TITLE: Yoktae chewang honil kangnid, or the “Kangnido”
[Map of Historical Emperors and Kings and of Integrated Borders and Terrain]
DATE: 1402
AUTHORS: Ch’¸an Chin and Li Hui

DESCRIPTION: Although few ancient Chinese maps are extant, it is evident from various descriptions in early geographical literature and Korean copies and imitations of old Chinese maps that the Terrestrial Continent was centered around China, encircled by a large ring of water quite similar to Homer’s Oceanus, and further enclosed by an imaginary outer continent (#105, #254, #255, #256). With the opening of the overland route to Western Asia during the Han Dynasty (207 B.C. to 200 A.D.), the western sector of the continent began to bear such names as K’ang-ch¸ [Sogdiana], Ta-wan [Ferghana], Ta Ju-chih [Oxus Valley], An-shih [Parthia] and Ta Ch’in [the Roman Orient]. However, by the middle of the eighth century the overland route across Central Asia had become paralyzed, and China was compelled to reorient herself to the warm seas and thus embarked on nearly seven centuries of commercial relations with the Near East. One notable consequence of this 700-year contact was the stretching of the world in Chinese maps farther westward and southwestward, and the appearance of an ever-increasing number of Arabic place-names. While the Terrestrial Continent remained intact until the Jesuit era in Chinese cartography with Fr. Matteo Ricci in the late 15th century, it is clearly evident that by the middle of the 15th century, China’s own centrality in her concept of the world had been substantially reduced.

The subject of this monograph is a map referred to as Yoktae chewang honil kangnido [Map of historical emperors and kings and of integrated borders and terrain], also known as the Honil kangni yoktae kukto chi to [Map of integrated regions and terrains and of historical countries and capitals], and hereafter will be simply referred to as the Kangnido. This map of the world was made in Korea in 1402, the second year of the reign of Taejong of Joseon. It easily predates any world map known from either China or Japan and is therefore the oldest such work surviving in the East Asian cartographical tradition, and the only one prior to the Ricci world maps of the late 15th and early 16th centuries. Although it is no longer preserved in Korea itself, there are three versions in Japan; of these the copy in the Ryukoku University Library (Kyoto) is acknowledged to be the earliest, and in the best condition. The principal distinguishing characteristics of the Ryukoku copy are its generally excellent condition and its preservation of the original Ch'an Chin preface. Painted on silk and still preserving its colors well, it is a very large map, nearly square at 171 x 164 cm (5 x 4 ft). It was first brought to scholarly notice by the Japanese historical geographer Ogawa Takuji, in 1928.

According to the preface found in Chin’s Yangch’on chip, the map is a synthesis of two earlier Chinese maps, an early 14th century (~1330) map by Li Tse-min [Zemin] and another map from the late 14th century (~1370) by Ch’ing Ch’n [Qing Jun], both maps now lost however. Li Tse-min, of whom we know nothing save that he flourished around 1330, produced a ShÍng-chiao kuang-pei t’u [Map for the Diffusion of Instruction]. The map by the Tiantai monk Ch’ing Ch¸n (1328-1392) must have been made some forty or fifty years later; it was called Hun-i chiang-li t’u [Map of the Territories of the One World]. Both of these maps made their way to Korea in 1399 through the agency of the Korean ambassador, Chin Shih-Heng (1341-1407), and were combined in 1402 by Li Hui and Ch’¸an.

The place to begin discussion of this very unusual map is with its preface, the crucial part of which is translated here from the text on the Ryukoku copy, with reference to the closely similar version in Ch’¸an Chin's collected works, the Yangch’on chip.

The world is very wide. We do not know how many tens of millions of li there are from China in the center to the four seas at the outer limits, but in compressing and mapping it on a folio sheet several feet in size, it is indeed difficult to achieve precision; that is why [the results of] the mapmakers have generally been either too diffuse or too abbreviated. But the ShÍng chiao kuang pei t’u [Map of the Vast Reach of [Civilization’s] Resounding Teaching], of Li Tse-min of Wumen, is both detailed and comprehensive; while for the succession of emperors and kings and of countries and capitals across time, the Hun-i chiang-li t’u [Map of Integrated Regions and Terrains], by the Tiantai monk Ch’ing Ch¸n, is thorough and complete. In the 4th year of the Jianwen era (1402), Left Minister Chin [Shih-Heng] of Sangju, and Right Minister Yi [Mu] of Tanyang, during moments of rest from their governing duties, made a comparative study of these maps and ordered Li Hui, an orderly, to collate them carefully and then combine them into a single map. Insofar as the area east of the Liao River and our own country’s territory were concerned, Tse-min’s map had many gaps and omissions, so Li Hui supplemented and expanded the map of our country, and added a map of Japan, making it a new map entirely, nicely organized and well worth admiration. One can indeed know the world without going out of his door! By looking at maps one can know terrestrial distances and get help in the work of government. The care and concern expended on this map by our two gentlemen can be grasped just by the size of its scale and dimension....

Ch’¸an’s own role was probably important, even though he insists that he only stood in the background and “enjoyably watched the making of the map.” But he was being modest and tactful, since he was younger in age and junior in rank to the two ministers. But the real cartographer, even though Ch’¸an minimizes his role, was Li Hui, whose entire career was in rather low-ranking but often special positions. His map of Korea, which was separately known, was almost certainly the basis for the Korean part of the world map. Judging by Ch’¸an’s description of the monk Ch’ing Ch¸n’s
Hun-i chiang-li t’u, it was probably an ordinary historical map of China, compiled in the late 14th century. Ch’ing Ch’¸n (1328-1392) was a close advisor to the Hongwu emperor (r.1368-1398), who was the founder of the Ming dynasty and himself an erstwhile monk. Apart from its use as a source for the Kangnido, nothing is known of Ch’ing Ch¸n’s map. Its chief contribution to the latter is believed to have been the Chinese historical dimension, the indication of the areas and capitals of the earlier dynasties, which was accomplished by a combination of textual notes and cartographic devices. Other than that, the main feature that stuck on the Korean map was probably its name: it reads Honil Kangnido in Sino-Korean.
The international dimension of the
Kangnido unquestionably came from Li Tse-min’s ShÍng chiao kuang pei t’u. Li is mentioned by the Ming cartographer Lo Hung-Hsien (1504-64) as a contemporary and possibly as an associate of Chu Ssu-Pen (see #227). The scholar Aoyama’s careful study of the Chinese place-names on the Kangnido shows them in general accord with those on Chu’s map, as preserved in Lo’s Kuang yu t’u, but with variants that would indicate place-name changes made in 1328-1329; this suggests that the Kangnido’s source map was made around 1330. Since Chu explicitly excluded most non-Chinese areas from his map, Aoyama and others have reasoned that Li Tse-min must have found his cartographic sources for these areas elsewhere, the only plausible source being Islamic maps, which made their appearance in China under Mongol rule. Lo Hung-Hsien’s probable use of the ShÍng chiao kuang pei t’u is deduced from his maps of the southeast and southwest maritime regions; and it could well be from the ShÍng chiao kuang pei t’u that the Da Ming hunyi t’u [Integrated map of Great Ming] in the Palace Museum in Beijing, derives. But for the missing or incomplete detail in the eastern areas of Manchuria, Korea, and Japan, that map bears a very close resemblance to the Kangnido.

