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CHINA: Map of China prepared for the China Inland Mission 1898.



One of the finest general maps of China produced during the fin de siècle period, a large format, highly detailed work produced as part of map sequence for the China Inland Mission (CIM) by the world leading firm of Edward Stanford, and the first issue to be predicated upon the revolutionary cartography of the Russian sinologist Emil Bretschneider, providing a highly sophisticated record of the nature of China’s internal administrative systems and infrastructure, as well as labelling the locations of all the Protestant missions, while interestingly delineating the historical travel routes of the various missionary-explorers who were often the first Westerners to visit many parts of the country’s interior.


Colour Lithograph with original outline hand colour, dissected into sections and mounted upon original linen, folding into original brown cloth slipcase with pastedown label (Excellent, clean and crisp with bright colours), 95 x 114 cm (37.4 x 44.8 inches).

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This attractive, large format work is one of the finest general maps of China made during the fin de siècle period, which saw transformative change to the Middle Kingdom.  The map was commissioned by the China Inland Mission (CIM), the foremost Protestant religious organization in China, that was responsible for extensively exploring the country, and setting up missions all across the land, even in the most remote locales.  The map was drafted and published by the firm of Edward Stanford Ltd., the world leading commercial cartographic enterprises, as part of a sequence of continually updated general maps of the country that they made for the CIM from 1878 to 1928.

The present 1898 edition is notable, as it much larger in format than previous issues, while also being the first to embrace the ground-breaking cartography of Emil Bretschneider (1833 – 1901), a brilliant Russian physician and sinologist, who in 1896 compiled the most accurate mapping of China hitherto achieved, originally intended to illustrate his 1896 botanical work on the country (the present map is noted as being made ‘By permission of E. Bretschneider’).

Notably, the map was made the very year that a series of ‘unequal treaties’ were ratified whereby China had to surrender ‘treaty ports’, essentially colonial enclaves, to Britain, Russia and France and Germany, as well a leasing the New Territories to British Hong Kong.  This national humiliation proved to be as one of the causes of the Boxer Rebellion (1899 – 1901), whereby Chinese factions sought to (ultimately unsuccessfully) expel all foreigners from the country.

The map epitomizes Stanford’s signature style of clear design, crisp lithography with bright colours, and embraces all of the traditional core of China (the entire modern state minus the bulk of Manchuria and the far west).  The land is divided into provinces, while all waterways and clearly delineated, and areas of elevation are expressed by delicate shading, with spot heights atop major peaks.  Notably, the Great Wall, and the ‘Palisades’, its tenuous continuation further to the northeast, are depicted.  In the lower left there appears a useful ‘Explanation of some Chinese geographical terms’.

In the legend, in the lower right, entitled ‘Significations of Walled Cities in China Proper’, explains the symbols employed to identity Provincial capitals (red squares outlined in black); Prefecture capitals (red squares); Sub-prefecture capitals (red diamonds); departmental seats (red rectangles); and districts seats (red circles), while other important places (ex. ‘open ports’) not so designated are underlined in black.

China’s rapidly expanding railway network is showcased, with the lines in the far lower left corner identifying the symbols used for ‘Open Railways’, as bold tracked lines, and lines ‘Proposed or in course of construction’, by dashed lines.

As noted in the lower left, the ‘Stations of the China Inland Mission are underlined’ in Red, while the ‘Stations of other Protestant Missions are underlined’ in Blue.  The sheer number of missions, and the fact that many are located in such remote areas, is truly impressive.

Interestingly, many of the roads and some of the rivers in the deep interior feature names with abbreviated dates (ex. ‘Baber 76’), that refer to the pioneering expeditions of missionaries, some of whom were amongst the first recorded Westerners to visit many of the deep interior regions of China.



The China Inland Mission (CIM): The Leading Light of Christianity in China

The China Inland Mission (CIM), later known as the Overseas Missionary Fellowship, was a British Protestant society founded in 1865 by Reverend James Hudson Taylor and William Thomas Berger to advance the interdenominational evangelization of the interior of China.  The society had a very intrepid and, in some ways, progressive culture, in that the missionaries were expected to adapt to the Chinese way of life, while it was one of the first international evangelical organizations to employ single women, including in senior field roles.  These traits were responsible for the CIM’S extraordinary success in one of the world’s largest and most challenging theatres.  Importantly, the CIM missionaries were amongst the first Westerners to travel through and settle in many of the most remote parts of China.

Taylor led the maiden field mission, departing England in 1866, whereupon they established their first station at Hangzhou, Zhejiang.  Other stations in the same province soon followed and from 1867 to 1871 several missions were established in Jiangsu.  From 1874 to 1878, stations were founded in Hubei, Hunan, Henan, Shaanxi, Gansu, Sichuan, Yunnan and Tibet.  The CIM’s headquarters was established in Shanghai in 1873, and in July 1875, the society published the inaugural issue of its journal, China’s Millions.

In the succeeding years, the CIM proved wildly successful at attracting converts, despite opposition from certain elements of the local communities and the personal suffering of many of the missionaries.  It expanded into further parts of China, as well as Mongolia and Upper Burma.  In 1915, the society employed 2,063 workers at 277 stations, while by 1934 (the peak of the CIM’s operations), it engaged 1,368 workers at 364 stations.  By the 1930s, the CIM had been responsible for converting many thousands of Chinese people to Christianity, rooting the faith in virtually all regions of the country.  It had also provided high-quality education and healthcare in many places where such services were scarce.

However, the Japanese invasion of China, which commenced in 1937 and dovetailed into World War II, was a disaster for the CIM.  Many of its stations were forced to close upon the advance of the Japanese forces, while the missionaries and their followers were interned in Japanese prison camps.  The Communist takeover of China in 1949 spelled the death knell for the CIM’s operations in its main theatre, as the new regime considered Western missionaries to be ‘imperialist spies’; the last CIM workers left the country in 1953.

The CIM subsequently retooled itself to focus upon activities in Southeast Asia, with its headquarters being moved to Singapore. The organization was renamed the Overseas Missionary Fellowship (OMF) in 1964.  Today the organization, re-branded as OMF International, remains an active concern, employing 1,400 workers in over 40 countries.

The main archives of the CIM are today held by the University of London’s School of Asian and African Studies (SOAS).


Mapping the CIM’s Operations

The China Inland Mission operated in many remote parts of China and surrounding lands that were little known to their recruits and supporters in Britain.  It was thus important for the CIM to commission a custom ‘master map’ that would locate their missions, as well as to depict the routes of the missionaries’ often-harrowing journeys to their stations.

The CIM engaged Edward Stanford’s Geographic Establishment to design and print such a map.  The firm, founded in 1853, by Edward Stanford (1827 – 1904), was since the 1860s the world’s leading cartographic publisher.  It owed this status to its unrivalled connections to governments, surveyors, explorers and missionaries throughout the world.  Maintaining a very high standard of lithographic production, Stanford’s maps were remarkable for their signature style, employing clear, carefully placed text, clean lines and attractive colours, as brilliantly exemplified by the present work.

The first edition of the CIM general map of China was issued by Stanford in May 1878, and the firm regularly issued subsequent editions, updating the locations of the CIM’s missions across the country and the surrounding lands; the final edition appeared in 1928.  The present 1898 edition is notable, as it is of a significantly larger format than previous issues, while being far more accurate due to the introduction of Bretschneider’s transformative cartography.


References: Library of Congress: G7820 1898 .E2. / OCLC: 71829170, 71213307.

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