"Every map shows this . . . but not that, and every map shows what it shows this way . . . but not the other." Denis Wood, The Power of Maps (1992)

"Both in the selectivity of their content and in their signs and styles of representation, maps are a way of conceiving, articulating and structuring the human world which is biased towards, promoted by, and exerts influence upon particular sets of social relations. By accepting such premises it becomes easier to see how appropriate they are to manipulation by the powerful in society." J. Brian Harley, "Maps, Knowledge and Power" (1988)

This section of the website contains maps relevant to the focus of the Transpacific Project. The worldviews, beliefs, values and perspectives reflected in these maps are an important source of knowledge about the history and contemporary significance of transpacific relations. (Some of the maps can be enlarged by clicking on them.)

Maps of the Pacific Basin

The following maps encompass the Pacific Basin. They represent its physical geography, boundaries and the contemporary political territories within it.

Satellite Composite Image of the Pacific Basin

Pacific Rim Map Showing Contemporary Political Territories

Pacific Basin Map with Contemporary Political Territories

Map Showing Pacific Rim, Pacific Islands and Pacific Ocean Regions

World Map centered on Pacific Ocean

The maps above are examples of the limited number of world maps that are centered on the Pacific Ocean rather than the Atlantic Ocean (typified by the map below). Atlantic centered maps, which are the norm, break up the Pacific Basin, place it on the margins of the map and thereby de-emphasize it, whereas the Pacific centered maps do the exact opposite.

World Map Centered on the Atlantic Ocean

But all the maps above exaggerate the size and hence the importance of the countries and regions north of the equator and de-emphasize the size and importance of the countries and regions south of the equator (they also exaggerate the size of Antarctica). The Hobo-Dyer Equal Area Projection Map below provides a contrasting perspective/world view. It is based on a much more accurate projection of the relative size of the countries and continents of the world than all the maps above.

Hobo-Dyer Equal Area Projection Map

This "South Up Map" reveals a more accurate view of the Southern Hemisphere but de-emphasizes the Atlantic Basin by splitting it and placing it at the margins of the map. To illustrate further how maps shape worldviews and have been used to justify the dominance of certain nations and regions over others in world history we provide a link below to a brief video clip that humorously but effectively demonstrates this point. The main message in the video clip and in this section on maps is the same: maps influence how people see the world and they reflect the political, economic and cultural interests of the people who make and sponsor them.

The video clip in question is taken from a popular television drama series called the "West Wing", which was shown on television for several years in the United States of America and other countries. This television series, which ran from 1999 to 2006, was set in the West Wing of the White House, where the offices of the U.S. President and his senior staff are located. The program won many awards and received positive reviews from media critics, political scientists, and former presidential staff. Click here to see the video clip.


Polynesian Maps: "Stick Charts"

Polynesian "Stick Chart"

The ancestors of the Polynesians migrated in sailing canoes to more than a thousand islands across the Pacific Ocean. They were master navigators who sailed across huge expanses of the Pacific Ocean without any complex mechanical aids. The term Polynesia (from Greek: πολύς "polys" many + νῆσος "nēsos" island) is used today to refer to the immense triangular region within the Pacific Ocean that was settled by these sea-migrating Austronesian people. This area covers over 70.1 million square miles and extends from New Zealand north to Hawai'i and east to Rapa Nui (Isla de Pascua/Easter Island). The indigenous inhabitants of this vast region of the Pacific Basin have a common ancestry and similar languages, beliefs and customs.

The maps above show the Polynesian triangle (as well as the regions of Micronesia and Melanesia) and the estimated migrations of the various peoples with Austronesian languages. The second map is based on l’Atlas historique des migrations by Michel Jan, Gérard Chaliand and Jean-Pierre Rageau (Edition Seuil, March 1999). The estimates of the years plus (+) and minus (-) from the beginning of the Current/Common Era (1 CE/1 AD) on this map are the authors' estimates of when the various migrations occurred based on their analysis of archaeological studies, but other scientists disagree and have proposed different estimates and migration patterns.