Takahashi Tadashi has shown that the Kangnido’s Chinese transcriptions of place-names in southwest Asia, Africa, and Europe come from Persianized Arabic originals. While some of Takahashi’s matches do not command credence in early-modern Chinese phonological terms, he generally makes a convincing case. One of the more interesting correspondences is the name placed by the mountains near the Ptolemaic twin lakes that are the source of the Nile. Though not on the Ryukoku copy of the Kangnido, the Tenri University copy shows the Chinese transcription Zhebulu hama, which Takahashi identifies with Persianized Arabic Djebel alqamar [Mountains of the Moon]. All in all there are about thirty-five names indicated on or near the African continent, most of them in the Mediterranean area.

    The European part of the map, which is said to contain some 100 names, has not yet been the object of an individual study, and no details of this section of the Kangnido seem to have been published. The Mediterranean is clearly recognizable, as are the Iberian and Italian peninsulas and the Adriatic, but until the place-names can be read and interpreted it will be impossible to come to any firm understanding of it.

Ch’¸an Chin observed in his preface that the Kuang yu t’u had only sketchy treatment of the area east of the Liao River and of Korea. His language suggests that some image of Korea, however deficient, was on the original Kuang yu t’u (#227) and that this was supplemented or replaced by Li Hui. Li is known to have produced a map of Korea, called the P’altodo, [Map of the Eight Provinces], and it was probably a version of this that appears today on the Kangnido. It is only through the Kangnido that that map is known today.

The last major element of the map to be supplied, as far as the Koreans were concerned, was Japan. At this particular moment in time, Korea’s relations with the Japanese were very difficult owing to the continuing problem of Japanese marauders, who were beyond the ability of the Ashikaga Shogunate to control. Diplomatic initiatives were in progress, and coastal defenses and strategies were undergoing constant development. All this was backed by a general Korean effort to improve the government’s knowledge of Japan, and this involved maps in particular. Pak Tonji, a military man and diplomatic specialist in Japanese affairs, made at least two trips to Japan, one in 1398-99, the other in 1401, and the second visit resulted in a map. A later report quoted his statement that in 1402 he had been given a map by the title: Bishu no kami, Minamoto Mitsusuke. He says: “It was very detailed and complete. The entire land area was on it, all but the islands of Iki and Tsushima, so added them and doubled the scale.” In 1420, this report states, he formally presented this map to the Board of Rites, which was the branch of the Choson [Korean] government that handled foreign affairs.

It is generally assumed by Korean cartographical specialists that this map, brought back in 1401, was the basis for the representation of Japan on the Kangnido. As maps of Japan go in this period, the outline on this one is unusually good: the positioning of Kyushu with respect to Honshu is quite accurate, and the bend north of the Kanto area is indicated better than on many of the Gyoki - style maps then current. But for the joining of Shikoku to Honshu, the three main islands (adding Kyushu; Hokkaido, of course, not included at that time) make a very decent appearance. But this splendid effort seems to be vitiated by orienting the Japanese portion so that west is at the top. Worse, the whole ensemble is positioned far to the south, so that the first impression of a modern observer is that the Philippines, not Japan, is under view. A possible explanation for this is that the cartographers had run out of space on the right (east) edge of the Kangnido, and so had to place Japan in the open sea to the south. But since Japan had always appeared east of southern China on Chinese maps, there was some earlier cartographic basis for its placement there. As for the west-at-the-top orientation, it is possible that this was the original orientation of the map Pak Tonji received from Minamoto Mitsusuke; indeed the earliest known map of Japan (805 A.D.) has this orientation. Interestingly, the Korean makers of the Tenri and Honmyo-ji copies corrected the orientation to the north, even while substituting more conventional Gyoki-style outlines.

The northeastern coast of Africa, as well as Arabia, Asia Minor and the Mediterranean Sea with Italy and Spain were, as a whole, known to the Chinese from the 12th century, either by description, or, in the case of the African and Arabian coasts, from their own experience. But there exists no Chinese cartographic material from this time that covers Africa or Europe, and if there actually had been any, it obviously must have been based upon alien foreign sources, i.e., Arabic-Persian maps. As a matter of fact, the first terrestrial globe ever manufactured in China (1267) owes its existence to the Arabic scholar Djamal-ud-Din. The same holds true for the western half of one of the previously mentioned sources, Li Tse-min’s map of ca. 1325/30. It too must go back to an Islamic prototype that, like the globe, belonged to the later 13th century. This being the case, the picture of Africa as given on the lower left of the reproduction is of particular interest.

Prior to the Age of Great Discoveries, the African world below the Sahara, by all indications, was essentially an enigma to geographers in Europe. Aside from the effect of the inhospitable barriers surrounding the region, two great retarding factors that hindered the Europeans from crossing the immense waste, or from sailing into the tropical waters, was their belief in the Ocean of Darkness [Atlantic] and the fear of extreme heat on land and in the water further south. In spite of the dangers, real and imagined, adventurers from the Greco-Roman days down to the time of Henry the Navigator persisted in probing the unknown beyond the Canaries, some passing by Cape Verde and others reaching as far as the coast of Sierre Leone. The source of the Nile and the actual shape of the African continent, however, remained largely subject to speculation among the Europeans.

