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A fan with a map of Korea on it.
Cholla-do chido. 1800-1899. Geography and Map Division.

Fan Maps of the Geography and Map Division

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This post focuses on three decorative 19th century fans from the collections of the Geography and Map Division. The art of Asian fan making dates to ancient times. According to Gonglin Qian, author of Chinese Fans: Artistry and Aesthetics the earliest Chinese fan that has been found dates from 475 to 221 BC. It was discovered during an excavation in Hubei Province. Antique fans were often decorated with landscapes, floral designs, people or calligraphy. The fans featured below are unique because they were decorated with maps. My interest in the fan maps prompted me to learn more about them and how they were acquired for the collections of the Library of Congress.

The title of the fan map below translates to Complete Map of the Twenty-Three Provinces of the Great Qing Dynasty. The map shows administrative and political divisions in China as well as less detailed maps of Taiwan, Japan and Korea. The map is oriented with north to the upper right.  It is believed that the fan was made in Shanghai for 19th century gentry administrators.

Da Qing yi tong er shi san sheng yu di quan tu. Complete map of the twenty-three provinces of the great Qing Dynasty. Shenjiang mo shu guan. 1890. Geography and Map Division.
Da Qing yi tong er shi san sheng yu di quan tu. Complete map of the twenty-three provinces of the great Qing Dynasty. Shenjiang mo shu guan. 1890. Geography and Map Division.

The fan featured below was acquired for the Library’s collections in 1934. A celestial chart is shown on the front of the fan. The major stars are listed on the back. The title translates to The Great Qing Dynasty’s Map of all Under Heaven. The map is part of a special collection of Chinese cartographic materials known as the Hummel Collection. The collection was named after Dr. Arthur William Hummel, the former Chief of Orientalia Division (now Asian Division). The following information was taken from Mr. Hummel’s obituary published in a February 1976 issue of The Journal of Asian Studies.

Da Qing yi tong tian di quan tu. 1890. Geography and Map Division.
Da Qing yi tong tian di quan tu. The great Qing Dynasty’s complete map of all under heaven. 1890. Geography and Map Division.

Arthur Hummel was born in Warrenton, Missouri in 1884. He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Chicago and a PhD from the University of Leiden in the Netherlands. His doctoral dissertation was titled The Autobiography of a Chinese Historian.

Hummel studied the Chinese language for a year in Peking. In 1915, he moved to the city of Fenyang, China where he taught English for ten years at a middle school. While living in Fenyang Mr. Hummel visited local shops where he purchased a large number of antique maps and coins. In 1924 he returned to Peking and taught Chinese history for three years to western students at an institution named the Yenching School of Chinese studies.

In 1927, Dr. Hummel returned to the United States and was asked to give a presentation on Chinese history at a meeting of the Institute of Politics in Williamstown, Massachusetts. Colonel Lawrence Martin, Chief of the Division of Maps (now Geography and Map Division) attended the meeting. Colonel Martin invited Hummel to bring his collection of maps to the Library of Congress. Hummel brought the maps in a steamer trunk to Washington DC. The Librarian of Congress, Dr. Herbert Putnam, inspected Mr. Hummel’s collection and asked him to join the Library of Congress staff. Dr. Hummel accepted a temporary position that was to last six to eight months. He later became permanently employed as Chief of the Orientalia Division from 1928 to 1954. During the year 1929 Hummel’s collection of maps was purchased by Andrew W. Mellon from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania as a gift for the collections of the Division of Maps. Dr. Hummel donated additional Chinese maps to the Division of Maps during the years 1934 and 1961.

A manuscript map of Korea was mounted on the fan below. The fan map was acquired for the collections of the Division of Maps in 1929. It is part of a special collection known as the Langdon Warner Collection. The Langdon Warner Collection consists of manuscript maps, atlases and fan maps of Korea and China that were collected by the archaeologist and art historian Langdon Warner. Mr. Warner graduated in 1903 from Harvard University with a specialty in Buddhist art. He became a professor at Harvard and a curator at Harvard’s Fogg Museum.

Cholla-do chido. 1800-1899. Geography and Map Division.
Cholla-do chido. 1800-1899. Geography and Map Division.

The fan maps shown above served as functional art forms during the 19th century. In my opinion, all three are works of outstanding artistry and craftsmanship.

Learn More:

Read more about the Hummel Collection in Obituary: Author W. Hummel (1884-1975). by Edwin G. Beal and Janet F. Beal. The Journal of Asian Studies, Feb. 1976, Vol. 35, No. 2, pp. 265-276. Available on

Read a cartobibliography titled  Descriptive catalogue of the traditional Chinese maps collected in the Library of Congress by Xiaocong Li.

Comments (3)

  1. OH! Maps in the form of fans. I was thinking maps made be people who really loved particular places. Isn’t English fun?! LOL

  2. Brilliant! Thank you for sharing these fascinating fan maps. I must say, the celestial chart would be especially useful if back-lit?? I really enjoy your articles Cynthia. Keep them coming.

  3. wow, Cynthia, another great article on maps. I enjoy reading it. Great research on Hummel and his Chinese collections. looking forward to more articles like this.
    thank you.

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