1974 Transportation Map and Railway Map of China

中国交通图 / [China Transportation Map]. - Main View

1974 Transportation Map and Railway Map of China


China's rail network.


中国交通图 / [China Transportation Map].
  1974 (dated)     20.5 x 29.75 in (52.07 x 75.565 cm)     1 : 8000000


This is an exhaustive 1974 China Cartographic Publishing House transportation map of China. The verso is a map of China's railway network at the time (中国铁路路线示意图). The maps provide a good sense of China's infrastructure and degree of international connections on the eve of opening up in the late 1970s.
A Closer Look at the Map
The map on the recto (front) provides a wealth of information, including road and rail infrastructure, common sea routes and their distances, waterways, and place names down to the county level, such that in the most densely populated parts of China one can scarcely see the map under the text. It includes a legend and two insets, one at bottom-left showing air routes and one at bottom-right showing the South China Sea, reflecting Chinese territorial claims including the Nine Dash Line. Soon before this map was produced, China had seized the Paracel Islands and some other islands and reefs from the moribund South Vietnamese government to prevent them from falling to the North Vietnamese, presaging more serious rifts in the Sino-Vietnamese relationship, including their 1979 conflict.

The legend notes that the numbers off the northeast coast of Taiwan represent the islets of the Diaoyu Islands (or Senkaku, 釣魚島) and Chiwei Yu (or Taishojima, 赤尾嶼), the objects of territorial disputes with Japan. China's position on other territorial and geopolitical disputes is also reflected in the inclusion of Taiwan as part of China (the rail network of Taiwan is also included in the verso map), the representation of Korea as a unified country, and the notation of undetermined borders, particularly in the vicinity of Kashmir (interestingly, the dispute over the 'McMahon Line' around Arunachal Pradesh is not indicated).
China on the Eve of Opening Up
This map dates from the last years of Chairman Mao's rule and roughly five years before China drastically changed course with 'reform and opening up' policies. The mid-1970s are often seen as the latter part of the Cultural Revolution, which had started in 1966, and there are certainly reasons for using this periodization when it comes to domestic politics. In foreign affairs, however, China was already recovering from its relative isolation of the late 1960s and improving relations with a number of 'capitalist' and 'imperialist' countries, including Japan and the United States, as a way to counter-balance the Soviet Union and its allies, including North Vietnam. Still, one can see that China had few air, rail, and road links with the outside world, and those that did exist were often with countries with which China's relations were combative (the Soviet Union, Mongolia, North Vietnam) or volatile (North Korea).
Infrastructure in the Maoist Period
The economic record of the Maoist period is mixed, but one clear success was the expansion of infrastructure of all sorts after many decades of warfare and underinvestment. Initially with the assistance of Soviet aid and advisors, China launched a railway building boom in the early 1950s that continued into the 1960s and only slowed down with the onset of the Cultural Revolution in 1966. The results can be seen on the verso: a railway network that reached most of the densely populated parts of the country and stretched into Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia, and Manchuria (here building on the basis laid by the Japanese). Railways had even been constructed on Hainan Island, the disembodied lines at bottom on the verso.

Mao was especially keen to build up rail infrastructure and industry deep in the Chinese interior as part of the 'Third Front,' an effort to prepare for a protracted war against the Soviet Union and/or the United States and mimic Chiang Kai-Shek's outlasting of the Japanese during the Second World War.

The construction of many railways during the Maoist period was only made possible through mass conscription of labor, including People's Militia and People's Liberation Army soldiers, under hazardous conditions. Over 1,000 workers, perhaps as many as 3,000, died in the construction of the Chengdu-Kunming Railway (成昆铁路), an extremely challenging route through mountains and valleys. Other railways in southern China were nearly as difficult and dangerous to construct.
Publication History and Census
This map was published in April 1974 by China Cartographic Publishing House (地图出版社), was printed by Shaanxi People's Printing Factory (陕西人民印刷厂) as a second edition to an April 1966 map, and was distributed by Shaanxi Xinhua Bookstore (陕西省新华书店). It is held by Stanford University, Brigham Young University, the Australian National University, and Deakin University. It is scarce to the market. A footnote in the legend remarks that the basis for this map was a 1971 map titled 'Map of the People's Republic of China' (中华人民共和国地图, also by China Cartographic Publishing House and Xinhua Bookstore), which was updated to reflect administrative divisions as of December 1973.


China Cartographic Publishing House (中国地图出版社; 1954 - present) is the only national-level publisher of maps in the People's Republic of China and is by far the largest publisher of maps in China. The firm was formed with the consolidation of the state-run Xinhua Map Agency and 15 other private press agencies, among them some of the earliest known modern Chinese map publishers dating to about 1900. Its official English name has been changed to Sino Map Press. Learn More...


Very good. Light wear along edges and fold lines. Slight loss at some fold intersections.


Covell Meyskens, 'Third Front Railroads and Industrial Modernity in Late Maoist China,' Twentieth-Century China, 40. 3 (October 2015), pp. 238–260.