Province. \=/

Su Song star map

History of Imperial Chinese Maps

According to the National Palace Museum, Taipei: “Maps are the crystallization of human wisdom, and have been applied in practical life since their appearance. While we have no way of knowing from existing historical literature when maps first emerged, some scholars believe that mapmaking in China dates back to the time of the Shih-ching (Book of Odes). Yet, the theory has not been confirmed. Several works from the pre-Ch'in era, though, do specifically mention mapmaking, such as the "Lo-kao" chapter in the Shang-shu (The Book of History) and the "Ti-t'u" chapter in the Kuan-tzu (The Book of Master Kuan). The Kuan-tzu chapter, in particular, addresses the practicality of maps, proving that the development of cartography in China had reached the maturity stage at the time. As yet another example, what was clearly defined in the "Wu-tu" chapter of Han-fei-tzu (The Book of Master Han-fei) was the connection of maps to the power of a state. [Source: National Palace Museum, Taipei \=/ ]

“Two different systems of orientation were used in the making of maritime chart scrolls. According to Cheng K'ai-yang, a Ming military strategist who had devoted himself to China's coastal defense, on a maritime chart "objects close at hand are rendered close to the center of a page, while those far away are placed above them, close to the edges." That is to say, instead of applying a system derived from fixed bearings, the chart maker began from the user's perspective. \=/

“There, too, are two position-marking styles for the maritime chart scrolls. The first was applied to the long scroll charts. While there is no fixed bearing, the land is always on the upper section, with the orientation being from the ocean looking towards the land. Examples of this kind of chart includes the Cheng-ho hang-hai-t'u (The Nautical Chart of Cheng Ho) and the Ko-sheng yen-hai k'ou-i ch'üan-t'u (Complete Map of Seven Coastal Provinces). The second was used on coastal defense charts, ones that depict the coastline of China, in full or in part, outlining the defense systems of specific military posts. On these charts the ocean is always on the upper section, with the orientation being from the land looking towards the waters. Again, actual compass bearings were not applied. The main difference between these two systems is their intended use. The former was used primarily for navigation along China's coastline, while the latter was for land-based military purpose. The National Palace Museum has two pieces of the latter type that date to the early Ch'ing dynasty, the T'ai-wan yü-t'u (Map of Taiwan) and the Che-chiang fu-kien yen-hai. \=/

“Maps are images, and they are a form of space representation, the portrayal of the parts of the real world. Maps depict the past and the future, and they may be taken as an expression of power, as well as a vision of imagined space. Maps have therefore been regarded as symbols of national territory and sovereignty. For this very reason many Chinese emperors had been very committed to map-making. Not only had they established institutes responsible for the task, but had also erected agencies to safeguard maps. In addition, on account of technological limitations maps were not reproduced. It was next to impossible to reproduce the very same map exactly the way it had been produced. Each historical cartographical work is like a painting, and only the original has been preserved to this day. \=/

“The western system of latitude and longitude, accompanied by Chinese translations of the legends, was introduced in the late Ming, and the Jesuit Matteo Ricci (1552-1610) was the first to apply the more modern approach to map-making. He had revised his world maps many times, such as the Yü-ti shan-hai ch'üan-t'u (Map of Europe), the Shan-hai yü-ti ch'üan-t'u (Complete Terrestrial Map), the K'un-yü wan-kuo ch'üan-t'u (Great Universal Geographic Map), and Liang-i hsüan-lan-t'u (Map of the Lands between the Poles). The geographical knowledge as well as the cartographical system shown on his maps all differed greatly from those of their Chinese counterparts. \=/

In 1648, Father Francesco Sambiasi (1582-1649) made a map entitled K'un-yü ch'üan-t'u (Map of the World), which was a copy of Ricci's K'un-yü wan-kuo ch'üan-t'u. He put China in the center of the map and supplemented Ricci's original map with the latest geographical knowledge. In 1674, Father Ferdinand Verbiest (1623-1688) produced the K'un-yü ch'üan-t'u (Map of the World), showing the five continents and four oceans surrounded by an oval frame. Monstrous sea creatures, strange marine life forms, and ships were also added to the map. His K'un-yü t'u-shuo (Illustrated Explanation of the Entire World) is a conclusion of the achievements of Western missionaries and map-makers working in China from the late Ming to the mid-17th century. \=/

Map of Zheng He's voyages

Imperial Chinese City, Administrative and Topographical Maps and Palace Designs

According to the National Palace Museum, Taipei: “According to the Chin dynasty encyclopedic work Ku-chin-chu (An Examination of Historical Antiquities), "the term city means containing, because a city holds the capital of a state." It also advises "to build a city to protect the king and build a city wall to guard the citizens." These quotes succinctly illustrate the basic functions of a city in historical times. The first cities appeared in China during the late Neolithic period. Their emergence indicates that the development of Chinese civilization had progressed into a more advanced phase at the time. The birth of a city may be divided into three stages: the selection of a location, the migration of the populace, and the building of the city. The traditional rules governing city building are frequently addressed in historical literature. [Source: National Palace Museum, Taipei \=/ ]

“Palace architecture was also an important issue in historical times, and the emergence of palace had conveyed important cultural connotations, because it demonstrated the centralization of power and the institution of social hierarchy. The palaces of each dynasty all exhibited different features. During the Ming and Qing dynasties, for example, the palace architecture was quite spectacular, representing the supreme power of the emperor and the mysteriousness of the imperial households. \=/

“Several territorial and topographical maps from the Ming and Qing dynasties are on view in this exhibition. The territorial maps could be used to resolve border disputes between China and foreign countries, and they were referred to when resolving issues on China's changing border lines. Therefore, territorial maps were highly valued and strictly protected in historical China. It was during the mid-Qing when territorial studies became popular among the educated, which triggered the improvement of quality and quantity in the production of territorial maps. These include the 1) Ching-hang yün-ho-t'u (Map of the Grand Canal between Peking and Hang-chow), Drawn between the 37th year of the K'ang-hsi reign (1698) and the 1st year of the Yung-cheng reign (1723), Qing dynasty, Ink and color on silk, 78.6×2,050 centimeters; 2) K'u-lun-ch'a-k'o-t'u yi-tai hsing-shih-t'u (Map of K'u-lun and Ch'a-ko-t'u Area and Its Neighboring Land), T'ung-chih reign (1862-1875), Qing dynasty, 64×112.5 centimeters; and 3) the Wu-li-ya-su-t'ai ch'ou-fang-t'u (Map of the Defense of Wu-li-ya-su-t'ai), T'ung-chih reign (1862-1875), Qing dynasty, Ink and color on paper

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: Asia for Educators, Columbia University ; University of Washington’s Visual Sourcebook of Chinese Civilization, /=\; National Palace Museum, Taipei; Library of Congress; New York Times; Washington Post; Los Angeles Times; China National Tourist Office (CNTO); Xinhua;; China Daily; Japan News; Times of London; National Geographic; The New Yorker; Time; Newsweek; Reuters; Associated Press; Lonely Planet Guides; Compton’s Encyclopedia; Smithsonian magazine; The Guardian; Yomiuri Shimbun; AFP; Wikipedia; BBC. Many sources are cited at the end of the facts for which they are used.

Last updated August 2021

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