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National Palace Museum displays eight historic maps at special exhibition

  • Date:2021-04-23
National Palace Museum displays eight historic maps at special exhibition

The National Palace Museum (NPM) presents a special exhibition "Stories of Ancient Maps (說.古地圖)" from April 23 until July 22. Featuring eight maps produced between late 14th century and mid 18th century, the exhibition provides insight into historical backgrounds of social developments.

"Stories of Ancient Maps (說.古地圖)" exhibition is composed of two sections – "Beyond the Sea: Ancient Maps of Taiwan" and "World's End: Ancient Maps of Land and Water Transport."

The four maps of Taiwan on display were produced in the years when Taiwan was under the rule of Ming loyalist Koxinga (鄭成功) and when the island was under the reign of Qing Emperors Kangxi and Qianlong. The maps detail the developments in Taiwan from the perspective of Han Chinese settlers.

One of the maps, "Sketch Map of Taiwan Prefecture" from 1666, only covers a few areas of what is modern-day Tainan, including the Luermen Channel, Chikan Tower and Chengtian Prefecture. On the other hand, maps from the Qing period depict the natural and cultural landscapes of western Taiwan from north to south, in addition to indigenous peoples and their customs, indicating a more conclusive understanding of Taiwan’s society, culture and geography.

The section "World's End: Ancient Maps of Land and Water Transport" presents ancient land and water transportation routes during the Ming and Qing Dynasty.

"Map of the Relays from Nanjing to Gansu" traces a land route from the Ming capital of Nanjing all the way to modern-day Dunhuang, and "Map of the Passes and Relays of the Four Routes in Sichuan Province" shows an extensive regional network of passes and relays from Chengdu that extends to the north and south.

Maps of water routes include "Geographical Map of the Yangtze River" and "Map of the Yangtze River," both of which feature China's longest river the Yangtze. The former details the middle and downstream stretches of the river while the latter details the cartographer's observation of the river’s mileage, water levels, sandbanks, and hidden rocks along the river from Wuchang to the estuary.

The NPM pointed out that as the maps of several meters long are on full display at this special exhibition, visitors can appreciate the vibrant details.