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PYONGYANG, KOREA (NORTH KOREA) / JAPANESE OCCUPATION OF KOREA / ASIAN URBANISM: 平壌府勢一班 [Heijō fusei ippan / Pyongyang First Tier Prefecture].




A very rare separately issued map of Pyongyang published in 1931, during the height of Japanese rule over Korea (1910-45) and the year of the ‘Wanpaoshan Incident’ riots between ethnic Korean and Chinese residents; Pyongyang, an ancient city, was then the leading industrial hub of the country’s north, while today it is famously the capital of the mysterious hermit state of North Korea; the map published by Kankōsha, a provincial printing house near Nagoya.


Colour lithograph on thick paper (Good, but conspicuous wear and chipping and toning along old folds due the thickness of the paper with minor loss, an abrasion with minor loss upper right, toning to upper right quadrant), 39 x 54.5 cm (15.5 x 21.5 inches).


Pyongyang is today world renown as the capital of the Communist hermit state of North Korea, which conceals the fact that it has an august history, being one of the oldest cites in Korea, founded in 1122 BC.  Strategically located near the middle of the country, on the Taedong River, just over 100 km up from the Yellow Sea, Pyongyang was the capital of various ancient Korean dynasties, and later a top-level regional centre.  In modern times it first came to international consciousness when, during the latter 19th century, it became a focus for Western Christian missionaries, leading it be called the ‘Jerusalem of the East’.  In 1880, there were over 100 churches in Pyongyang, more than in any other Asian city.  In 1890, the city had over 40,000 inhabitants.

During the First Sino-Japanese War (1894-5), during which Japan conquered Korea (making it a client state; Japan would annex Korea in 1910), Pyongyang was partially destroyed and depopulated during the Battle of Pyongyang (September 15, 1894).

Under Japanese rule, Pyongyang was officially known as Heijō (平壤, read as へいじょう in Japanese).  The city rapidly industrialized and modernized, becoming a sophisticated place with state-of-the-art services and amenities.  At the time that the present map was made, Pyongyang had population approaching 200,000, and was the most important centre in northern Korea.

However, Pyongyang’s prosperity masked the reality that the Japanese occupation of Korea was brutally oppressive, stoking longstanding cultural cleavages.  During what became known as the ‘Wanpaoshan Incident’ (July 1931), fighting broke out between ethnic Korea and Chinese famers in Manchuria and Korea, with the worst manifestation being an urban riot in Pyongyang (July 5, 1931), that affected thousands.


Pyongyang continued to play a key role in the industrial production of the Japanese Empire until the end of World War II.  In 1948, Pyongyang became the de facto capital of Communist North Korea, but was heavily damaged during the Korean War (1950-3).  In the wake of the conflict, it became the centre of the world’s most notorious hermit kingdom and seems to have since followed its own course completely oblivious to the world beyond North Korea.  Today’s city, with over 3.3 million inhabitants and lots of Stalinist architecture, bears little resemblance to the Pyongyang depicted here.


The present work is one of surprisingly few published maps of Pyongyang from the pre-World War II era and provides a level of detail that makes it a valuable academic asset for anyone studying the city or Korean urbanism in general.   It was published by a small provincial printing house, Kanksha, in Inuyama Town, located in Aichi Prefecture, near Nagoya.  It captures the entire city and environs, orientated to the west, straddling the Taedong River, amidst rolling hills.  The city proper is shaded in yellow, its limits clearly delineated, while all major streets are clearly outlined, and many key sites labelled.  The well-developed railway and tram infrastructure is depicted, while the legend in the lower left corner details the locations of different types of infrastructure and various government and commercial buildings.  The text boxes, upper left, provide a detailed description of the city and its many attributes.


The map is very rare, it was seemingly issued in only a small print run and would have had a low survival rate due to its fragile nature.  It is the second edition of the work, the first having been published by Kanksha in 1929.  We cannot trace any examples of the present 1931 edition in institutional holdings, although we gather that a single other example appeared on the market.  The 1929 edition is known in only a few examples.


References: N/A – No example traces. Cf. [re: 1926 ed.:] Nichibunken – International Research Center fer Japanese Studies: BC02166002, OCLC: 1267309050.

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