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Maps: A 17th-Century Korean View of the World

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Colorful, circular view of the cosmos
Tae Choson Chido, made circa 1874. Artist unknown. Geography and Map Division.

This is a guest post by Ryan Moore, a senior cataloging specialist in the Geography and Map Division. It first ran in the Library of Congress Magazine May-June 2021 issue.

Ch’onhado is a type of Korean quasi-cosmographical depiction that means “map of the world beneath the heavens.”

Koreans developed this view in the 17th century, and it remained popular until the 19th century. Scholars debate its origins but agree that the perspective is uniquely Korean. It exists in many iterations and often was included in atlases.

Sino-centricity is an essential element of the Cho’nhado.

In the Tae Choson Chido, above, China is front and center, shown as a red circle with a yellow interior. Korea — known as Choson — is a yellowed-bordered rectangle with a red interior. To its right is Japan, pictured as a yellow rectangle.

The proximity of these lands is relatively correct. The surrounding rings of land and sea, however, represent both real and mythological peoples and places, whose source was primarily classical Chinese literature.

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Comments (5)

  1. How colorful the map is. Thank you for posting.

  2. What a beautiful object!

  3. It appears as though it has been folded (vs. rolled) which seems curious. Are those seams in the paper or folds?

    • Hi there,

      Thanks for the excellent observation & question. The experts who can tell you that are on the Geography and Map on-line reference desk at this link:

      When you submit your question, it goes to a reference librarian in the G&M Division, just the same as if you walked into the Library and asked in person!

      All best,

  4. Interesting blog.

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