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Open Access Publications from the University of California

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...

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