Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Mapping Historical Beijing

Dashilar is one of Beijing's better conserved districts. The area, named after one of the city's most historical shopping streets, is known for its traditional shops, tea-houses and Chinese opera houses.

Unfortunately the district has suffered in the modern era of China's rapid economic development and has seen years of neglect. The Dashilar Project is trying to regenerate the area, while also striving to sustain the district's historic character.

The project's website includes a prominent interactive map of Dashilar. The map showcases many of the district's historical landmarks, shops and hotels. The map was created using the Mapbar API. However instead of using Mapbar's usual road map style it features some beautifully designed custom made map tiles of the area.

The map style uses an axonometric projection which seems to be a homage to the traditions of traditional Chinese landscape painting.

The Chinese mapping company Edushi has been creating interactive isometric maps of Chinese cities for a number of years. The more stylized Dashilar map however has a far more traditional design than the Sim City like Edushi maps.

I don't know enough about the history of Chinese cartography but I can't help wondering if this use of axonometric projection by Dashilar and Edushi reflects a non-Western tradition of cartographic design in China that is now being resurrected in these interactive digital maps.

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