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1769 Chinese / Japanese Map of Ming China (enormous)

大明一統二京十三省図 / Great Ming Unification Two Capitals and Thirteen Provinces Map / Da Ming Yi Yong Er Jing Shi San Shen Tu

1769 Chinese / Japanese Map of Ming China (enormous)


Extraordinary enormous map of Ming China drawn in Japan by Chinese exiles from Qing rule.



大明一統二京十三省図 / Great Ming Unification Two Capitals and Thirteen Provinces Map / Da Ming Yi Yong Er Jing Shi San Shen Tu
  1769 (dated)    72 x 122 in (182.88 x 309.88 cm)     1 : 2060000


A previously unknown, monumentally proportioned, and enigmatic Chinese language manuscript map of Ming Dynasty China and Korea prepared on an imposing scale. Measuring a staggering 72 x 122 inches, this is by far the largest single-sheet manuscript map we have worked with. With a focus on China, the map covers from the Andaman Sea to the western shores of Hokkaido and from the Gobi Desert and Mount Paektu (Baekdu or Changbai, North Korea) to the Malay Peninsula (squished up and distorted in the lower left). The map is abundant with rich political and topographical detail including the Great Wall of China, countless towns, roads, trade routes, mountains, and riverways. Throughout there are numerous areas where town names and annotations have been painted over and revised or blocked out with a paste down. The topography throughout China is quite detailed although it becomes less so when focusing on non-Chinese regions such as Korea, Japan, Central Asia, and Malaya. Those who can admire Chinese calligraphy will note that the characters on this map is exceptionally beautiful and well executed.

Text in the lower right quadrant states that this map was drawn in Japan in Meiwa 6 or 1769. There appears to be some ambiguity in the text relating to the word 'Nambu,' which could mean either Northern Japan in the vicinity of Hachinohe, or 'Southern Japan' as we interpreted it. Although there is no specific authorship ascribed, based upon the subject matter, style, textual annotations, and and title, we can make certain educated speculations. Following the fall of the Ming Dynasty to the Manchurian Qing in 1644, numerous Ming Chinese scholars, reluctant to live under Qing Manchurian rule, fled to exile in southern Japan, primarily Nagasaki, where they and their descendants had a tremendous influence on Tokugawa Era Japanese thought and religion. This map's focus on Ming China, compounded by the statement that may have been drawn in Southern Japan during the Meiwa period, suggests that it was produced by the descendants of these Chinese exiles or, potentially, their sinophile disciples. Note how the specific route between Ningbo, China, and Nagasaki, Japan, is highlighted with annotation reading '1800 miles to reach Kyushu Coast of Japan' (author's translation). The Ningbo-Nagasaki trade route was the primary route by which Chinese exiles, as well as scholarship, entered Japan. Moreover, the title which includes the term, 大明 (Great Ming), is inherently Chinese and is unlikely to have been applied by a Japanese mapmaker of the Meiwi Period.

The sources for this map are only partially evident but it is noteworthy that the title 大明一統二京十三省図, or Great Ming Unification Two Capitals and Thirteen Provinces, is one generally associated with official Ming Dynasty maps. The use of this specific title was in fact punishable by death under the Qinq. All of this suggest that the map was drawn from official Ming sources secreted into Japan by Chinese exiles fleeing Qing influence. The primary source is most likely the 大明一統 志 (Daming yitong zhi) or Records of the Unity of the Great Ming , a massive Ming geography, compiled in the 1450s, of which only portions survive today. The map also bears some similarity to Ming era maps such as the 大明混一圖 (Da Ming Hun Yi Tu), or Great Ming Amalgamated Map. This is most evident in the form of the China coastline, the course of the Yellow River, the Gobi, and the absence of Taiwan (which did not appear on Chinese maps until the Qing maps of 1708), all of which are suggestive of the Da Ming Hun Yi Tu.

There are several interesting text blocks. One, at the bottom center, bears a list of 44 foreign countries. Many of these are hard to translate, being derived from Arabic, Malay, and other exotic languages, but some are identifiable including Ryukyu (Okinawa), Khmer (Cambodia), Siam (Thailand), Sumatra, Java, Ceylon, and Srivijava (a legendary powerful thalassocratic city-state on Sumatra that exercised influence over most of Southeast Asia).

The text block on the lower right corner features a history of the map starting with the Emperor Hongwu (1368 – 1398), founder of the Ming Dynasty, then the conquest of Mongolia and the Gobi by Emperor Yung Lei (3rd Ming Emperor), the founding of Yunan and Guizhou, and the consolidation of 14 provinces into the traditional Ming 13. It is also here that the map's date of creation, Meiwa 6 (1769), is noted.

The text block just to the left of the history block described above features a list of the 13 provinces of Ming China.

A once in a lifetime discovery. The map is folded into a custom Asian style clamshell box.


Very good. Backed on kozo tissue. Original fold lines. A few very minor areas of wormholes and loss.


Elman, B., East Asian Science Techonology and Society: An International Journal, 'Sinophiles and Sinophobes in Tokugawa Japan: Politics, Classicism, and Medicine During the Eighteenth Century,' May 12, 2008, DOI 10.1007/s12280-008-9042-9.
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