Research Project


Portents as Part of the Spiritual Landscape of the Shanhai jing (Itineraries of Mountains and Seas, compiled about the 1st century BC)

Dr. Vera Dorofeeva-Lichtmann

I stayed at the IKGF from the 1st of December 2015 through the 31st of March 2017, one year (1.12.2015 – 30.11.2016) thanks to the IKGF Research Fellowship, one month (1-31.12.2016) with support from my home institute (UMR 8173 Chine-Corée-Japon) and three months (1.01-31.03.2017) thanks to a renewed Alexander-von-Humboldt Stipendium. During this period of time I worked on two interrelated projects:
"Portents as Part of the Spiritual Landscape of the Shanhai jing 山海經 (Itineraries of Mountains and Seas, comp. 1st c. BC)" &
"Tracing the Origins of 'Cosmograph'-Tailored Maps in Late East Asia: Sino-Korean Atlases (mid. 18th century) as an Echo of Early Chinese Cosmography"

This work allowed me to finalise my long-term internationally recognised research on the Shanhai jing 山海經, which I consider for the time being as completed. The study of portents and of the "wheel" maps from the Sino-Korean atlases constitute respective chapters of my book-in-progress (tentative title: The World Mapped by the Shanhai jing). At the same time, the study of the "wheel" maps developed into a separate study of the Sino-Korean Atlases (article), which allowed to establish a direct link between the "wheel" maps and the maps of China, the two first maps in the Atlases, with the "cosmograph"-shaped maps found in the divination compendia of the late 16th-early 18th centuries, which evoke the Early Chinese divination devises – diviner boards (shipan 式盤) and mirrors. The round shape of the "wheel" maps represents the Heavens circle, as signalled by their titles – the "Maps of the Under-Heaven" (天下圖 Tianxiatu/Ch'onhado). The 'cosmograph' aspect of the "wheel" maps and their link to the divination literature is completely overlooked in the extant literature, where are usually derived from the Jambudvipa maps or simplified Western-style hemispheres. Thanks to discussions with Constance Cook and Sarah Allan, both invited at the IKGF during my research stay, I considerably revised my article on the Rong Cheng shi 容成氏manuscript (late 4th century BC) (a revised version of 20.000 words is submitted to the editors). In this article I consider early Chinese texts in relation to the Chinese cartographical tradition. I continued other studies of the Chinese cartography, in particular I prepared a draft of an article on the unique manuscript map of China I discovered at the Göttingen State and University Library (, a copy of the map decorates the hall of the D3 building of the IKGF), and submitted a description of Chinese maps possessed by the BnF to the Portail France/Chine, BnF (in construction).

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