Cartographer's Toolkit

Map Making Tips, Tricks, and Inspiration

The Song Dynasty and the First Topographic Map

January 12th, 2016



Thanks to Rachel Stevenson’s tweet here:




I purchased and have begun reading The Geography of Genius, which is so far a very good book (though I’ve had a few questions concerning some contradictions I’ve found in the author’s musings but I don’t need to get into that here).


The book’s second chapter concerns the Song dynasty, a time period and place which I didn’t know much about at all, and in that chapter the author explains that the very first topographical map, shown below, was created during this time period*, as well as the compass as a tool for navigation. The time period? 960 to 1279.


The Yu Ji Tu, or Map of the Tracks of Yu Gong, carved into stone in 1137, located in the Stele Forest of Xi'an, Shaanxi, China. This 3 ft (0.91 m) squared map features a graduated scale of 100 li for each rectangular grid. China's coastline and river systems are clearly defined and precisely pinpointed on the map. (From Wikipedia)

The Yu Ji Tu, or Map of the Tracks of Yu Gong, carved into stone in 1137, located in the Stele Forest of Xi’an, Shaanxi, China. This 3 ft (0.91 m) squared map features a graduated scale of 100 li for each rectangular grid. China’s coastline and river systems are clearly defined and precisely pinpointed on the map. (From Wikipedia)

*Stone carvings count as “print”? :)

Cartographer's Toolkit

Map Making Tips, Tricks, and Inspiration