From the other side, the Arabs undoubtedly possessed considerable advantages that enabled them to venture across the dry lands and beyond. A unified religion and a simple code of ethics; high regard for long distance travel and the making of new converts in distant lands; the use of camels to cross the deserts; and maneuverable sails in unfavorable winds, were all factors commonly credited for their success in maintaining the busy traffic from the shores of the Mediterranean to the Guinea Coast and from the Hadramaut to Mozambique. From the eighth century A.D. onward, the Arab world, which spearheaded the penetration of Africa, maintained that unchallenged lead in its knowledge of the continent, both north and south, and, because Arab vessels also dominated the high seas from the East African shores to the South China coast, of the entire Indian Ocean region. In fact, during the heyday of Arab settlement in southern China, Canton alone accounted for no less than 100,000 Arab residents. Through the ensuing long period of Sino-Arab trade and intellectual exchange, the Chinese, on their part, were able to accumulate a good deal of this valuable information concerning the Indian Ocean and the continent of Africa. That China was indeed a beneficiary of this Arab monopoly can be evidenced by several Chinese world maps such as those by Chu Ssu-pen ca. 1320 (#227), the nautical charts from Cheng Ho’s expedition of 1405-1433, preserved in the Wu-pei-chih (1621), and, of course, the present map under consideration, Ch’¸an Chin’s. These cartographic portrayals of the continent of Africa pre-date the Portuguese exploratory efforts by nearly a century. They also represent the culmination of an era of Sino-Arab exchange of geographical information long before the Jesuit scholars, beginning with Matteo Ricci, ushered in another era in the late 16th century. Thus the cartographic expression manifested in this map of Chin’s reflects the last phase of traditional Chinese cartography that, again, was conceptually based upon the idea of one single Terrestrial Continent of which Africa became considered as an arm. This knowledge, presumably acquired from first-hand experience and Arab contact, not only manifested itself in the emerging world concept of Chinese cartography, but also served to facilitate the spurt of maritime activities in the Indian Ocean and along the coast of East Africa in the early Ming Dynasty (late 14th, early 15th centuries).

While numerous places in North Africa were mentioned by Chinese authors of the 8th and 9th centuries, it is more difficult to establish a clear milestone for the advance of China’s knowledge concerning tropical Africa. The earliest Chinese reference to North Africa can be found in the Ching-hsing-chi [An Account of Travels and Experiences], written by Ta Huan in 762 A.D. that is partially preserved in the T’ung Tien by Tu Yiu (735-812). The former treatise mentions, among other things, Mo-lin [Maghrib el Aksa, or the Western Territory] and Ch’iu-sa-lo [Djezyret], the desert expanse between them, and the customs of the inhabitants. Chou Ch’¸-fei, author of Ling-wai-tai-ta written in 1178 A.D., first mentioned the Ts’engchi-k’un-lun [the ‘Land of the Black’] and the slave trade of Africa’s offshore islands. Also his statement concerning the ‘Giant Birds’ there that could swallow camels, appears almost identical to the description by Marco Polo a century later. Chao Ju-kuo, commissioner of the maritime trade office at Ch’¸an-chou (Marco Polo’s Zaiton) which had extensive contact with the Arab merchants, and author of Chu-fan-chih (1226), provided the first account of the products from the East African coast, Somalia to Zanzibar, including an elaborate description of the ostrich and the giraffe.

Returning to Ch’¸an Chin and Li Hui’s map, the delineation of the southern half of Africa is of particular interest. In the first place, the shape of the continent, which is basically triangular, and its general orientation, south, are clearly recognizable. This presentation is in obvious contrast to relatively contemporary European counterparts, such as the maps of Petrus Vesconte (c.1321), Andrea Bianco (1436) and Giovanni Leardo (1453), or the Catalan-Estense map (C.1450), the Vinland map (c.1440) and Fra Mauro’s world map (1459), on all of which the southern half of Africa was drawn far eastward and shown in such a way as to portray a larger southern Africa than the northern portion (#228, #241, #242, #243, #246 and #249). The only European exceptions seem to be the world maps of Albertinus de Virga (1415, #240) and the one in the so-called Medicean or Laurentian Sea Atlas (#233), the latter’s presumptive date of 1351 being subject to controversy primarily because of its remarkable depiction of the continent of Africa. The Kangnido map, however, proves that the Chinese, via their Arab sources, at least as early as the end of the 13th century, had a more or less correct view of the southern extension of Africa, whereas its northwestern bulge had not been as yet recognized. It is hardly believable that such a representation should be casual or the result of mere speculation. Most scholars such as Walter Fuchs are inclined to assume that the cartographic heritage of the Arabs had been transmitted to the Chinese, albeit incompletely and probably did not always reflect the actual experiences of their seafarers. This north-south extension and shape of Africa can be seen in the cartography of the Arabs as early as the 13th century on Ibn Sa’id’s world map (Book II, #216). It should also be mentioned that the southern tip of Africa is shown in almost the same form on Chu Ssu-pen’s atlas Kuang Yu¸ T’u, preserved in a copy dated 1541 - 1555 (#227) the original edition of which, the Yu¸-T’u, again, is dated 1320, i.e. about the time of Li Tse-min’s map.

The fact that the names of the Chinese cities on Chin’s map are all the same as on the maps from 1320, further substantiates that the basic content of the map, as a whole, must date back to the famous Chinese cartographer Chu Ssu-pen’s own time. However, the Kangnido map of the world presents a totally different emphasis from that of Chu Ssu-pen. As the map title suggests, it aims at showing the locations of “all the countries and major cities in history in a comprehensive coverage”. Hence, no names are given for the southern half of Africa and the Indian Ocean except for the area around Zanzibar that was already the key trading center in East Africa. On the other hand, its broader coverage of Africa and the rest of the known world in the same scale provides a very valuable supplement to Chu Ssu-pen’s map of southern Africa (#227). The relief features and an additional stream flowing westward in South Africa roughly corresponding to the Orange River, indicates that Ch’¸an Chin was not entirely negligent on the least inhabited part of that continent.