The seafaring ancestors of the Polynesians, Micronesians and Melanesians did not have astrolabes or sextants, compasses or chronometers. They navigated by the stars, winds and currents, migration patterns of wildlife species; directions of swells on the ocean, colors of the sea and sky, cloud formations and other natural phenomena. Although they did not have any written language they did have graphic aids, which were based on an extremely complex body of navigational knowledge handed down from generation to generation through oral traditions. These graphic aids are variously called Rebbelibs, Medos. and Mattangs, and often simply “Stick Charts". Click here to see an explanation of Micronesian Stick Charts.

These ancient maps are obviously very different from the maps used in more recent times. They represent different features of the ocean and the earth than contemporary maps. They were usually made with palm ribs and bound together with coconut fibre. The ribs were used to depict swell patterns and small shells were used to represent islands. These stick charts were not navigational charts in the western sense but were instructional and mnemonic devices. For more information on these ancient maps and more visual images of them, click here.

Early World Maps: Where is the Pacific Basin?

Al-Idrisi's Tabula Rogeriana (1154)

The earliest world maps in recorded history do not show the Pacific Basin. For example, the Arab geographer, Muhammad al-Idrisi, combined the existing geographic knowledge of Africa, the Indian Ocean and the Far East gathered by Arab merchants and explorers to create perhaps the most accurate map of the known world in his times (oever 800 years ago). It barely reveals what is called today the Pacific Ocean at the far eastern edge of the map .

Known as the Tabula Rogeriana, it was drawn by al-Idrisi in 1154 for the Norman King Roger II of Sicily. It is believed he stayed approximately eighteen years at King Roger II's court, while he worked on this map. The place names and writing on this map are in Arabic. It shows the Eurasian continent in its entirety, but only shows the northern part of the African continent. It was oriented with the South at the top like many of the early maps. The copy immediately below is turned upside down so that the north is on the top (which is considered "normal" today) but the next copy shows its original orientation with the South on the top, the west on the right and the east on the left.

The Great Ming Amalgamated Map or Da Ming Hun Yi Tu (1320s)

"The Da Ming Hun Yi Tu" is one of the oldest surviving world maps from East Asia, although the exact date of its creation remains unknown. It depicts the general form of the "Old World", placing China in the center and stretching northward to Mongolia, southward to Java, eastward to central Japan, and westward to Africa and Europe.

Da_Ming_Hun_Yi_Tu_Map (circa 1389)

This map was created in China sometime during the Ming Dynasty and handed over to the new rulers of China, the Manchus. It replicates the curvature of the Earth by compressing the areas farthest away from China (note the extreme compression of Africa on the left margin of the map). The reduced size of these areas also makes a political statement about their relative unimportance to China.

The size of Sub-Saharan Africa is greatly reduced but the shape is more or less correct, and shows mountains near the southern tip of the continent. The peninsula on the west coast of the Chinese landmass is Malaysia, but the Indian subcontinent is missing and represented by only a collection of place-names north-west of Arabia. At the far right side of the map Japan is over-sized and placed too close to the island of Taiwan which is more or less correct in size and position. Click here for more information at

De Virga World Map (1411-1415)

The De Virga world map was made by Albertinus de Virga between 1411 and 1415. De Virga was a Venetian cartographer who is also known for his 1409 map of Europe, the Mediterranean and North Africa. This world map is drawn on a piece of parchment that measures 69.6cm. x 44cm. It shows the complete and reasonably accurate coastal outline of Africa before it was circumnavigated by the Portuguese explorer Bartolomeu Dias in 1488. The source of such cartographic information is yet to be clarified, although it has been suggested it came from Muslim traders or possibly Chinese cartographers under Chinese Admiral Zheng He.

