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Junliang Ma, Universal map of China, 1797-1800


In the eyes of many Chinese today, China remains the focal point of the world.

This antique world map, originating from China in the late 18th or early 19th century, reflects a common trend among cartographers worldwide who often placed their own countries at the center of their maps. The Middle Empire, as China was known domestically, naturally exemplified this practice.


Despite initial appearances, this map portrays the entire world rather than just China. Seventeen Chinese provinces dominate the center of the map, with peripheral regions such as Europe depicted in a narrow section in the upper left corner. Beyond this, the rest of the world is depicted as distant, mystical, and exotic—such as labeling Brazil as "The Land of Cannibals."


The map details Chinese provinces with cities, villages, and simplified symbols for rivers, mountains, the Great Wall, and the Gobi Desert.


This map illustrates a notable example of ethnocentricity, where cultural perspectives shape how the world is perceived. It invites reflection on how different cultures historically viewed themselves as central to global understanding.




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