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Week 20: Mapping the Middle Kingdom

Seminar Questions

  • What were the sources for Williams’s map of China in The Middle Kingdom?
  • What vision of China does Williams’s map project?
  • How did Williams establish the authority of his map of China?
  • To what extent did European maps influence Chinese cartography?

Seminar Readings

** Williams, Samuel Wells, The Middle Kingdom (New York, 1848), vol. 1, ix-xxii, 1-26 and 43-65

** Map of the Chinese Empire (New York, NY, 1847)

* Yee, Cordell, ‘Traditional Chinese Cartography and the Myth of Westernization’, in Harley, J. Brian and David Woodward (eds), History of Cartography: Cartography in The Traditional East and Southeast Asian Societies (Chicago, IL, 1994), vol. 2, book 2

NB. Again, you are not expected to read Chinese. Do not be intimated by the appearance of Chinese characters or worry about trying to understand it. We simply want to understand how Europeans produced maps of China and kind of political vision this represented.

Additional Readings


A wide range of maps of China, from the 1700s to the 1900s, can be found through the following online collection:


Cain, Mead, ‘The Maps of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge: A Publishing History’, Imago Mundi, 46 (1994)

Day, John D, ‘The Search for the Origins of the Chinese Manuscript of Matteo Ricci’s Maps’, Imago Mundi, 47 (1995)

Elman, Benjamin, On Their Own Terms: Science in China, 1550-1900 (Harvard, MA, 2005)

Golvers, Noël, ‘Jesuit Cartographers in China’, Imago Mundi, 52 (2000)

Harley, J. Brian, ‘Maps, Knowledge, and Power’ in Cosgrove, Denis and Stephen Daniels (eds), The Iconography of Landscape (Cambridge, 1988)

Harley, J. Brian and David Woodward (eds), The History of Cartography: Cartography in The Traditional East and Southeast Asian Societies (Chicago, IL, 1994), vol. 2, book 2

Hostetler, Laura, ‘Contending Cartographic Claims? The Qing Empire in Manchu, Chinese, and European Maps’, in Akerman, James (ed.), The Imperial Map: Cartography and the Mastery of Empire (Chicago, IL, 2009)

Hostetler, Laura, ‘Global or Local? Exploring Connections between Chinese and European Geographical Knowledge During the Early Modern Period’, East Asian Science, Technology, and Medicine, 26 (2007)

Hostetler, Laura, ‘Qing Connections to the Early Modern World: Ethnography and Cartography in Eighteenth-Century China’, Modern Asian Studies, 34(2000)

Hostetler, Laura, Qing Colonial Enterprise: Ethnography and Cartography in Early Modern China (Chicago, IL, 2005)

Kark, Rut, ‘The Contribution of Nineteenth Century Protestant Missionary Societies to Historical Cartography’, Imago Mundi, 45 (1993)

Millward, James A, ‘“Coming onto the Map”: “Western Regions” Geography and Cartographic Nomenclature in the Making of Chinese Empire in Xinjiang’, Late Imperial China, 20 (1999)

Perdue, Peter, ‘Boundaries and Trade in the Early Modern World: Negotiations at Nerchinsk and Beijing’, Eighteenth-Century Studies, 43 (2010)

Perdue, Peter, ‘Boundaries, Maps, and Movement: Chinese, Russian, and Mongolian Empires in Early Modern Central Eurasia’, The International History Review, 20 (1998)

Smith, Richard, ‘Mapping China’s World: Cultural Cartography in Late Imperial Times’, in Yeh, Wen-Hsin (ed.), Landscape, Culture, and Power in Chinese Society (Berkeley, CA, 1998)

Smith, Richard, Chinese Maps: Images of ‘All Under Heaven’ (Oxford, 1996)

Smith, Richard, Mapping China and Managing the World: Culture, Cartography and Cosmology in Late Imperial Times (London, 2013)

Thrower, Norman, Maps and Civilization: Cartography in Culture and Society (Chicago, IL, 2007)

Seminar Handout

Week 20 - Handout

Seminar Powerpoint

Week 20 - Powerpoint