(Click on map to enlarge it)

Outline of De Virga World Map

The map is oriented to the North, with a wind rose centered in Central Asia, possibly the observatory of Ulugh Begh in the Mongol city of Samarkand in Uzbekistan. The wind rose divides the map into eight sectors. The ocean surrounding the continental mass bears the title "Mari Oziano Magno". Three continents are clearly represented and they are labeled "Europa", "Africa" and "Axia". The Indian Ocean contains many colored islands, in a style reminiscent of Arab maps. The locations described in Asia are consistent with the period of Mongolian rule. The names shown for Chinese rivers and cities are those which were used by Marco Polo. The shores of the Indian Ocean show the kingdoms of Mimdar and Madar (Malabar?) and probably Sri Lanka (Ceylon) with the mention "Ysola d alegro suczimcas magna". A large island in the Indian Ocean labelled "Caparu sive Java magna" possibly combines Marco Polo's descriptions of Java and Japan, although some have suggesgted it could be Australia. The large land mass above Europe represents what were then the furthest known limits of the world north of Denmark and Scotland, entitled the kingdom of Norveca [Norway].

Genoese Map of 1457

The Genoese map of 1457 is a world map that relied extensively on the account of a European traveler to Asia known by the name of Niccolo da Conti, but the author of this map is unknown. It depicts the main landmarks of the time: The land of the mythical 'Prester John' in Africa, the Great Khan in China, "Xilam" (Ceylon) and Sumatra, as well as a three-masted European ship in the Indian Ocean, something which had not yet been built at the time this map was produced before the Portuguese exploration of this part of the world. (See Ancient Maps at

Fra Mauro world map (1459)

The Fra Mauro map was made between 1457 and 1459 by the Venetian monk Fra Mauro. It is a circular planisphere drawn on parchment and set in a wooden frame, about 2 meters in diameter. The original of this world map was made by Fra Mauro and his assistant Andrea Bianco, a sailor-cartographer, under a commission by king Afonso V of Portugal. The map was completed on April 24, 1459, and sent to Portugal, but did not survive to the present day. Fra Mauro died the next year while he was making this copy of the map for the Seignory of Venice, and the copy was completed by Andrea Bianco.

Fra Mauro world map (1459)

(Click on map to enlarge it)

Martellus world map (1490)

The world map of Henricus Martellus Germanus (Heinrich Hammer), c. 1490, is remarkably similar to the terrestrial globe later produced by Martin Behaim in 1492, which was called the Erdapfel. Both show heavy influences from Ptolemy, and both possibly derive from maps created around 1485 in Lisbon by Bartolomeo Columbus. Although Martellus is believed to have been born in Nuremberg, Behaim's home town, he lived and worked in Florence from 1480 to 1496.

In the 1470s, Bartolomeo Columbus was a mapmaker in Lisbon, the principal center of cartography at the time. He conceived with his more famous brother Christopher the "Enterprise of the Indies", a scheme to reach the Orient and its lucrative spice trade by a western rather than an eastern route. In the late 1480s Bartolomeo took up residence in France and his brother Christopher went to Spain, each to persuade the respective monarchs—Charles VIII of France, and Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon—to back their scheme.

(Click on map to enlarge it)

When he received word in 1493 that his brother Christopher had succeeded, Bartolomeo returned to Spain, but he missed his brother, who had already left on his second voyage. Funded by the Spanish crown, Bartolomeo traveled to Hispaniola in 1494 to meet his brother. He remained on the island for six and a half years (1494–1500) serving as captain on one of the ships or as governor with the title of Adelantado during the absence of his brother. He founded the city of Santo Domingo between 1496 and 1498, which is now the capital of the Dominican Republic.

Bartolomeo Columbus was imprisoned together with Christopher and another brother, Giacomo (also called Diego), by Francisco de Bobadilla and returned to Spain in December 1500. After the royal pardon of Christopher, Bartolomeo accompanied him on the last of his four voyages. Following his brother Christopher's death in 1506, Bartolomeo returned to the Antilles with his nephew Diego (Christopher's son). He died in Hispaniola in 1514.