Whatever the emphasis of the cartographer, rivers as a rule, were the most prominent landmarks in every Chinese map; and for the inland areas (central Asia especially) Chin’s map is a good example of the Korean conformity to Chinese tradition, and we see the magnitude of rivers and other water bodies greatly exaggerated. Similarly along the coast from China to Africa, major rivers such as the Red, Mekong, Menam, Salween, Ganges, Indus, Tigris, and Euphrates are laid out in an unmistakable sequence in order to bring forth the locations of the many states and cities between them.
The treatment of the western regions is also very interesting in that it includes about 100 place-names for Europe and about 35 for Africa (unfortunately, though, it has not been possible for scholars to identify many of them). For those areas that are identifiable, in the northern part of Africa the Sahara is colored in black, like the Gobi in so many Chinese maps (including the famous
Kuang Yu T’u, #227), and the position of Alexandria is indicated by the placement of a prominent pagoda-like object representing the famous Pharos. The interior of the continent is filled in by a body of water surrounding an island that is designated as Huang-sha [desert]. In contrast, the Mediterranean Sea is almost entirely shown as terra firma failing to blacken it in as he has other water areas, perhaps because he was not quite sure that it was indeed an ordinary sea. Instead, its coastline is marked like the course of rivers. To the left of it lies Spain, and to the southeast Arabia is outlined as a long protruding peninsula. The large, round island east of Arabia is simply named Hai-tao [island], which apparently represents Sri Lanka (Ceylon). To the east of Sri Lanka, India betrays its triangular shape only by a river, obviously the Ganges. The long river emerging to the south is the Hei-shui [Salween], and the great lake in the upper center combines the Black and the Caspian Seas. In the utmost northwest, Germany and France are marked phonetically, A-lu-mang-ni-a and Fa-li-si-na; here, in the West, the Azores are also shown. This representation of the Atlantic island group is indeed remarkable, especially on a map produced in the Far East at such an early time, when comparable detail of the Far East is scant on European maps of the same period. Of the two largest capitals in the world, as judged from the selection of symbols adopted by Chin, one is obviously Pyongyang in Korea, and the other is a European city of apparent equal importance, the position of which would suggest the city of Budapest.

Another contributing factor in the map’s remarkable knowledge of the West is that which was obtained as a result of the near conquest of the entire known [inhabited] world, or oikoumene, by the Mongols during the 13th century. And a final point of interest concerning this remarkable map is that it could not possibly have benefited from the information which the Chinese explorer Cheng Ho certainly had brought back five years later concerning the peninsularity of India. Only in a subsequent version of about 1580 (in the Imperial Palace at Peking) is India shown as a pronounced, separate peninsula between southeast Asia and Africa.

The overall disposition and bulk of the different components of the Kangnido at first make an odd appearance. On the one hand, there is nothing formulaic or mandated about its structure, such as the traditional European T-in-O scheme, or the wheel arrangement of the quasi-cosmographic ch’onhado of later Korean popularity (see #231). The attempt here was to study the best maps available in China, Korea, and Japan, and put together a comprehensive, indeed “integrated” [honil], map that included every known part of the world, truly a breathtaking objective by the cartographic standards of any nation at that time. The maps of this type are rightly regarded by such authorities as Fuchs as the most magnificent examples of Yuan cartography, completely over-shadowing all contemporary European or Arabic world maps. The extent of the lead which the Yuan cartographers had, however, may perhaps best be appreciated by comparing the Korean map with the renown Catalan Atlas of 1375, which also purported to show Asia as well as Europe, or the 14th century oikoumene (for this comparison, see #235). Of course that map too was based upon 13th century material (i.e. Marco Polo) but when one compares what the two groups of cartographers accomplished with their available data, the advantage lies clearly with the Chinese/Koreans.

The result is inevitably strange to our eyes. China and India, like a monstrous cell that had not yet divided, make up a dominating mass that overfills the entire center of the map. India has its west coast, but is not drawn as a peninsula and so has no east coast. To the west, the Arabian peninsula, with a clearly delineated Persian Gulf, and the African continent, with its tip correctly pointing south (and not east, as on many early European maps), hang thinly but with assurance, as if they belonged exactly where they are. At the top of Africa the Mediterranean supports a less securely grasped Europe, and the entire north fades into mountains and clouds. On the eastern side of the map, a relatively massive Korea, easily occupying as much space as the whole African continent (which, to be sure, is unduly small) identifies itself as a very important place, while Japan, as if randomly flipped off the fingers into the ocean, floats uncertainly in the South China Sea. The relative size and disposition of the three major East Asian countries reflects a plausible Korean view of the world in the early 15th century: Korea projecting itself as a major East Asian state, refurbishing its traditional view of China as the major center of civilization, and playing its eternal game of keeping Japan as far away as possible. On the other hand, Koreans were telling themselves that theirs was not just an East Asian country, but part of the larger world. Their ambition and ability to map that world would validate their position in it.

To say this is to begin to answer the question, what was this map for? A map whose composition was guided by the nation's top educator and Confucian ideologist, and presided over by two ministers of state, was surely destined for display in a prominent, central place in the capital. It was probably on a screen or a wall in some important palace building frequented by the king and senior officials. But a good understanding of its function is hampered by the fact that we know nothing of its history after its completion. The Ryukoku Kangnido, judging by Korean place-name indications, is a copy reflecting place-name changes made around 1460. If its source map was the original Kangnido, then this is the last that is heard of it.

Little is known about how the Kangnido came to Japan, but it probably arrived there independently on three separate occasions. Both the Ryukoku and Honmyo-ji copies were evidently part of the loot from Hideyoshi’s invasion of Korea (1592-1598). The Ryukoku map was reportedly given by Hideyoshi to the Honganji, an important Buddhist temple in Kyoto. This institution ultimately was divided into two branches, east and west, of which the latter (Nishi Honganji) is today associated with Ryukoku University, which explains the map’s present location. The Honmyo-ji copy (paper scroll), which is entitled Dai Minkoku Chizu [Map of Great Ming], was given to that institution by Kato Kiyomasa, its major patron and one of the senior Japanese commanders on the Korean expedition. Nothing is reported concerning the provenance of the Tenri University copy (silk scroll, no title), but according to a study by Unno Kazutaka, it is a “sister map” to the Honmyo-ji scroll; his persuasive analysis of the place names indicates that both maps were copied in Korea about 1568, from a version already cartographically distant from the Ryukoku copy.

