History of Cartography

Portolans Charts and Renaissance Maps

4611.2 - Chinese Mapped America Before 1430

Tuesday, July 4
3:10 PM - 3:30 PM
Location: Hoover

Qualitative and quantitative comparison of Kunyu Wanguo Quantu (the 1602 Chinese world map) and contemporaneous world maps by Mercator (1569), Ortelius (1570) , Mercator’s Arctic map (1595), and Plancius (1594) in particular, reveals that the Chinese map is not an adapted copy from European maps. The Chinese world map includes geography of a pre-Renaissance Europe and American geography unknown to Europeans until more than 200 years after Ricci’s death. On this Chinese map, approximately 50% of the place names, including those of America, have no equivalents on European maps. Chinese names descriptive of the geographic feature of Mount Ranier, the fjords of Alaska, Mount Denali and the unique tidal bore of Turnagain Arm near Anchorage are all accurate by latitudes. Contrarily, the geography of North and South America on the Plancius map is ambiguous and erroneous. The geography and text of the Chinese world map are consistent with a completion date not in 1602 but 1430, some sixty years before Christopher Columbus’ first voyage. Geographical analysis of Martino Martini’s Novus Atlas Sinensis (1655) reveals that Ming Chinese was capable of determining longitude/latitude on land and ocean, as well as spherical projection. Thus, information about American geography was transferred from China to Europe, not the reverse. The Chinese world map Kunyu Wanguo Quantu is the result of Chinese circumnavigation, pioneering the Age of Exploration prior to Christopher Columbus.

Siu-Leung Lee

Zheng He Society of the Americas

President, Zheng He Society of the Americas. Editor, Midwest Epigraphic Society. Author of two books (in Chinese) : "坤輿萬國全圖解密-明代測繪世界“ (Deciphering Kunyu Wanguo Quantu - Ming China mapped the world" 2012), "宣德金牌啟示錄-明代開拓美洲“ (Revelation of the Xuande medallion - Ming Chinese in America" 2013). Former associate director (retired) of Hong Kong Institute of Biotechnology. Research interest in cross-cultural history of China and America.


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Martin Davis

University Instructor
Canterbury Christ Church University

Since being awarded a first class honours degree in Geography by Canterbury Christ Church University (UK) and receiving the Clutton’s Prize for Best Geographical Dissertation (2014), Martin has worked as an Instructor at the University, delivering teaching in Cartography, GIS and European Geography, alongside his on-going PhD research into Soviet military cartography. In 2015, Martin was awarded the British Cartographic Society’s Ian Mumford Award for excellence in original cartographic research. Martin is a member of the British Cartographic Society and is Reviews Editor and Editorial Assistant of The Cartographic Journal (UK).


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4611.2 - Chinese Mapped America Before 1430

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