Yu Di Tu – Heaven and Earth – a Ming dynasty book
Memo 22nd November 2005
Yu Di Tu – “Heaven and Earth”
This Ming dynasty book was purchased by Mr. Liu Gang in 2002. It is written by a senior Mandarin and has not, as far as Mr Gang knows, been published before.
The book is of 142 densely written pages; each page takes about 5 hours to translate so the whole book of 4 volumes would need some 4 months work. Volumes 1 to 3 list towns and cities in the 13 provinces of Ming China. Each town is described together with the population, the number of soldiers and their weapons and the food supplies. Vols I and II cover central China; Vol. III and Vol. IV Pt. I the periphery of China and Vol. IV Pt. II, lands of the barbarians, including maps of N. and S. America, Australia and Europe.
The maps of China and Korea are accurately drawn but lands of the barbarians are sketched. The size of Chinese provinces are divided into rectangles of 400 li, as is Europe (1600 li) but the oceans leading to Europe and the Americas do not have rectangles – i.e. the distance is not shown.
Barbarians in the North West are denominated as Chiden – 20 countries are listed.
The names of the barbarian countries match those of Ma Huan. The maps of South Africa, and the names of islands in the Indian Ocean match those on the maps described by Mr. Lam, such as the Map of Maritime Countries to southwest of China. Names or descriptions of Australia are on the map of Australia.
Mr. Liu has not had time to translate the book but is certain – on account of town names – of its authenticity and date (early Ming.) This is corroborated by dates of grain shipment up the Grand Canal.
Material items to date appear to be:
I) Mr. Lam’s claim that many of the maps he exhibited at the Library of Congress are early Ming dynasty is corroborated by the Yu Di Tu.
II) Mr. Lam’s assertions about inconstant wind speed appear to be correct.
III) Some of the missing pages in the Map of Maritime Countries to Southwest of China and in the Maritime Countries to Southeast of China and in the Collection of Books appear to be contained in the Yu Di Tu (Mr. Lam’s research.)
IV) So much detail is given of so much of the world that a huge number of people must have been involved.
V) It may be possible to find out the sizes of Zheng He’s overseas bases.
22nd November 2005