Outlines of the Kangnido-Ch’onhado transition

The graphic above illustrates a proposed hypothetical development or “transition” of the Korean world map, beginning with the Kangnido of 1402 through to the Ch’onhado [map of all under heaven] in the 16th century (see #231). However, there are some scholars that will argue that this illustration should be reversed and that the Ch’onhado design preceded the Kangnido world concept, at least in China. According to Korean historian Gari Ledyard the key element in this proposed hypothetical development is the Arabian peninsula, which with the Red Sea and the Arabian Sea forms a peninsula between the two rivers on the Ch’onhado.

        This information permits the conclusion that the Kangnido was probably often copied in Korea during the 15th and 16th centuries. There is an arguable possibility that its fortunes intersected with those of the Ch’onhado, which came to have a special place in Korean affections and invariably was the first map in the map albums/atlases that were especially popular in the 18th and 19th centuries. It also seems conceivable that it is reflected in an interesting map entitled Yoji chondo (Yeoji jeondo) [the Complete Terrestrial Map], dated about 1775 (illustrated below). This map, while clearly influenced by some Sino-Jesuit world map, also shows a strong structural similarity to the Kangnido, as its owner, Yi Ch’an, has pointed out.

Thus Japan is righted and put in its proper place, the respective masses of Korea, China, and Africa are brought into more accurate relation, and England and Scandinavia emerge from Europe. But the map as a whole, and particularly its treatment of India and Africa, strongly evokes the Kangnido. This is good evidence that the Kangnido tradition was not broken by the Hideyoshi wars, but stayed alive in Korea for two more centuries.

Yeoji jeondo [Yoji Chondo] - Complete terrestrial map.
Late 18th century Korean map, 86.3 x 59.5 cm. It is similar to the 15th century Kangnido in general structure: large Asia, small Africa and Europe, undefined India. Europe and Africa are much more precisely drawn however, and it is possible to make out words such as “Atlantic Ocean” (大西洋) Mediterranean sea (地中海), or Italy (里亞).

The Kangnido was only the first of many distinguished scientific and cultural projects carried out in Korea during the 15th century. King Sejong (r. 1419-1450) and his son King Sejo (r.1455-1468) extended Korean cartographical foundations by standardizing linear measurement and assembling detailed distance data between Seoul and the approximately 335 districts of the country. As a result of these efforts, an excellent national map was produced in 1463, and a complete geographical survey of the nation, the Tongguk yoji sungam, was compiled in 1481. During the 1430’s Sejong built an astronomical observatory and a variety of astronomical instruments and clocks. This provided a foundation for continued research and observation in the reigns of his successors. Many projects were also carried out in meteorology and agronomy which not only led to new scientific understanding in Korea but which provided for rationalized administration and taxation.

Movable type printing with cast metal movable type, which Korea had pioneered among the East Asian nations in 1242, underwent considerable development and refinement under the 15th century kings; by the time Gutenberg perfected his press in 1454, hundreds of editions of books in Chinese and several in Korean had been printed in Korea with movable type. Finally, King Sejong in 1443 invented the Korean alphabet, an amazingly original and scientific system which still serves as the writing system of Korea and which is the only indigenous alphabetic system in use among the East Asian countries.

    The spirit that animated all of these projects, and that marks the 15th century as perhaps Korea’s greatest, was both national and international in character, and showed a high degree of independent thinking. Koreans did not merely copy the Chinese culture they imported, but recast and it into forms and institutions that were distinctively different from China’s. The Kangnido is a perfect example of this process: China, either as originator or transmitter, provided Korea with most of the materials for the map, but the transformation and processing of those materials into a genuine world map was conceived and executed in Korea.

Variations of anglicized spelling of the Chinese and Korean names, titles, etc. have been found during the research for this monograph, every source used a different spelling. The following is an “audit trail” for reference.

Map Title: Yoktae chewang honil kangnido [Map of Historical Emperors and Kings and of Integrated Borders and Terrains] = Hun-i chiang-li li-tai kuo-tu chih t’u [Map of the Territories of the One World and the Capitals of the Countries in Successive Ages] = Honil kangni yoktae kukto chi to [Map of Integrated Regions and Terrains and of Historical Countries and Capitals]

Authors: Ch’¸an Chin = Kwon Keun = Kwon Kun; Li Hui = Yi Hoe = Yi Hwei

Map Title: ShÍng chiao kuang pei t’u [Map for the Diffusion of Instruction] = Shengjiao guanbei tu [Map of the Vast Reach of [Civilization's] Resounding Teaching]
Author: Li Tse-min = Li Zemin

Map Title: Hun-i chiang-li t'u [Map of the Territories of the One World] = Hunyi jiangli tu [Map of the Integrated Regions and Terrain]
Author: Ch’ing Ch¸n = Qingjun

Map Title: Kuang Yu T’u = Guang yu tu [Enlarged Terrestrial Atlas]
Author: Lo Hung-Hsien = Luo Hongxian; Chu Ssu-PÍn = Zhu Siben; Chin Shih-Heng = Kim Sahyong


From its beginning, the Joseon Dynasty court was very interested in cartography. At this time, Joseon needed comprehensive maps for the reform of administrative districts and a move of the capital. It was also pursuing a restoration of its northern border and relocation of its population, as well as responding to coastal raids by Japanese pirates. At least since Unified Silla and Goryeo periods, Korea was actively trading with Arab nations.

In addition to practical administrative concerns, mapmaking served to strengthen the national prestige and royal power. Joseon sent many missions to various nations to collect their maps. The highest levels of the bureaucracy participated in map production. It has been suggested that, despite showing most of the rest of the world, the Korean officials who produced the map were less interested in portraying current images of neighboring Asian countries than in presenting an up-to-date image of Korea itself.

The Honil kangni yoktae kukto chi to [Map of Integrated Lands and Regions of Historical Countries and Capitals, short name Kangnido] is a world map that was made in Korea in 1402, the second year of the reign of Taejong of Joseon. It is painted on silk and measures 158.5 cm x 168.0 cm.

The map was created under the supervision of two high Korean officials, Gim Sahyeong (김사형:金士衡) and Yi Hoe (이회:李撓), and the Confucian scholar Gwon Geun (권근:權近), as part of a cultural project of the newly founded Joseon Dynasty.

