The Administrative Maps of the Ming Dynasty (Incomplete Copy)


The author of this work was Chen Zushou (died 1637), a late-Ming literary author. A native of Yanling (present-day Changzhou, Jiangsu Province), Chen Zushou received his jin shi degree in 1634 and became, in the following year, an official at the Bureau of Operations, one of the four bureaus in the Ministry of War. In 1636, while working at the ministry, he wrote this book, based on a large number of earlier works and contemporary local records, including maps. The original edition, very rich in content, had three juan in three volumes. Juan one contained maps of the 13 provinces of the two capitals (Nanjing in the south and later Beijing in the north). Juan two depicted border towns, nine borders, and three mountain passes. Juan three dealt with rivers, seas, mountains, waterways, sea transport, river control, and foreign nations. The National Central Library has only the third juan. It has a brief preface followed by text and illustrations placed side by side. The subjects of the maps are rivers and the sea, the Ruo Shui (a major river system of northern China), regulation of the Yellow River, sea transport, flood-prevention sites, and flood control along the many thousands of kilometers of seacoast. Also included are a map showing the invasions by the Japanese, a map of the headquarters of the imperial horse stud, and maps of Korea and Annam, the Western Regions, the deserts, and the tribute-paying islands. The viewpoint and structure of the work followed the traditional world view, according to which the world was divided, geographically and culturally, into five zones and nine provinces, beginning from the midstream region of the Yellow River. The furthest region was designated as huang fu (the desert zone), while the center was known as hou fu (the privileged zone). Each map is accompanied by detailed explanations. All maps cover two half-pages. The square-shaped patterns on the maps are similar to lines of longitude and latitude, but there are no numerical markings. Chen Zushou was mainly in charge of military training and management of garrisons and ramparts. In the text, he criticized the ignorance shown by some authors when recording local conditions on documents, which in his view led to inaccurate descriptions of situations and to mishandling of border management. Chen paid special attention to the long-term effect on the country’s defense of various geographic conditions and changes in modes of transportation. In addition, he expounded on the advantages and disadvantages of the move of the capital from Nanjing to Beijing, which led to debates among officials on administrative management, transportation of materials, sea and land transportation, and military installations. The work is of historical value and includes new information not seen in earlier maps, such as the addition of Penghu, Jilang, and Duhu lakes. The maps are also geographically more accurate than previous maps and show more details relating to military matters. The work also eliminated certain geographical names that appeared in earlier maps and were no longer in use.

Last updated: October 28, 2014