The Local in the Imperial Vision: Landscape, Topography, and Geography in Southern Song Map Guides and Gazetteers
- Cross-Currents: East Asian History and Culture Review
- University of Hawai'i Press
- Volume 6, Number 2, November 2017
- pp. 333-364
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This article examines the generation of topographic maps and geographical writings about local regions of the Southern Song (1127–1279). It identifies two distinct yet interrelated models in the making of local regions in maps and writings: first, map guides (tujing 圖經), which were produced and updated regularly at different tiers of local government for administrative purposes; second, a growing number of monographs, some of them also named "map guides" (tujing) and others "gazetteers" (zhi 志 or difang zhi 地方志), which were compiled by local literati scholars. Upon close examination of these two models, one finds that the local consciousness and identity voiced by the provincial elite were congruous with centralist sentiment and discourse at this time. Specifically, the literati described features of local topographies within an imperial context and in the language of the authorities. Moreover, the wide circulation of these writings also contributed to the collective imagining of a Song Empire in the daily life of the society. In sum, this article argues that there was a close relationship between cartographic discourse and the production of empire at the local level. On the one hand, the state of the Southern Song, traditionally thought to have lost momentum in local control, still proactively maintained regular checks on local geography through mapmaking. On the other hand, local literati strived to establish ties with the central state in various ways while documenting their communities in gazetteers.