It is the second oldest surviving world map from East Asia, after the similar Chinese Da Ming Hun Yi Tu, part of a tradition begun in the 1320s when geographical information about western countries became available via Islamic geographers in the Mongol empire. It depicts the general form of the Old World, from Africa and Europe in the west to Japan in the east. Although, overall, it is less geographically accurate than its Chinese cousin, most obviously in the depiction of rivers and small islands, it does feature some improvements (particularly the depictions of Korea and Japan, and a less cramped version of Africa).

Only two copies of the map are known, and both have been preserved in Japan. The map currently in Ryūkoku University (hereafter referred to as the Ryūkoku map) has gathered scholarly attention since the early 20th century. It is 158 cm x 163 cm, painted on silk. It is presumed that the Ryūkoku map was copied in Korea but it is not clear when the copy was brought to Japan. One claims that it was purchased by Ōtani Kōzui and others assume that it was obtained during the invasion of Korea (1592-1598) and given to the West Honganji temple by Toyotomi Hideyoshi. It may itself be a copy of the 1402 original, with revisions to about 1485.

The Honkōji Version [Map of the Great Ming].

There are two maps in Japan that are related to the Ryūkoku Kangnido map. One is the Honmyōji map, housed in the Honmyōji temple of Kumamoto that is also known as the “Map of the Great Ming” (大明國地圖). The other map is the Tenri map, located in Tenri University and is called by a similar name (大明國圖). They are considered to be later adaptations of the original Ryūkoku Kangnido map. The most important difference is that the place names of China have been updated to those of the Ming Dynasty while the original showed administrative divisions of the Mongol Yuan Dynasty.

The Honkōji map is titled General map of the distances and the historic capitals [chinese: Hunyi jiangli lidai guodu zhi tu; Japanese: Kon'itsu kyoori rekidai kokuto no zu]; it was produced in Korea in roughly 1470. It was developed using ink and paint on paper. Its height is 220 cm and the width is 289 cm. It is currently located at the Honkoo-ji Tokiwa Museum of Historical Materials, Shimabara, Nagasaki prefecture in Japan. Based on two Chinese maps from the 14th century, the Shengjiao guangbei tu [Big map that shows the pronunciation of place names] and the Hunyi jiangli tu [General map of the distances also showing historical capitals [of China]]. Both maps were brought to Korea in 1368, and put together to one new map around 1402. The most obvious feature distinguishing this later version from the original Kangnido map is the more correct size and orientation of Japan. The geographical knowledge represented in the map beyond China and Korea seems mainly a result of 14th century trade connections within the Mongol Empire. On the western edge of the map the names Marseille and Sevilla have been identified. Note the depiction of the Cape of Good Hope, the second-earliest known to date. Note: The “crack” on the left side of the image is due to the map being printed on two adjacent pages in the source, an exhibition catalogue; it is not from the original. In the Kyujanggak Library of Seoul National University there is a modern Korean hand copy done during the 1980s, considered highly researched and beautifully executed. Based on a legend of the temple, it has been believed naively that the Honmyōji map was given to Katō Kiyomasa by Toyotomi Hideyoshi in preparation for the Korean campaigns. However, the Seonjo Sillok of Korea reports that in 1593 the son of a Korean official who had surrendered to Katō copied and offered map(s) of China and Korea to him. This may refer to the extant Honmyōji map. This map was discovered in the Honkōji temple of Shimabara, Nagasaki in 1988 and is much larger than the Ryūkoku map.

Sources: According to Ch’üan Chin’s [Gwon Geun] Yangchonjip and the nearly identical preface on the Ryukoku copy of the map, Left Minister Gim Sahyeong and Right Minister Yi Mu (이무:李茂, 1355-1409), in 1402 made a comparative study of two earlier Chinese maps: 聲教廣被圖 by Li Zemin (李澤民) produced around 1330 and 混一疆理圖 by Qing Jun (清浚) produced around 1370, both maps now lost. The two men ordered Li Hui [Yi Hoe], an orderly, to collate and combine the maps into one. Li Hui supplemented many gaps and omissions on Li Zemin’s map with Korea’s own map, and added a map of Japan, making an entirely new map.

Chin had returned from a trip to China in the summer of 1399, probably bringing the two Chinese maps with him, and both ministers had just completed reporting on land surveys of Korea’s northern frontiers to the royal court.

The Ryūkoku and Honkōji maps contain Ch’üan Chin’s colophon at the bottom. It is also recorded in his anthology named Yangchon Seonsaeng Munjip (陽村先生文集). According to Chin, the map was based on the following four maps:

• the world map named Shengjiao Guangbei Tu (聲教廣被圖) by Li Zemin

• the historical map of China named Hunyi Jiangli Tu (混一疆理圖) by Qing Jun

• an unnamed map of Korea

• an unnamed map of Japan

In the fourth year of the Jianwen era (1402), Gim Sahyeong and Yi Mu, and later Li Hui, analyzed the two Chinese maps and combined these two maps into a single map. Since Li Zemin’s map had problems, they added the enlarged Korea, and also appended a map of Japan.

The map depicts the general form of the Old World, from Africa and Europe in the west to Japan in the east although the western portion is much smaller than its actual size. It contains the cartographic knowledge of Afro-Eurasia that cannot be found in the east in the pre-Mongol period. Place names presented on the map suggest that the western portion of the map reflects roughly the situation of the early 14th century. In the East, geographic information about the west was not updated in the post-Mongol period unless Europeans such as Matteo Ricci brought Western knowledge.

Place names based on traditional Chinese knowledge and Islamic knowledge coexist separately. Their boundary line can be drawn from Besh Baliq to Delhi. Names based on the former were placed to the north and east of Besh Baliq even if they are actually located to the west. For example, the Talas River, which was important for the Tang Dynasty was placed to the northeast of Besh Baliq although its actual direction is northwest. Similarly, India and Tibet are based on traditional Chinese knowledge, mainly gained by Buddhist pilgrimage up to the Tang Dynasty. To the west of the “old” India, contemporary place names of India such as Delhi, Badaun and Duwayjir Duwayqir (Persianized form of Devagiri) are shown. This suggests that information was acquired via the Ilkhanate.

