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1. Mapless mapping: Did the maps of the Shan Hai Jing ever exist?

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Chapter Summary

The Shanhai jing (Itineraries of Mountains and Seas, SHJ), is a comprehensive and systematised description of the inhabited world compiled no later than the beginning of the 1st century BC. This chapter evaluates a supposition widespread in sinological literature that such maps existed in remote antiquity and then disappeared. It shows the late origins of this supposition the preface to an edition of the Shanhai jing (SHJ) by the famous Qing commentator Bi Yuan (1730-1797) and reveals contradictions in his arguments. Then, the chapter relies on the character of the textual structure of the SHJ, and advances the hypothesis that the original layout of the text in itself combined a map or spatial (cardinally-oriented) scheme and a terrestrial description, making maps to accompany the text superfluous. Extending this hypothesis to other texts dealing with space may also provide some further keys to the problem of "lost" ancient maps.

Keywords: lost ancient maps; Qing commentator Bi Yuan; Shanhai jing (SHJ); terrestrial description; Wuzang shanjing (WZSJ)



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