China’s Changing Shape: Exploring Geographic Conceptions of ‘China’ from the Second to the Twentieth-first Century | Newberry

China’s Changing Shape: Exploring Geographic Conceptions of ‘China’ from the Second to the Twentieth-first Century

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

9:30 am to 12:30 pm

The Newberry

Dr. Laura Hostetler, University of Illinois at Chicago
Full. Waitlist only.
Newberry Teachers' Consortium

Designed to provide teachers with a concrete set of images and concepts that they can adapt for their own use in the classroom, this seminar focuses around a series of Chinese maps to explore how “China” was conceived of both culturally and geographically over time. Mapping in China varied greatly over the course of its long dynastic history. The images we will explore begin with early dynastic graphics that depict China as a civilization centered on the imperial capital with rings of “less cultured” people radiating out from it. In this conception the emphasis was not on territory controlled per se, but on cultural zones of influence. By contrast, a twelfth-century Song dynasty map, reproduced on rubbings made from a carved stele, shows a highly accurate grid of much of what is now China. Yet, while highly accurate in terms of scale, the emphasis is on hydrography, not on imperial borders. In late imperial China (1500-1900) maps were used primarily as a supplement to extensive textual geographic descriptions and generally demonstrate little interest in accuracy of scale. In 1602 China was introduced to European conceptions of the globe, including latitude and longitude and the five continents, through a world map in Chinese made by Jesuit Matteo Ricci and his Chinese colleague Li Zhizao. Following up on this technology, during the early eighteenth century the Kangxi emperor commissioned a scaled map of the entire Qing empire. The surveys were undertaken with assistance of European Jesuits serving at his court. But beginning only in the 1840s, when the Opium War also forced a significant transition in diplomatic practices in China, were these geographic conventions more broadly introduced to the Chinese public. Our “map tour” will culminate with a discussion of the “nine-dash” map that China developed in the 1930s and is currently using as the basis for its expanded claims to control of the South China Sea.

Cost and Registration Information 

Newberry Teachers’ Consortium members may register for this seminar through their designated membership contact as space permits. Non-member educators may register for this seminar by purchasing an individual membership at the time of registration. Registration for all NTC seminars opens Wednesday, September 6, 2017. For more information about NTC membership, please contact Charlotte Ross, Teacher Programs Manager, at

The seminar will be followed by a catered lunch. Registrants should RSVP for lunch to assist Teacher Programs staff in reducing waste.

A link to the assigned pre-readings for this seminar will be distributed to participants via email.

If you believe you are registered for this seminar but have not received an email confirmation or reminder, please contact Teacher Programs staff.