Waldseemüller and Ringmann map (1507) -- The First Map of "America"

Martin Waldseemüller’s and Matthias Ringmann's 1507 world map grew out of an ambitious project undertaken in St. Dié, France, during the first decade of the sixteenth century. This project was to document and update the new geographic knowledge derived from the European discoveries of the late fifteenth and the first years of the sixteenth centuries.

Their large world map was the most exciting product of that research effort, and included data gathered during Amerigo Vespucci’s voyages of 1501–1502 to the New World. Waldseemüller and Ringmann christened the new lands "America" in recognition of Vespucci ’s understanding that a new continent had been uncovered as a result of the voyages of Columbus and other explorers in the late fifteenth century. This is the only known surviving copy of the first printed edition of the map, which, it is believed, consisted of 1,000 copies.

(Click on map to enlarge it)

Now known simply as Waldseemüller’s map, it adopted Vespucci’s revolutionary concept by portraying a new separate continent, which was unknown to the Europeans up to this point. It was the first European map, printed or in manuscript form to depict clearly the Western Hemisphere, and the Pacific Ocean.

This map represented a huge leap forward by depicting the newly discovered American landmass as a new fourth part of the world in contrast to the previous European view of the world as consisting of only three parts—Europe, Asia, and Africa. (See the US Library of Congress' online Geography and Map Reading Room at:

For more information on the discovery and the historical importance of this map, click here to see the article entitled "The Waldseemüller Map: Charting the New World: How two obscure 16th-century German scholars named the American continent and changed the way people thought about the world" by Toby Lester published in the Smithsonian magazine, December 2009.

Waldseemuller Map of 1507 enhanced with color

Note that in the upper third panel of this map (see enlarged version below) there is an image of the entire continent of South American and the Isthmus of Panama, even though at the time this map was produced no Europeans had yet explored the western coastline of the Americas or traversed the Isthmus.

The depiction of the Pacific Ocean and the western coastline of South America on the 1507 Waldseemüller map remains an unsolved mystery for scholars. When this map was printed in 1507, the first expeditions to reach the Pacific Ocean, which were led by Vasco Núñez de Balboa and Ferdinand Magellan (Portuguese: Fernão de Magalhães) had not yet taken place. Among most European map makers at this time, it was still erroneously believed that the lands discovered by Christopher Columbus were part of the "Indies of Asia".

Image of South America on upper Panel of Waldseemuller Map

The details on this map have led some to argue that Waldseemuller and Ringmann were in possession of one or more maps that were based on voyages to the Pacific undertaken before 1507. For more information about this question, click here.

For an interactive "In-Depth Look At the Waldseemüller map" click here. In this interactive map it is possible to zoom in to see even the smallest details of the 1507 map and read about those parts of the map where the mapmakers changed forever the European view of the world.

Note that if you zoom into this version of the Waldseemuller map to see the details you can see in the upper insert that North and South America are connected (correctly) by an isthmus. However, in contrast they are separated by a passage of water on the larger map itself. Why this is the case remains another unanswered question.

It is possible that Waldseemuller and his colleague Matthias Ringmann may have had access to one of the maps made by Juan de la Cosa, who sailed on the first 3 voyages with Christopher Columbus, and was the owner and captain of the Santa María. De la Cosa may have made the earliest extant European map to incorporate the territories of the Americas based on the European discoveries of the 15th century.

Juan de la Cosa Mappa Mundi of 1500

Although Juan de la Cosa made several maps, the only survivor is his famous map of the world called the Mappa Mundi of 1500. It is the oldest known European cartographic representation of the New World. Of special interest is the outline of Cuba, which Christopher Columbus never believed to be an island. Charles Athanase Walckenaer and Alexander von Humboldt were the first to point out the great importance of this chart. It is now in the Museo Naval in Madrid. Reproductions of it were first made by Humboldt in his Atlas géographique et physique du royaume de la Nouvelle Espagne (1811).

