Colour printing, folding, accompanied by its original illustrated paper sleeve (Map in Very Good condition, bright, clean and crisp with only light wear and tiny holes at some fold vertices; paper sleeve with some tears, chipping and marginal loss, but reinforced by old repairs from the inside; map with legend and major points of toponymy translated into French by neat manuscript additions, in pen), 107 x 151 cm (42 x 49.5 inches).
This very large official Chinese map depicts the country’s transportation and communications systems in the immediate wake of The Great Leap Forward (1958-62), Chairman Mao’s monumental programme to rapidly industrialize the country (including the dramatic expansion of its infrastructure).
On the map, entirely printed in Chinese (but here with the main details translated into French through neat manuscript additions), the legend, in the lower-left corner, identifies the symbols used to identify China’s railways (both in operation and under construction); major roads (both in use and being built); rivers (noting navigable stretches in bold blue lines); maritime shipping routes (with distances); as well as cities of various sizes from populations of 100,000 up to over 1 million. The capital, Beijing, is identified with a red star, from which dozens of transport routes radiate throughout the country. The map shows that China’s transportation systems in the densely populated Eastern and east-central areas were well developed, while the systems in the western-deep interior regions (Xinxiang, Tibet, etc.) were still relatively limited; the only rail line connecting China to the Soviet Union in the West (from Urumqi to Kazakhstan), while in progress, was not yet complete.
The folding map is accompanied by its original paper sleeve of a lovely distinctly Chinese Mid-Century design.
The map was made by the China Cartographic Publishing House, in Beijing, which specialized in designing and printing high quality, often thematic, maps from the best official sources. The present map was likely intended for educational, as well as administrative strategic planning purposes.
The map was issued in the immediate wake of ironically named The Great Leap Forward (1958 – 1962), Mao Zedong’s monumental nationwide programme that sought to transform China from a largely agrarian society into a modern industrialized state. Of relevance to the map, the Chairman’s vision included the massive expansion of the country’s road, railway and communications networks. However, the industrial projects were ill-conceived, as well as poorly designed and executed, contributing to desertification, draught and famine. This was in line with the overall failure of The Great Leap Forward which was one of the most unsuccessful national policies in world history, as it created little viable industry while wasting immense resources, ruining China’s economy and killing millions of people. The Cultural Revolution (1966-76) that followed was Mao’s reaction to this failure, being a mass socio-political movement that sought to return the state to a purer form of socialism but ended up being almost as disastrous as The Great Leap Forward. It is a touch ironic that the Chinese government produced such an excellent, sophisticated, and presumably useful, map at time when it was otherwise pursuing such chaotic policies.
A Note on Rarity
The present example is apparently the third edition of the map. The map is rare, as such large format Chinese ephemeral works have a low survival rate. We can trace 7 institutional examples of the map in any of its editions; the Library of Congress holds an example of the present 1964 issue.
References: Library of Congress: G7821.P1 1964 .T5 / OCLC: 316357041 / OCLC: 12342196.