“[This] ‘complete’ map minimizes the European notion of a map of the world, its centralized and marginalizing construct confirming the Qing/Chinese notion of the Central Kingdom” (Pegg). The map was not only designed as a grand political statement of the Kingdom’s place in the world, but also as an administrative tool and its surface is dotted with: provincial capitals (sheng) square with a small rectangle on top; prefectures (fu) a square; independent district magistrates (zhilizhou) square with a triangle on top; departments (zhou) vertical rectangle; sub-prefectures (ting) a diamond; districts (xian) a circle; frontier passes (guan) a small building; local headmen or western tribute states (tusi) a triangle; with the name appearing within each pictogram. The borders of each province are denoted by dotted lines. As well as administrative areas the map depicts topographical and geographical information. Much attention is given to the waterways and the source of the Yellow river is correctly located in the Bayan-har mountains, and is accompanied by an expansive explanatory note; the Minjiang river is given as the source of the Yangtze. Mountain ridges and the Great Wall are depicted in elevation, and desert areas are stippled. Several neighbouring countries are marked including Russia, India, Siam, Vietnam, Japan and most notably Korea, who as the chief vassal state, receives a great deal of commentary. To the upper left of the map both the Mediterranean “Small Western Ocean”, and Atlantic “Great Western Ocean”, with both Holland, and England depicted as islands, in the Atlantic. One of the more striking aspects of the map is, “The intentionally vague geopolitical lines of the [empire’s] frontiers and beyond clearly indicate the Qing’s perception of the world around them... [with] ...all foreign entities simply inhabited the fringes of the empire”. This together with the empire’s size reaffirms the status of the kingdom as the geographical, political, and cultural centre of the world.
The map, which the present example is based upon, was first produced in 1767 for the Emperor Qianglong, in order to celebrate the unification of the Qing empire. No example of the original survives, however, a painted copy of the map was produced in 1800 by Huang Zhengsun, and now resides in the Beijing National Library. The copy was commissioned, upon Qianglong’s death - along with other important documents - as a celebration of his reign’s achievements. The map was then revised and enlarged in around 1811, and it is this particular work that the present example is based upon. The map was printed in two colours, blue and white, and also black and white; examples of which are housed in the Maclean Collection in Chicago, the Library of Congress, and the Beijing National Library. The present example has no imprint but is dated the 19th year of Joaqing (i.e. 1814), and differs to the 1811 edition by the slightly altered title from - “Complete Geographical Map of the Everlasting Unified Qing Empire” to “Complete Map of All-Under-Heaven of the Unified Everlasting Qing Empire”; the setting of the text; and in the treatment of the colour. The map is a wood block print, and hand coloured in cyan - with the deserts, and islands orange. The perimeters of the pictograms are printed in blue. Four states of the map were known previously:
1. Undated, circa 1811. Assumed to be the first.
2. Dated 1823 with the slightly altered title “[Complete Map of All- Under-Heaven of the Unified Everlasting Qing Empire]”, and with the addition of an imprint "[Suzhou, Tiger Hill, Jiqing Tang (Hall of Accumulating Treasures), dated: Daoguang 3 (i.e. 1823)]".
3. Manuscript pen and ink dated 1883.
4. A stele rubbing.
We are unable to trace any example of the present map, which forms an intermediate state between the previously known first and second states of the map.
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