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Different Worlds, Different Maps

In the Middle Ages, European maps gradually showed the Mongol Empire as extending from Central Asia to China. In 1375, in what is now a part of Spain, the map known as the Catalan Atlas was drawn. Based on "The Travels of Marco Polo," the major Chinese city and port of Shangdu and Fuzhou as well as the Great Khan are indicated in the area of Asia on the map. "The History and Geography of Yuan Dynastic Administrative Regions" was published under the Mongols, showing China's provinces in relative position to each other using printed ink lines. Like a wall of stones piled up, the provinces form a flat surface in the Chinese map (i.e., Chinese mapmakin convention did not use latitude and longitude to show positions). Likewise, the sizes of the provinces and the Great Wall are not rendered in proportion, which was not as important in Chinese mapmaking (as seen also in the area around China depicted with floral-style waves to indicate the seas). Thus, if this image represents the Chinese view of the Mongol Yuan empire, then maps of the East and the West indeed represent two different views of the "world."