Superimposed over the map of Juan de la Cosa is an outline image below of the Atlantic basin in gnomonic projection with reference meridian 26ºW of Greenwich (Click here to see Luis A. Robles Macias, "Juan de la Cosa’s Projection: A Fresh Analysis of the Earliest Preserved Map of the Americas")

Superimposition over the map of Juan de la Cosa of a real image of the Atlantic basin in gnomonic projection with reference meridian 26ºW of Greenwich

Fragment of the Piri Reis map (1513)

The Piri Reis map is a famous world map created by the 16th century Ottoman Turkish admiral and cartographer Piri Reis. The surviving third of the map shows part of the western coasts of Europe and North Africa with reasonable accuracy, and the coast of Brazil is also easily recognizable. Various Atlantic islands including the Azores and Canary Islands are depicted, as is the mythical island of Antillia. This map depicts a south-eastward extension of the American continent and a southern landmass that some controversially claim is evidence there was an early awareness of the existence of Antarctica.

Fragment of Piri Reis World Map (1513)

This surviving portion is dated "Muslim Year 919", which corresponds to A.D. 1513 (but the map was presented to the Sultan in 1517). According to the author, the map was compiled from "twenty older charts and eight planispheres". It is very likely that Reis also examined the journey accounts written by the early European explorers of New World since they are mentioned in some of the notes on the map.

As Diego Cuoghi points out Admiral Reis himself notes that he consulted the charts of Christopher Columbus. The peculiar (and wrong) configuration of the Caribbean area in his map seems to confirm this statement. The region of what can be construed as the North American continent features a large island arranged north-south, which cannot easily be identified with Cuba, not even by rotating the whole map counterclockwise by 90 degrees.

Cuoghi contends that this area of the map in fact represents what Reis thought was the east coast of Asia, as it was imagined and depicted on the charts of 15th century that he and Columbus most likely used (see the Fra Mauro and Genoese maps above). Columbus believed until his death that he had discovered a new route to the "Indies" of Asia. Therefore, the large island bordered in red is most likely Japan (Cipango), as it appears on the Fra Mauro and Genoese maps as well as the planisphere of Martin Behaim, 1492. Click here to read more about Diego Cuoghi's interpretation of the Piri Reis map.

Did the Chinese discover the Americas before the Europeans?

Over the years there has been considerable speculation about whether the Chinese discovered the Americas long before the Europeans. For example, there is a map of the world entitled "Everything under Heaven" which was discovered in an old book of maps by Dr. Hendon Harris, Jr., in a Korean antique shop in 1972 (see below).

Ancient Chinese World Map found in Korea

This map and similar maps can be found in the book Secret Maps of the Ancient World by Charlotte Harris Rees (Dr. Harris' daughter). In this 'round map' of the world both China and Korea are located at the center. North of Japan (depicted as a single island) Asia arches around to what appears to be Alaska and the western coastline of the Americas. Some observers even contend that the eastern coastline of the Americas is on the far left of this map. On what appears to be the western coastline of North America (on the right side of the map above) the fabled Chinese kingdom of “Fu Sang” (Fusang) is written three times. Below is an interpretation of the Harris map by David Deal.

Interpretation of the Harris Map by David Deal

By the time of his death in 1981, Dr. Harris had acquired seven similar map books and located 22 others in museums and private collections around the world (in London, Paris, Seoul and Tokyo). The text on the Harris map above is in classical Chinese. Harris believed this map and others of this style are descended from the ancient map that accompanied the Shan Hai Jing (山海经), the fabled geographical account of pre-Qin China. Literally entitled "Collection of the Mountains and Seas" it is considered to be a Chinese classic text at least 2,200 years old. For more information about the Harris maps click here.

The following map is a Chinese map from the end of the 15th century AD. Note the similarity to the Harris map above.