Western Turkestan, Persia, Arabia, Egypt and Anatolia are quite clearly delineated. These areas are depicted in great detail while place names are sparsely distributed in northwestern Eurasia. They correspond to the territories of Ilkhanate and the rival Golden Horde respectively, reinforcing Ilkhanate as the main source of information.

There are about 35 African place names. The knowledge of the contour of Africa predates the European explorations of Vasco da Gama. In particular, the southern tip of Africa is quite clearly depicted, as well as a river that may correspond to the Orange River in Southern Africa. To the north of the African continent, beyond the unexplored “black” central mass, a pagoda is represented for the lighthouse of Alexandria, and the Arab word Misr for Cairo (al-Qāhira) and Mogadishu (Maqdashaw) are shown among others. The Mediterranean forms a clear shape but is not blackened unlike other sea areas. The Maghreb and the Iberian peninsulas are depicted in detail, while Genoa and Venice are omitted. There are over 100 names for the European countries alone, including Alumangia for the Latin word Alemania [Germany].

Chinese Exploration: Some have used this map as evidence of early global exploration by China. China began to explore the territories to the west from the embassy of Zhang Qian in 126 B.C. Various countries were thus identified, such as K’ang-chü [Sogdiana], Dayuan [in Ferghana], An-shih [Parthia] and Daqin [the Roman empire]. The Buddhist monk Faxian was the first Chinese to sail into the Indian Ocean in the beginning of the fifth century AD, visiting India and Sri Lanka by ship. Afterwards, China engaged heavily in sea travel, especially following the expansion of Islam on the continent in the eighth century. The Tang Dynasty writer Duan Chengshi, along with other writers, wrote detailed descriptions of Africa, its coastal commerce, and slave trade. Wang Dayuan was the first Chinese ship captain to sail into the Mediterranean Sea (by Mamluk Egypt) and as far as Morocco in North Africa during the 14th century.

The Da Ming Hun Yi Tu [Great Ming Amalgamated Map]

This map (Chinese: 大明混一; pinyin: dàmíng hùnyī- characters in left-to-right order, Manchu: dai ming gurun-i uherilehe nirugan) is a very large world map created in China that was painted in color on stiff silk and measures 386 x 456 cm in size. The original text was written in classical Chinese, but Manchu labels were later superimposed on them.

It is one of the oldest surviving world maps from East Asia although the exact date of creation remains unknown. It depicts the general form of the Old World, placing China in the center and stretching northward to Mongolia, southward to Java, eastward to central Japan, and westward to Africa and Europe.

Little is known about this world map. Its author is unknown and the date of creation is unclear. The map was created in China sometime during the Ming Dynasty and handed over to the new rulers of China, the Manchus. It has been kept in the Imperial Palace under the title Qingzi Qian Yitong Tu (清字簽一統圖) in some catalogs. It is currently kept in protective storage at the First Historical Archive of China, in Beijing. A full-sized digital replica was made for the South African government in 2002.

The place names of China on the map reflect the political situation in 1389, or the 22nd year of the reign of the Hongwu Emperor. Thus some Chinese scholars concluded that it was indeed created in 1389 or little later. Others maintain a cautious attitude, suggesting that what was revised in 1389 is probably a source map of the Da Ming Hun Yi Tu and that the Da Ming Hun Yi Tu itself was created much later.

In either case, it is certain that the Ming Dynasty created a map around 1389. Japanese scholar Miya Noriko speculated on the motivation behind it: Although the Hongwu Emperor, first of the Ming dynasty, drove the Mongol Yuan Dynasty out of China in 1368, Mongols maintained military power that posed a real threat to the new dynasty. The situation was changed in 1388 when Uskhal Khan of Northern Yuan was killed and the Khubilaid line of succession was terminated. The Ming Dynasty may have celebrated this historic event by creating a new map.

Relationship to other maps: Maps had for centuries played an important role in the government of such a vast country, and surviving examples on stone dating from AD 1137 (Book II, #218) but based on much earlier surveys, show great accuracy, using a grid system. By then the Chinese had also developed the magnetic compass, and in the 13th century western versions of that device allowed European cartography, almost abandoned after the fall of the western Roman Empire, to catch up with Chinese standards of accuracy.

By the early years of the 14th century, when Mongol domination over much of Eurasia created favorable conditions for east-west communication, Islamic maps of Europe and Africa had found their way to China, encouraging Chinese cartographers to create world maps incorporating the new information.

Scholars consider that the Da Ming Hun Yi Tu was ultimately based on a world map named Shengjiao Guangbei Tu (聲教廣被圖). It was created by Li Zemin during the Mongol Yuan Dynasty but is now lost. Other extant maps considered to be based on Li’s map are some copies of the Kangnido (1402) and a pair of maps named Dongnan Haiyi Tu (東南海夷圖) and Xinan Haiyi Tu (西南海夷圖), which is recorded in the Kuang Yu Tu (廣與圖)(1555) by Luo Hongxian (#227). Comparative studies of these extant maps are conducted to restore the content of Li’s original world map. The Da Ming Hun Yi Tu is especially important because Luo’s copies dropped most place names except for coastal areas and islands and the Kangnido was influenced by Korean cartography.

Compared to the Kangnido, the Da Ming Hun Yi Tu provides more detailed information on Mongolia and Central Asia and India. In Manchuria, Changbai Mountain, where the foundation myth of the Manchu Aisin Gioro imperial family was set, is overly portrayed. It presents India as a peninsula while it sinks into the “Chinese continent” on the Kangnido. It is presumed that India was portrayed as a peninsula on Li’s map but shrunk by Korean Confucians due to their anti-Buddhist policy. Africa and Arabia on the Da Ming Hun Yi Tu resemble those on the Kangnido while Europe is considerably different. It is also distinct from the Kangnido in the depiction of the source of the Yellow River, which looks very similar to that in Luo’s Kuang Yu Tu (#227).

Content: The Earth’s curvature affects even the scale of the Chinese section of the map. Horizontally, it works out at about 1:820,000; but vertically it is around 1:1,060,000. The use of color is particularly effective within China itself, including elegant touches like the ochre tint of the Huang He [Yellow River].

