An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History, Literature and Art

Huangyu quantu 皇輿全圖

Sep 14, 2010 © Ulrich Theobald

Huangyu quantu 皇輿全圖 "Complete atlas of the empire" is the first large atlas of the Qing empire 清 (1644-1911). Between 1708 and 1709 a map of whole China was produced on the basis of new technologies in surveying brought to China by Jesuit missionaries like Matteo Ricci (Chinese Name Li Madou 利瑪竇, 1552-1610).

The Qing emperors, like their predecessors of the Ming dynasty 明 (1368-1644), were aware of the important knowledge the Jesuit court astronomers had for the dynasty. Disciples of Adam Schall von Bell (Tang Ruowang 湯若望, 1592-1666) and Ferdinand Verbiest (Nan Huairen 南懷仁, 1623-1688) travelled through China and surveyed the whole empire with the help of a trigonometrical network (sanjiaowang 三角網). The final redaction of the map, after ten years of work supervised by Jean-Baptiste Régis (Lei Xiaosi 雷孝思, 1663-1738) and Pierre Jartoux (Du Demei 杜德美, 1669-1720), was realized by the French Jesuit Joachim Bouvet (Bai Jin 白晉, 1656-1730). On the Chinese side, the scientists He Dedong 何國棟, Soju 索柱 (jinshi degree 1676), Bai Yangtang 白映棠, Minggatu 明安圖 (1692-1763) and Gong'e 貢額 were active, as well as the lamas Chu-er-qin-zang-bu 楚兒沁藏布 and Lan-mu-zhan-ba 蘭木占巴 from the Directorate of Astronomy (qintianjian 欽天監), and Sheng-zhu 勝住, secretary in the Court of Colonial Affairs (lifanyuan 理藩院).

The atlas was finished in 1718. There is one map for the whole empire and 32 maps in detail, mostly covering provinces. The prime meridian (benchu ziwu xian 本初子午線) of the longitudes and latitudes(jingwei 經緯) in the trapezoidal projection (tixing touying fa 梯形投影法) was Beijing. The scale is 1:1,400,000. The inscriptions are very detailed and show virtually each town of all provinces and Mongolia. Places of China are written in Chinese characters, such outside China in Manchu script.

The Huangyu quanlan tu 皇輿全覽圖, as the atlas was also called, was at that time the most modern collection of maps not only in China but world-wide. It was first printed in 1719 with copper plates (legends being in Chinese, Manchu, Tibetan, or Mongolian, depending on the place), and reprinted in 1721 as a xylographic print, but exclusively with Chinese place names.

The copper plates for the printing were manufactured in Paris, and the map therefore could spread over whole Europe. In China herself, the map was reserved for the highest members of the central government and was stored in the imperial library. It was only given access to the public from 1921 on when it was disovered among the objects of the imperial palace in Mukden (Shenyang 瀋陽, Liaoning). It was reprinted in 1929 with the title (Man-Han hebi) Qing neifu yitong yudi mitu (滿漢合璧)清內府一統輿地秘圖 "The secret map of the whole empire from the imperial secretariat of the Qing".

Eastern Turkestan (Xinjiang) was only surveded in 1756 and the maps published in 1761 in the book Xiyu tuzhi 西域圖志. Tibet was only integrated later in the Qianlong atlas with thirteen segments (Qianlong shisan pai ditu 乾隆十三排地圖). 104 copper plates for the map were discovered in the Imperial City in Beijing in 1925. They were used for a reprint in 1932, titled Qianlong neifu yutu 清乾隆內府輿圖. The last atlas project was realized in the second half of the 19th century with the atlas Da-Qing yitong yutu 大清一統輿圖, or (Qianlong) Huangyu quantu (乾隆)皇輿全圖, which was based on the Qianlong atlas.

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