Chinese Map of the World at the End of the 15th Century

This map also contains Fu Sang 桑扶 on the right side next to a drawing of the fabled Fu Sang Tree (see the enlarged sections of this map below).

Philippe Buache Map of 1729 with Fou-sang des Chinois

The French geographer Philippe Buache (1700-1773) who was named first geographer of the king in 1729 believed the Chinese colony of Fou-sang (Fu Sang) existed on the northwestern coastline of North America. Click on Bauche's map below to enlarge it. On his 1729 map, he placed "Fou-sang des Chinois" (Fusang of the Chinese) on the coastline of North America above California.

Paolo Forlani Map of North America (1566)

This Forlani map is one of the earliest European maps of North America and one of the first maps to include the name "Canada" (upper right). Note that the Pacific Ocean is referred to as the Mare del Sur (South Sea), which was the first name given to it by the Europeans. There is no mention of Fu Sang on this map.

Descriptio Maris Pacifici (1589) - First European Map of the Pacific Ocean?

Abraham Ortelius' Map Discriptio Maris Pacifici (1589)

The name of this map Descriptio Maris Pacifici translated into English is Description of the Pacific Sea. It was the first map of the entire Pacific Ocean to be printed in Europe and is considered an important advancement in European cartography. It was drawn by Abraham Ortelius in 1589, and is based upon a map of America from the same year that was drawn by Frans Hogenberg. The land mass south of the Pacific Ocean and South America is a representation of the mythical Terra Australis which the early European explorers thought existed at the southern extreme of the planet. There is no mention of Fu Sang on this map either.

Map of New World by Jodocus Hondius (circa 1595)

Pacific on Map by Jodocus Hondius about 1595

Jodocus Hondius (Latinized version of his Dutch name: Joost de Hondt) (14 October 1563 — 12 February 1612) was a Flemish artist, engraver, and cartographer. He is best known for his early maps of the New World and Europe, for reviving the work of Gerard Mercator, and for his portraits of Francis Drake.

It is interesting to note that Hondius placed a Chinese junk off the coastline of North American on his 1606 map of America (see the upper left corner of the map below).

Hondius 1606 Map with Chinese Junk

Hondius Map with Junk

Matteo Ricci Chinese Map of the World (1602)

Matteo Ricci was one of the first Jesuit missionaries sent to China in the late 1500s, and he became one of the first Western scholars to master Chinese script and Classical Chinese. In 1583, Ricci was invited to settle in Zhaoqing by the governor who had heard of his skills as a mathematician and cartographer. In 1584, Ricci composed the first European-style map of the world in Chinese. It has been called the "Impossible Black Tulip" because of its rarity. No versions of the original 1584 map survive, but six copies that were printed in 1602 have survived to the present day. It combines the knowledge of the known world possessed in Europe with that of Asia at the end of the sixteenth century AD.

The James Ford Bell Trust announced in December 2009 that it had acquired one of two good copies of the 1602 Ricci map from the firm of Bernard J. Shapero, a noted dealer of rare books and maps in London, for US$1 million, the second most expensive map purchase in history. This copy (which consists of 6 panels) had been held for years by a private collector in Japan. Below is a photograph of this copy in the James Ford Bell Library at the University of Minnesota.

Ricci Impossible Black Tulip World Map 6 Panels

In 1601 Ricci was invited to become an advisor to the Imperial court of the Emperor and be became the first Westerner invited into the Forbidden City in Beijing. This honor was bestowed upon Ricci in recognition of his scientific abilities and knowledge of Chinese culture. In Beijing, he established the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, which is the oldest Catholic church in the city. He is buried in Beijing in a special Buddhist temple built for this purpose by the Emperor.

The map below is a digitalized copy of a Japanese 1604 copy of Ricci's Chinese Map of the World made in 1602. It contains phonetic annotations in Katakana for foreign place names in Europe, Russia and the Near East.