It replicates the curvature of the Earth by compression of areas furthest away from China (most obviously the extreme horizontal squeeze of Europe), their reduced size making both a geographical and a political statement. Outside China, sub-Saharan Africa is depicted in a good approximation of the correct shape, complete with mountains near the southern tip. The interior of the continent is extraordinary: a river with twin sources (the common depiction in Classical and Islamic maps of the Nile) starts in the south of the continent, but enters the Red Sea, while the Nile, contrary to the information in non-Chinese maps of the era (though in conformity with a reported Arab geographical legend that farther south from the Sahara Desert is a great lake, far greater than the Caspian Sea) has its source in a vast inland sea. This is likely to be based on vague information about the several great lakes in the region of modern Tanzania, gained during the course of direct trade between China and southeast Africa.

The European coverage goes only as far as the new portolan mapping, showing the Mediterranean and Black Sea areas. Unlike the African lake, those seas are not shaded with wave symbols, and nor is the nearby Caspian Sea, mapped in Islamic style with two islands, suggesting that the whole area is based on a single Islamic map. Arabia is squeezed horizontally, but recognizable. The prominent peninsula on the west coast of the Chinese landmass is Malaysia, but India is represented merely as a collection of place-names northwest of Arabia. Another manifestation of the same problem, dependence on external sources for geographical information, can be seen to the south of Korea, at the far right side of the map, where Japan, over-sized and misshapen, confusingly meets the much more correctly sized and positioned Taiwan.


Ryukoku Kangnido: Ryukoku University, Kyoto, Japan.
Honmyo-ji [Map of the Great Ming](paper scroll) copy: Honmyōji temple of Kumamoto, Honkoo-ji Tokiwa Museum of Historical Materials, Shimabara, Nagasaki prefecture.
Chugoku Zenzu Tenri Central Library, Tenri, Nara Prefecture, Japan.
Da Ming Hun Yi Tu [The Great Ming Amalgamated Map]:  First Historical Archive of China, in Beijing.

Hunyi jiangli lidai guodu zhi tu[General map of the distances and the historic capitals]: Honkoo-ji Tokiwa Museum of Historical Materials, Shimabara, Nagasaki prefecture.

*Aoyama, Toho gakuho, Tokyo, 1938, pp. 103-152.
*Chang, Kuei-sheng, “Africa and the Indian Ocean in Chinese Maps of the 14th and 15th

  Centuries”, Imago Mundi, vol. 24, pp. 21-30.
*Fuchs, W., “Was South Africa Already Known in the 13th Century?”, Imago Mundi, vol.

  X, pp. 50-51.
*Fuchs, W., “The ‘Mongol Atlas of China by Chu Ssu-Pen and the Kuang Yu T’u”, 

Peking, 1946, Monumenta Serica, monograph VIII., pp. 9-11.
*Ledyard, G., “Cartography in Korea”, The History of Cartography, Volume 2, Book 2, pp. 30, 244-49, 256, 264-67, 289, 845, Plates 17, 18.
*Ledyard, G., “The Kangnido: A Korean World Map, 1402”, Circa 1492, pp. 329-332.
*Needham, J., Science and Civilization in China, Volume 3, pp. 554-556.

*Robinson, K.R., “Chosen Korea in the Ryukoku Kangnido: Dating the Oldest Extant  

  Korean Map of the World (15th Century)”, Imago Mundi, Volume 59, Part 2, pp. 177-192.
*Virga, V., Cartographia, Mapping Civilizations, pp. 60-62, Plate 51.
*Young-woo, Han, The Artistry of Early Korean Cartography, pp. 9-13; 170-178.


Da Ming Hun Yi Tu [The Great Ming Amalgamated Map], 1389
(Chinese: 大明混一; pinyin: dàmíng hùnyī tú- characters in left-to-right order, Manchu: dai ming gurun-i uherilehe nirugan) is a world map created in China. It was painted in color on stiff silk and measures 386 x 456cm. The original text was written in Classical Chinese, but Manchu labels were later superimposed on them.

It is one of the oldest surviving world maps from East Asia although the exact date of creation remains unknown. It depicts the general form of the Old World, placing China in the center and stretching northward to Mongolia, southward to Java, eastward to central Japan, and westward to Africa and Europe.

The Ryukoku Kangnido: Honil kangni yoktae kukyo chi to
[Map of Integrated Lands and Regions of Historical Countries and Capitals]
Painted on silk, 164 x 171.8 cm, 1402
The title is written across the top, above a summary list of historical Chinese capitals and administrative centers in Yuan China, and a commemoration fills most of the bottom margin, all to be read right-to-left. Preserved in the Omiya Library, Ryukoku University Academic

Modern copy of the Kangnido map

The Ryukoku Kangnido: Honil Gangni Yeokdae Gukdo Jido [Map of Integrated Lands and Regions of Historical Countries and Capitals, short name Gangnido/Kangnido],
1402, measuring 158 x 163 cm

Ryukoku Kangnido

Ryukoku Kangnido: Europe & Africa

Honkōji Version [Map of the Great Ming]
Hunyi jiangli lidai guodu zhi tu, Korea, circa 1470, 220 x 289 cm

Japanese Kandingo-type map entitled“Daimin Kyuhen Bankoku Jinseki Rotei Zenzu”
[The whole map of the great Ming Dynasty China, and its nine border lands (Chinese title)], Wang Jun Fu and Unemura Yahaku, Kyoto, 1645, 123.9 x 123 cm,

China’s towns and cities, its river systems, and the Great Wall are all shown on the map. The writing around the edge of the map provides information on Chinese towns and cities. Other countries, some real, others imaginary, are pushed towards the margins and reduced in size: Cuba is at the top right; the mythical ‘Country of Women’ (as described by Marco Polo) is at the bottom right, near to what is possibly Brazil; Europe is to the top left, and Africa centre left. Hand-colored woodcut map of China and the World, printed on multiple sheets and folding into later orange-papered covers decorated in lotus flower designs. The texts taken from the Chinese original are particularly interesting: the legend on the right gives details of the 29 strategic border crossings, and that on the left describes 33 foreign countries, with the European and African place names taken from Jesuit sources such as Ricci’s 1602 map. Other texts cover details of the 13 provinces with details on population, taxation, and commodities

British Library Board, Maps *60875.(11)