The first European printed map of "China" appeared in 1584 in the first Atlas published in Europe, Ortelius' Theatrum Orbis Terrarum. The text at the back of the map says that the inhabitants of the country call it "Tame" (Da Ming), while foreigners call it "China", and that it was called Sina or Seres by the Ancients and Cathai and Mangi by Marco Polo. But different European maps not only give the country different names, they also give it different shapes, and frame it differently, sometimes vertically as part of maritime East Asia, from the Great Wall to Java, sometimes horizontally from Central Asia to Japan, sometimes with a narrow focus on a still shapeshifting country. Our first extant Chinese maps of “China” are several hundred years older, engraved in stone, and form the basis of later images of the imperial territory defined, on the one hand, by its physical form, and on the other, by the relationships between the empire’s internal parts and its external neighbours. The expression of these different “geo-bodies,” or spatial conceptions of the territory, changed over time, accommodating new cartographic and reproductive technologies as well as the shifting borders of the state. They migrated across borders to Japan and Korea, as well, cases that help underline the cartographic and visual elements that connoted “China” against a larger backdrop of historical change.
Dr. Marco Caboara is Senior Lecturer in the History of Cartography and the History of Science at HKUST. Previously, he was the curator of the Western antique maps of China Collection in the HKUST Library. Dr. Caboara studied History, Linguistics and Chinese at Scuola Normale Superiore in Pisa, Beijing University, and City University of Hong Kong and received his PhD from the University of Washington, Seattle with a study of the linguistic features of Classical Chinese Bamboo Manuscripts.
Dr. Stephen Whiteman is Reader in the Art and Architecture of China at the Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London, where his research and teaching focus on the visual and spatial cultures of early modern and modern China in transcultural context. He is author and editor of several books on landscape, painting, and print culture, including Where Dragon Veins Meet: The Kangxi Emperor and His Estate at Rehe (Washington, 2020) and Landscape and Authority in the Early Modern World (Penn, 2023). His current projects include a history of mapping and the spatial imaginary in China since 1000, for which he currently holds a British Academy Mid-Career Fellowship, and a virtual reality study of subjective experience in premodern Chinese gardens, X-Sheds. He is a Trustee of the Association for Art History and serves as an Elected Governor of the Courtauld.