There is a long preface by Matteo Ricci in the middle of the original 1602 version of the map, where it depicts the Pacific Ocean, which reads:

"Once I thought learning was a multifold experience and I would not refuse to travel [even] ten thousand Li to be able to question wise men and visit celebrated countries. But how long is a man’s life? It is certain that many years are needed to acquire a complete science, based on a vast number of observations: and that’s where one becomes old without the time to make use of this science. Is this not a painful thing? And this is why I put great store by [geographical] maps and history: history for fixing [these observations], and maps for handing them on [to future generations]. Respectfully written by the European Matteo Ricci on 17 August 1602." (translated by Pasquale d'Elia; for more information click here)

According to John Day, Matteo Ricci prepared four versions of this Chinese world map during his mission in China (click here for more information):

- 1584, an early woodblock print made in Zhaoqing, called Yudi Shanhai Quantu (舆地山海全图);
- 1596, a map carved on a stele, called Shanhai yudi tu (山海輿地圖);
- 1600, a revised version of the 1596, usually named Shanhai Yudi Quantu, engraved by Wu Zhongming;
- 1602, a larger edition of the 1584 map, in six panels, called Kūnyú Wànguó Quántú (坤輿萬國全圖);

Several prints of the Kūnyú Wànguó Quántú were made in 1602. Most of the original maps now are lost. Only six original copies of the map are known to exist, and only two are in good condition. These copies are in the Vatican Apostolic Library Collection and in the James Ford Bell Library at the University of Minnesota. The Vatican's 1602 copy was reproduced by Pasquale d’Elia in a beautifully arranged book, Il mappamondo cinese del P Matteo Ricci, S.I.(published in 1938). Other copies of the 1602 map are located in Japan in the Kyoto University Collection; the collection of Japan's Miyagi Prefecture Library; the Collection of the Library of the Japanese Cabinet; and in a private collection in Paris, France. No original examples of the map are known to exist in China. Various versions of the map were exported to Japan, and later Korea. An unattributed and very detailed two page colored edition of the map (shown above), known in Japanese as Konyo Bankoku Zenzu, was made in Japan circa 1604.

Wanguo Quantu Chinese Map of the World made by Giulio Aleni (ca. 1620)

The Jesuit map maker Giulio Aleni was the equally skilled and effective successor to Matteo Ricci in China. About 1620 he made this map entitled Wanquo Quantu (萬國全圖, lit. "Complete map of all the countries"). Aleni followed Ricci's format and contents, although this map is a much smaller size (49 cm x 24 cm). It was introduced by a notice written by Aleni, whose Chinese name (艾儒略) appears in the first column on the left, above the Jesuit IHS symbol.

Wanguo Quantu Chinese World Map by Giulio Aleni (ca. 1620)

1707 Dutch Map of the World

The 1707 map below depicts the transpacific route taken by the English explorer and privateer Thomas Cavendish, who circumnavigated the globe between 1586 and 1589.

Note that among the many European misconceptions at the time, California on this map is depicted as a large island off the coast of North America. However, on the Forlani, Ortelius, Hondius, Ricci and Aleni maps (see above) which were created at least a hundred years earlier California is more accurately depicted as an integral part of the mainland of North America.

Map of the Manila-Acapulco Trade Route

The Manila galleons or Manila-Acapulco galleons (Spanish: Galeones de Manila-Acapulco) were Spanish trading ships that sailed once or twice per year across the Pacific Ocean between Manila in the Philippines and Acapulco in New Spain (present-day Mexico). There was also a connection between New Spain (Mexico) and Peru.

Regular transpacific service was inaugurated in 1565 following the transpacific route discovered by Andrés de Urdaneta. This was the longest continuous commercial marine route in recorded history. These voyages would take five to six months eastward and four months westward on a loop that took them north from the Philippines to catch the Kuroshio current and westerly winds across the Pacific to North America and returned westward under the northeast trade winds and the north equatorial drift.

