The Selden Map of China: A New Understanding of the Ming Dynasty

SKU: BOD-1028

'…Nie's discussion of the Selden Map [is] a fascinating reminder of the inherently political nature of maps - both ancient and modern - and the importance of maintaining a critical reading of geopolitcs in approaching any cartographic treasures.' - The Globe

'Not only is the text both informative and easy to read, but the numerous images and elegant graphics make this attractive volume the perfect introduction to a highly-important map...a worthy and desirable addition to the library of any serious sinologist or enthusiastic cartophile.' - IMCOS (International Map Collectors' Society) Journal 

'A friendly and approachable insight to the Ming Dynasty. … Nie has opened the door to a plethora of conversations regarding the preservation and conservation of artefacts and documents, so that today's society can also reflect on centuries of development and contribute towards more accurate understandings of history.' - The Bulletin of the Society of Cartographers

'This book uncovers the history behind the map, from its groundbreaking cartographic techniques to the wider context of Chinese map-making.' - The Arts

'If the sign of a good book is its ability to draw in the reader … then 'The Selden Map of China' is indeed a winner. When he opened it, your reviewer had given little thought to ancient Chinese cartography. By the time he had finished it, he was gripped.' - Sheetlines


Dating from the seventeenth century at the height of the Ming Dynasty, the Selden Map of China reveals a country very different from popular conceptions of the time, looking not inward to the Asian landmass but outward to the sea. Discovered in the stacks of the Bodleian Library, this beautifully decorative map of China is in fact a seafaring chart showing Ming Dynasty trade routes. It is the earliest surviving example of Chinese merchant cartography and is evidence that Ming China was outward-looking, capitalistic and vibrant.

Exploring the commercial aims of the Ming Dynasty, the port city of Quanzhou and its connections with the voyages of the early traveller Zheng He, this book describes the historical background of the era in which the map was used. It also includes an analysis of the skills and techniques involved in Chinese map-making and the significance of the compass bearings, scale and ratios found on the map, all of which combine to represent a breakthrough in cartographic techniques.

The enthralling story revealed by this extraordinary artefact is central to an understanding of the long history of China’s relationship with the sea and with the wider world.


Hongping Annie Nie is a Teaching and Research Associate of the University of Oxford China Centre and a Senior Member of St Anthony’s College, Oxford.
  • Hardback
  • 96 pages, 259 x 237 mm
  • 40 colour illustrations
  • ISBN: 9781851245246
  • Publication June 2019

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