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ZHANG Hanmo | Mapping the Territory and Transferring It into the Afterworld : A New Interpretation of the Mawangdui maps

Release Date: 2017/8/4 14:07:26

 ZHANG Hanmo | Mapping the Territory and Transferring It into the Afterworld : A New Interpretation of the Mawangdui maps

 

Since their uncovering, the over 2100 year-old, Changsha ‘Mawangdui’Han tomb maps, have drawn the attention of the academic circle worldwide.

 

On the morning of August 3, ZHANG Hanmo from Renmin University of China gave a talk on his understanding towards the topographic and military maps.

 

ZHANG Hanmo | Mapping the Territory and Transferring It into the Afterworld : A New Interpretation of the Mawangdui maps

 

Professor ZHANG first briefed on the excavation process, the restoration and preservation of the two maps unearthed at the Mawangdui tomb 3, and presented the relevant pictures. Both have been valued for their “modern” appearance: they use a planimetric projection, with the depiction tending towards conventionalization (of settlements, mountains and trees), and an early use of scale mapping. The topographic map shows a complex two-dimensional graphic representation of geography (mountaineous areas, the course of rivers and county seats) and is drawn in vegetable colors. The military map shows a portion of the terrain featured in the topographic map, specifically, part of the Southermost region. It is thought to have had military applications, since the area borders with Nanyue, a reluctant tributary state of the Han.

 

ZHANG Hanmo | Mapping the Territory and Transferring It into the Afterworld : A New Interpretation of the Mawangdui maps

 

In the more than forty years since their discovery in the 1970s, most scholars, from the perspective of historical geography and the history of cartography, have emphasized the two maps’ reflection of political and military tensions and conflict between the early Western Han dynasty central government and the state of the Nanyue. In addition, they also emphasized the accuracy and scientific spirit of these two maps. According to professor ZHANG, what believed by previous researchers as mountain symbols are actually just symbols of clouds. He reviewed relevant studies and pointed out that in the burial art of Han Dynasty, clouds were often associated with immortal and eternity. The topographic map and the garrison map can be interpreted as representations of the Changsha princedom’s intention to be transformed to the underworld, where the tomb occupant was supposed to continue to rule and enjoy his property as an immortal. Therefore the maps were probably made not for practical use, military or administrative, but for ritual and burial purposes.

 

ZHANG Hanmo | Mapping the Territory and Transferring It into the Afterworld : A New Interpretation of the Mawangdui maps

 

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