TITLE:  World Map of al-Kashghari

DATE:  1076 A.D.

AUTHOR:  al-Kashghari

DESCRIPTION: This world map, oriented with East at the top, is from the unique manuscript of al-Kashghari entitled Diwan lughat al-Turk.  Al-Kashghari was a Turkish grammarian of the 11th century A.D. whose world map appears as an illustration to his Turkish grammar.  This in itself is unusual, and the map is certainly unlike any other map in Islamic literature.  The individual elements of the map, symbols, and so forth, are all very much the same as those that appear on any other Islamic map, but its concept is most unusual.  Although it is a map of the world, it is centered on the Turkish-speaking areas of Central Asia, with other countries receding from them toward the circumference of the world circle.  In addition the scale seems to be reduced as one gets nearer the edge of the map, so that one has the impression of a fish-eye representation of the globe with Turkestan magnified in the center.  The colors are described in the original as gray for rivers, green for seas, yellow for deserts, and red for mountains.

Other types of maps from this period show how the people of the Near East gained greater knowledge about China through the overland connections. Kashghari’s 11th century encyclopedic dictionary of Turkish language, for example, places Turkic Central Asia at the center of the map. Obviously, the geographic knowledge of the world portrayed in the map circulated to the broad readership that had access to his dictionary. This round Turkish map differs significantly from the contemporaneous Balkhi School (#214.2) maps because it does not show the coastline for any of Afro-Eurasia, or draw clear spatial relationship between regions. Yet, as Andreas Kaplony argues, Kashghari’s small illustrative map records geographic data using unique visual language signs distinguished by color and shape. For example, the map usually marks the Turkish tribes with a yellow dot. Interestingly, the use of color-coding on the map in a language dictionary calls to mind the color-coding common to the language maps often found on the cover or back page of modern-day dictionaries. Although Kashghari, an educated Turkish nobleman, was Muslim and relied on methods of his Arabic-Islamic geographer forebears, he omitted Mecca and Medina. Its form may seem simplistic, yet Kashghari’s map adds new geographic knowledge that Turkish authors gained through overland contact between his country and northern China. He resembles al-Biruni (#214.3) in that he reveals new knowledge about the political division that separated China into northern and southern halves during this period. Yet Kashghari used different terms, Chin [China] and Machin [greater China], that would often appear in later Persian works. Perhaps Kashghari learned about a political division of China when he undertook his alleged journey to the northeastern part of Eurasia, which may have included northern China; or perhaps this information was common among those who traveled along the overland routes of Central Asia.

LOCATION:   The Millet Genel Kütüphansesi, Ali Emiri 4189, Istanbul.


*Bagrow, L., History of Cartography, Plate XXVIII.

*Harley, J. B., The History of Cartography, Volume Two, p. 153, Figure 6.17.

*Imago Mundi, Volume I, p. 23

Park, H. Mapping the Chinese and Islamic Worlds, p. 80.


al-Kashgari’s world map, from the Diwan lughat al-Turk, 1076 A.D.,

oriented with East at the top, The Millet Genel Kütüphansesi, Ali Emiri 4189, Istanbul

al-Kashgari's world map, from the Diwan lughat al-Turk, 1076 A.D.

Blue – rivers

Green – seas

Light yellow – deserts

Red – mountains

Yellow – cities, countries, lands and peoples

1. Bulgaria [judging by its location, probably the so-called Wolga-Bulgaria rather than present-day Bulgaria]

2. Caspian Sea

3.‘Rus’ [Russia]

4. Alexandria

5. Egypt

6. Tashkent

7. Japan (surrounded by a green semi-circle)

8. China (with water to the west)

9.  Balasagun [now in Kyrgyzstan, then the ‘centre of the world’]

10.Kashgar (the map-maker’s birthplace)





15.East Somalia

16.East Sahara


18.North Somalia



21.Ceylon [Adam’s Peak or Jebel Serandib, indicated by the red dot on the south of the island, supposedly is where Adam was exiled to after being kicked out of Paradise]


23.Gog and Magog [Biblical/legendary land walled off from the world by a mountain range]

24.The World-Encircling Sea