This transpacific trade continued until 1815 when the Mexican War of Independence put a permanent stop to the galleon trade route. Although this transpacific trade route was not inaugurated until almost 50 years after the death of Christopher Columbus, the Manila galleons constitute the fulfillment of Columbus' dream of sailing west to the "Indies" (Asia) to bring the riches of the Indies to Spain and the rest of Europe. It represents a major development in the transpacific history of humanity.

1748 Seale Map of Trade Routes between Acapulco and Manila (

1748 Seale Map of Trade Routes between Acapulco and Manila (

The map above (click on it to enlarge) is a rare nautical chart of the Pacific Ocean which was published by the English map publisher R. W. Seale in 1748. The chart depicts the trade routes used by the Spanish galleons from Acapulco, Mexico to Manila in the Philippines. This chart shows the course taken by the Spanish galleon Nostra Seigniora de Cabadonga and the ships of British Navy Commodore George Anson. Anson captured this Spanish galleon in 1743. It was loaded with gold, silver and nautical charts depicting the trade routes used by the Spanish galleons between Mexico and Manila over the previous 200 years. The capture of these charts allowed the British to disrupt Spanish dominance in the Pacific Ocean and threaten Spain's colonial economy in the Americas and the Philippines.

Manila-Acapulco Galleons Transpacific Trade Route

Maps of the Winds and Currents of the Pacific Ocean

The following map reveals the wind patterns of the North Pacific Ocean which when "discovered" by the Spanish enabled them to establish their annual trade route between Philippines and Mexico (New Spain).

Map of wind patterns in the North Pacific.

Below is a copy of William Dampier’s map, which he published with “A Discourse on Trade-Winds, Breezes, Storms, Tides, and Currents” in volume 2 of his Voyages and Descriptions (London, 1699).


Maps of Transpacific Trade and Communications

By the 1820s, Alta California was a central part of a transpacific trading network that tied the eastern Pacific Basin with the Hawaiian Islands and China. This map shows the frequency of different destinations based on ships that stopped in Alta California. Adapted by David Igler from Gibson, Yankees in Paradise. Courtesy of University of New Mexico Press.

Steamship Routes Circa 1900

Only 80 years later, the map above shows how the entire Pacific Ocean was criss-crossed by numerous transpacific steamship routes. (Click to enlarge). The earlier 1888 map below shows the sea routes and telegraph lines between "The Grand Divisions of the World." Note that these turn of the century maps are centered on the Pacific Ocean rather than the Atlantic Ocean. They reveal the increasing importance of the Pacific Basin in Anglo-American and European thought at the time.

Steamship and Telegraph Routes 1888

Today, the Pacific Basin is criss-crossed not only by many shipping routes but also by telecommunications cables, as the maps below reveal.

Transpacific Telecommunications Cables

Transpacific Fiberoptic Links

The following maps reveal the increasing importance of the Pacific Basin in the world economy.

Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum



The map above reveals the relative importance of transpacific trade to transatlantic and Asia-Europe trade in the world economy. And if Intra-Asia trade is combined with transpacific trade it is clear the world economy has shifted from the Atlantic to the Asia Pacific region.

The map below of APEC member countries and the accompanying text is from the Korean Broadcasting Service (KBS) World Radio website (click here to see this website).

APEC Map (KBS World Radio)

APEC and the World

The largest ocean on the face of the planet, the Pacific, is but an inner sea to the regions occupied by the APEC member economies. The Asia-Pacific region is home to the most dynamic economies in the world, and APEC is a cooperative body of the largest scale in terms of landmass, population, economic power, natural resources, and nearly all other measures.

To Be continued.......


There are many relevant maps which can be seen online. Click on the following links to see some examples:

The Pacific Ocean: 250 Years of Maps (1540–1789)

Spice Islands (Moluccas): 250 Years of Maps (1521–1760)

Antique Maps of the Pacific Ocean

Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection, Maps of Australia and the Pacific

Ancient Maps at About.Com