History : Jul-Aug 2018
THIS VERSION OF THE “KANGNIDO MAP” IS A 1470 COPY OF AN ORIGINAL PRODUCED IN KOREA SHORTLY BEFORE ZHENG HE’S FIRST VOYAGE IN 1405. IT SHOWS THE EXTENT OF GEOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION COMPILED BY CARTOGRAPHERS OF THE CHINESE COURT DURING THE 1300S. AKG/ALBUM Arabian Peninsula Ceylon (Sri Lanka) Caspian Sea Germany France Spain Morocco Africa Mediterranean Sea Mesopotamia Persia India Egypt Greece Italy THE CENTER OF THE WORLD even before zheng he embarked on his seven voyages, China already possessed a wealth of information about the world beyond the Indian Ocean. The first Ming emperor, Hongwu, com- missioned a world map that has been reproduced many times since its original creation. The most famous version of it dates from 1402, a Korean rendering today known as the “Kangnido Map.” This iteration shows a disproportionately large Korea and places China at the center of the known world, detailing its rivers and the Great Wall. Other East Asian countries are located far from their true positions and diminished in size. The archipelagoes of Indonesia and the Philippines, for example, appear as little more than a line of dots, and only the Malay Peninsula is recogniz- able. Mesopotamia, Europe, and much of the Middle East is likewise scrunched into a narrow band to the left. It is worth remembering that the “Kangnido Map” was produced three years before Zheng He’s first expedition, and although Africa’s size and shape are inaccurate, the out- line does show clearly that its southernmost tip is navigable. Above Africa, the Mediterranean Sea appears in compressed form, surrounded by a handful of countries. Morocco and Egypt are the most prominent in the south, and in the north, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, and Greece are identifiable, albeit lumped together.