Maps and Political Power: A Cultural Interpretation of the Maps in The Gazetteer of Jiankang Prefecture
Historians of cartography have recently expressed a greater interest in the relationship between maps and culture and society. This paper examines how political power is reflected in the maps in a Chinese gazetteer from 1261, The Gazetteer of Jiankang Prefecture (Jiankang zhi). It shows how political power influenced the production process of the gazetteer and how this power is reflected in the selection of maps and images. Political power controlled the entire production process of the gazetteer and its maps. According to the local governor’s instructions, Zhou Yinghe, the major author of the gazetteer, proposed four principles on how to compile the gazetteer. These principles clearly reveal control by the government in the compiling process. The emperor’s power was evidently emphasized in these maps through map selection, cartographic design, and symbolization. This paper supports the general notion that maps are not only geographical representations of the spatial world but can also be viewed as cultural images that reflect the societies in which they are produced.
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