Mapping Perceptions

Map of Ming Dynasty China. National Library of China.

Performance Objectives
In creating their own maps, as well as analyzing a historical map of China, students will identify key elements of a map (scale, kinds of features, symbols, orientation), functions that influence its creation, and how it serves as a resource.

Essential Question
What can maps tell us about how its maker perceives his or her place in the world?

Time Required
One class period for drawing maps; one class period for discussion, comparisons, and written analysis

Materials and Handouts
11" x 14" sheets of white drawing paper for maps
Paper and pencil for peer analysis
Ming Dynasty map

Assessment Piece
Neighborhood maps, discussion response, written analysis of classmate’s map

1. Distribute the Map of Imperial Territories and ask the students what maps can tell us about how its maker perceives his or her place in the world?
2. Have students use colored markers to draw a map of their neighborhood.
3. Post neighborhood maps around the room and ask students the following questions in relation to several maps:

  • What is at the center of the map?
  • Are some things depicted larger than others?
  • Which part of the map is depicted in detail?
  • Was everything in your neighborhood included in the map?
  • How did you decide what should be included?

4. Return to the Map of Imperial Territoriesand discuss the following:

  • What is at the center of this map?
  • Are countries other than China shown?
  • In looking at the map, would one be able to gather much information about countries outside of China?
  • What might this say about how the people that made and used this map felt about countries outside of China?
  • The Chinese word for China is Zhongguo, meaning “central states” or “middle kingdom.” Does this map convey these meanings? How?

5. Have students write an analysis of one of their classmates’ maps, identifying the kind of information that seems to be valuable to the student who made it. Have students describe how the mapmaker depicted his or her home in relation to the neighborhood.