Comprehensive Map of Vietnam’s Provinces


This undated brush and ink manuscript map of Vietnam during the 19th century combines features of the traditional cartography practiced in both China and Vietnam with some Western elements. The place names and a text block in the lower right-hand corner are in classical Chinese calligraphy, the writing system used by both Chinese and Vietnamese scholar-officials. Traditional elements include its pictorial style (mountains, trees, and structures such as the border gate between Vietnam and China), lack of precise scale, and emphasis on mountains and water. A large number of mountains are named and virtually every river mouth or estuary is labeled, reflecting a traditional Vietnamese view of their land, Non Nước (Mountains and water). Western aspects include the map's fairly accurate rendering of the shapes of the Vietnamese coastline, the Mekong River, and the lake of Tonle Sap in Cambodia. Although there is no title on the face of the map, a label on the back, in Chinese characters, translates as “Comprehensive map of Vietnam’s provinces” (Việt Nam toàn tỉnh dư đồ in Sino-Vietnamese). The map portrays the Vietnamese provincial organization under the Nguyễn, with the names of provinces enclosed in red but with no effort to delineate provincial boundaries.

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1 map : manuscript, color ; 152 x 98 centimeters

Last updated: February 12, 2016