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Chronoi Talks: “Representations of Time-Correlated Space in Traditional East Asian Maps and Their Origins in Early Chinese Sources” (Hybrid)

Dr. Vera Dorofeeva-Lichtmann

May 16, 2024

3 - 4 pm (CET)


Einstein Center Chronoi 

Otto-von-Simson-Straße 7, 14195 Berlin

Dr. Vera Dorofeeva-Lichtmann

The “Maps of the Under-Heavens” (天下圖 Korean Cheonhado, Chinese Tianxiatu 天下) shaped as a nest of concentric zones inscribed into a circle are a cartographical puzzle in many ways. These maps serve as key maps in popular atlases which became outstandingly widespread in late Joseon Korea (18th-19th centuries). The circular world maps are the first and the only extant cartographic representations of the famous early Chinese description of the entire inhabited world, which is translated as the “Classic or Itineraries of Mountains and Seas” (Shanhaijing 山海經, compiled about the 1st century BC).

I shall try to demonstrate that the Korean circular maps have a close affinity with the so-called‘cosmograph’ maps usually entitled “Maps of Established Positions of Heavens and Earth” (Tian Di ding wei zhi tu 天地定位之圖) found in Chinese compendiums on divination dating from the early 17th century onwards, where the square earth is inscribed into the heavenly circle correlated with temporal cycles. The ‘cosmograph’ maps , in their turn have structural parallels with the early Chinese cosmographic devices – rotating divination boards or ‘cosmographs’ (shipan 式盤) and the diviner’s bronze mirrors.

This allows one to see the shape of the circular world maps in a new light – not as an attempt to match it to the image of the round earth, diffused together with the Western geographical knowledge, as it is often explained, but as a symbolic representation of the time-correlated heavenly circle, encompassing the terrestrial space. The title of the maps can then be seen as conveying to this cosmological idea.

Participants can join the online Chronoi Talk by clicking on the following link:

The conference room can be accessed using the following methods:

  • Joining directly in your browser; simply click the link above, and look for a button with this option near the bottom of the webpage.

  • Downloading the program to your computer (instructions can be found by following the meeting link)

  • Using the smartphone app called “Cisco Webex Meetings."

You are welcome to enter the online conference room up to 15 minutes in advance of the start time.

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