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Open Access Publications from the University of California


Cross-Currents: East Asian History and Culture Review is a peer-reviewed, quarterly online journal that offers its readers up-to-date research findings, emerging trends, and cutting-edge perspectives concerning East Asian history and culture from scholars in both English-speaking and Asian language-speaking academic communities.

Articles | Maps and Their Contexts: Reflections on Cartography and Culture in Pre-Modern East Asia

Introduction to "Maps and Their Contexts: Reflections on Cartography and Culture in Premodern East Asia"

The historical depth of cartographic ideas and practices in East Asia is unusual in world history and deserves more interdisciplinary scholarly attention than it has received. There are many questions that have not been explored enough: What is the range of materials identifiable as maps in East Asia? What kinds of messages have they conveyed? What are the techniques and circumstances that have shaped them, and how have they intersected with other textual and visual media? What are their cultural contexts in material, political, and social terms? What historical insights emerge when we analyze East Asian maps today? Answering these questions requires a capacious conception of cartography capable of crossing disciplinary, historical, and national boundaries. This special issue of Cross-Currents fosters that capaciousness by considering the meaning and materiality of maps, broadly defined, in a variety of Chinese and Japanese cultural objects made over the course of several hundred years. The goal here is to enliven debate about the forms, messages, and uses of cartography in the East Asian past by grappling with the particular properties of spatial representation in the Sinosphere...

The Local in the Imperial Vision: Landscape, Topography, and Geography in Southern Song Map Guides and Gazetteers

This article examines the generation of topographic maps and geographical writings about local regions of the Southern Song (1127­–1279). It identifies two distinct yet interrelated models in the making of local regions in maps and writings: first, map guides (tujing 圖經), which were produced and updated regularly at different tiers of local government for administrative purposes; second, a growing number of monographs, some of them also named “map guides” (tujing) and others “gazetteers” (zhi 志 or difang zhi 地方志), which were compiled by local literati scholars. Upon close examination of these two models, one finds that the local consciousness and identity voiced by the provincial elite were congruous with centralist sentiment and discourse at this time. Specifically, the literati described features of local topographies within an imperial context and in the language of the authorities. Moreover, the wide circulation of these writings also contributed to the collective imagining of a Song Empire in the daily life of the society. In sum, this article argues that there was a close relationship between cartographic discourse and the production of empire at the local level. On the one hand, the state of the Southern Song, traditionally thought to have lost momentum in local control, still proactively maintained regular checks on local geography through mapmaking. On the other hand, local literati strived to establish ties with the central state in various ways while documenting their communities in gazetteers. Keywords: Song dynasty, map guide, tujing, gazetteer, difang zhi, geography, topography

"Sankei Mandara": Layered Maps to Sacred Places

Around the middle of the sixteenth century, Japan’s temples and shrines began producing pilgrimage mandalas (sankei mandara), paintings whose primary purpose was to encourage travel and contributions to sacred sites. These are pictorial maps, schematic visual travel guides that depict specific sites and outline the roads, bridges, and landscapes leading to them, as well as each site’s origin history (engi), the sacred rituals in that place, and the pleasures to be enjoyed in the surrounding area. However, this article reveals that, rather than being objective guides and road maps, sankei mandara are highly constructed, manipulated images, imbued with both a numinous view of the landscape and partisan views of the represented site. This article discusses how these seemingly incongruent features coexist and intertwine in sankei mandara and by what art and artifice painters have achieved these effects. The author analyzes the multiple layers of sankei mandara and considers how each of the layers works to achieve particular ends, whether to express an aspirational world view, diminish an institutional rival, or bolster the position of the commissioning patron. Reading sankei mandara in this way enriches our understanding of the nature of maps in general, while also allowing access to a particular moment in Japan’s social, religious, and institutional history, providing insight into a range of historical issues left murky when examined using textual analysis alone. Keywords: sankei mandara, Japan, pilgrimage, mandalas, Fuji sankei mandara

"Meisho Zue" and the Mapping of Prosperity in Late Tokugawa Japan

The cartographic history of Japan is remarkable for the sophistication, variety, and ingenuity of its maps. It is also remarkable for its many modes of spatial representation, which might not immediately seem cartographic but could very well be thought of as such. To understand the alterity of these cartographic modes and write Japanese map history for what it is, rather than what it is not, scholars need to be equipped with capacious definitions of maps not limited by modern Eurocentric expectations. This article explores such classificatory flexibility through an analysis of the mapping function of meisho zue, popular multivolume geographic encyclopedias published in Japan during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The article’s central contention is that the illustrations in meisho zue function as pictorial maps, both as individual compositions and in the aggregate. The main example offered is Miyako meisho zue (1780), which is shown to function like a map on account of its instrumental pictorial representation of landscape, virtual wayfinding capacity, spatial layout as a book, and biased selection of sites that contribute to a vision of prosperity. This last claim about site selection exposes the depiction of meisho as a means by which the editors of meisho zue recorded a version of cultural geography that normalized this vision of prosperity. Keywords: Japan, cartography, Akisato Ritō, meisho zue, illustrated book, map, prosperity

Mapping the Forgotten Colony: The Ogasawara Islands and the Tokugawa Pivot to the Pacific

In 1862, Japan’s Tokugawa shogunate claimed the Ogasawara Islands, a small archipelago between Honshu and Guam, as a part of Japan. In the manageable setting of the islands, the shogunate undertook a colonial experiment that revealed changing attitudes toward non-Japanese ethnicities, modern technologies, and maritime space. Through an examination of four maps, this article shows that Japanese intellectuals had been discussing plans for settler colonialism in the Pacific almost a century before Tokugawa leaders began exploring the open sea as an economic space. In the shogunate’s two-tiered strategy, agriculture assimilated the land, and law subjected its earlier settlers. This approach provided a foothold for offshore whaling, which transformed the surrounding seas into a space of production. However, expanding the sphere of Tokugawa influence necessitated a redefinition of the Japanese realm. Geographical notions were reshaped to make the overseas territory a part of the Izu archipelago some 700 kilometers farther north, and the presence of Western settlers was countered with narratives of earlier possession and relocation of Japanese individuals. Officials were particularly intrigued by formerly unknown plant and animal species found on the islands. Exploring economic opportunities in the Pacific sphere, they prepared a geopolitical shift that is often associated with Japan’s modern empire. This article, by contrast, locates the origins of modern Japan’s “pelagic empire” well before the Meiji Reform and shows how expansionism was reconciled with earlier perceptions of geography. Keywords:  Japanese Empire, Tokugawa colonialism, bakumatsu, cartography, Ogasawara Islands, Bonin Islands, whaling