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Over 2,200-Year-old Map Discovered in NW China

Xinhuanet 2002-04-30 12:38:26

   LANZHOU, April 30 (Xinhuanet) -- An ancient wooden map discovered
by Chinese archaeologists in northwest China's Gansu Province has
been confirmed as the country's oldest one at more than 2,200
   The map was drawn on four pine plates, 23 cm long, 17 cm wide
and 1.5 cm thick each, and includes a drawing of Guixian County of
the Qin Kingdom, one of the seven major principalities in the era
of the Warring States (475-221 B.C.).
   The map, believed to have been completed in 239 B.C., is more
than 1,300 years older than the Hua Yi Tu and Yu Ji Tu, both
unearthed in the Forest of Steles in Xi'an, capital of northwest
China's Shaanxi Province.
    It is 300 years older than the map of Western Han (206 B.C.-
24 A.D.), excavated from Mawangdui in central China's Hunan
Province in 1973, according to the State Bureau of Surveying and
   He Shuangquan, a research fellow with the Gansu Provincial
Archaeological Research Institute, has made an in-depth study of
the map and confirmed its drawing time to be 239 B.C..
   This map provided material evidence of the developed cartology
of ancient China and was a precious artefact in the study of China
's map-drawing technologies, said Li Wanru, a research fellow with
the ancient maps laboratory of the Natural Science Research
Institute under the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
   Li agreed with researcher He's viewpoint that the map was the
oldest among the existing maps in China.
   The map of Guixian was unearthed from tombs of the Qin Kingdom
at Fangmatan in Tianshui City of Gansu Province in 1986 and was
listed as a national treasure in 1994.
   Located in the central Qinling Mountains, Fangmatan had fertile
water and soil in ancient times. Textual research shows that more
than 100 Qin tombs were built on a slope in this section of the
Qinling Mountains, distributed in a fan shape. All the tombs were
well preserved, said archaeologists.
   Archaeologists with the Gansu Provincial Archaeological
Research Institute excavated 13 Qin tombs and one tomb of the
Western Han at Fangmatan in 1986, unearthing over 400 relics
including the map of Guixian County.
   Researcher He said that the map, drawn in black on four pine
wood plates of almost the same size, had clear and complete
graphics depicting the administrative division, a general picture
of local geography and the economic situation in Guixian County in
the Warring States era.
   Eighty-two places are marked with placenames, locations of
rivers, mountains and forested areas on the map. What is more
surprising is that the map marks the location of Wei Shui, now
known as the Weihe River, and many canyons in the area.
   The location of the Weihe River marked on the map agrees with
the record in the Waterways Classic, a book by an unknown author
of the Three Kingdoms period (220-280 A.D.) giving a brief account
of the country's 137 major waterways. Forested areas marked on the
map also tallies with the distribution of various plants and the
natural environment in the area today.
   Unlike modern maps, placenames on these maps were written
within big or small square frames, while the names of rivers,
roads, major mountains, water systems and forested areas were
marked directly with Chinese characters. The distances of some
roadways were also marked clearly on the map.
   Experts said that graphics, symbols, scales, locations,
longitude and latitude are key elements of a map. The map of
Guixian County has all these elements except longitude and
latitude, according to historians.  Enditem

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