D. Carlton Rossi

The Selden Poems


The Chinese Cardinal Directions

D. Carlton Rossi 2017 copyright


The Chinese Zodiac

D. Carlton Rossi 2017 copyright


五方上帝   Five Forms of the Highest Deity

D. Carlton  Rossi copyright  2017


The Absent King

D. Carlton Rossi  copyright  2017


Togydre ymet and wroght his felawe wo

D. Carlton Rossi   copyright  2017

Translated from Middle English

Met together and wrought woe to his opponent.

The Knight's Tale  Geoffrey Chaucer,  Line 2624



D. Carlton Rossi   copyright   2017

translated as "transmutation"



D. Carlton Rossi   copyright  2017

translated as "Chinese Clipper"




天体枢轴   copyright   D. Carlton Rossi

translated: The Celestial Pivot


                                                      From: Bodleian Libraries Rights:
                                        Photo: © Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford


Poetic Interpretation of The Selden Map

Historians deal with facts or at least as many as they can find. They piece together these facts gleaned from documentary evidence such as wills, acts of parliament, laws and speeches. Then, they try to interpret these facts to discern a particular pattern. However, history somewhat resembles the field of archeology where about nine-tenths of the evidence still remains buried. Therefore, the art of history and archeology tend to generalize about what might have happened around a few specific facts.

The origin of The Selden Map is uncertain and even the year in which it was drawn. Historians say that its creation lies between 1607 and 1619. The map depicts trade routes in the South China Sea at the time of the Ming Dynasty. The cartographer is unknown; although, a scholar whose name was John Selden saved the map for posterity by bequeathing it in a will. The map remained buried, so to speak, in a vault at Oxford until it was realized that it might have something to say about the territorial claims in the South China Sea.

Historians examine the trades routes and consider the accuracy of the map. They decipher the Chinese writing on the map. They look at the islands depicted and the coastlines displayed. They don't pay much attention to the flora since it might be regarded as just an embellishment. They are not aware of any fauna. They might scoff at the idea that a person(s) or figure(s) is represented on the map. In other words, historians consider water, vegetables and minerals while poets consider animals, humans and the divine.

However, it might be argued that The Selden Map is much more than a cartographic representation of the South China Sea. It should also be considered as an artistic creation; so, it seems its artistic aspect should not be overlooked. Actually, if one considers facts alone, it may never have been used by an actual mariner or have been designed for that purpose.


                                                        Sansón Carrasco

With regard to the contrast of history and poetry (art) there is no better source to quote than Cervantes in Part IV, Chapter III, p. 505 of Don Quixote. The young undergraduate Sanson makes the following comment. He says "but it's one thing to write as a poet and another to write as a historian: the poet can narrate or sing events not as they were but as they should have been, and the historian must record them not as they should have been but as they were, without adding anything to the truth or taking anything away from it." Here there is a clear distinction between history and poetry; yet, actions involving Sanson Carrasco belie or undermine the definitions. He himself becomes a knight-errant who may or may not be an enchanter. He is defeated by Quixote in the first duel.

With regard to transformations over time it is found that the purported historian is Cide Hamete Benengeli who is a Moor. He has an uncanny way of knowing all details of the adventures even though he was not present. The same holds true for the historian of the second part of the novel. It is claimed by Cervantes to be written by Avellaneda from Tordesillas (Don Quixote, p. 969). There are doubles of Quixote and Panza which Don Alvaro insists are real.  

It appears that Cervantes has tried to sow deliberate doubt as to who actually is the real recorder of the tales. Of course, this fits in with the general theme of transformation. However, there is a practical reason as to why Cervantes keeps matters cloudy regarding authorship. Some of his tales refer to things that happened in the Inquisition and Counter Reformation. If the historian were a Moor then it would provide an appropriate scape goat.  In short, Cervantes wishes to protect himself with a cloak of obfuscation.

The young graduate Sanson who is versed in the adventures of Quixote is a poet of little reknown. He has been asked by Quixote to write a 17 line poem to Dulcinea del Toboso. The moon-faced poet transforms into the Knight of the Forest at night and then the Knight of the Spangles at dawn wishing to supplant the Knight of the Sorry Face rather than rescue him. Sanson later becomes the Knight of the White Moon.

D. Carlton Rossi has designed eight poems or images which are collectively called The Selden Poems. They represent the third series of image poems that include the Celestial Giza and Banpo Poetry series. Earlier, there was a "word" poem called El Entierro de Carlos, Infante de España which was filled with images and represents a poetic interpretation of El Greco's painting called El Entierro del Conde de Orgaz.

The poet does not wish to explain The Selden Poems. If he wished to explain them then he would have written the poems rather than used images from The Selden Map. An explanation is a kind of translation which is one step away from the original. If one wishes to really understand The Selden Map then one must look at the map rather than at an explanation of it.

A copy of the map has been provided on the internet courtesy of the Bodleian Library at Oxford. It allows the viewer to examine the map in detail. This paper will look at several images which have not hitherto been highlighted on the map through The Selden Poems. The images may give the viewer some inkling of how the entire map might be considered from an imaginative, poetic, point of view. Those images are buried deep in the subconscious and are revealed through free association among other ways.


The first set of images is the compass and ruler. One might wonder why the ruler is not quite horizontal but is slanted downward. The slant may indicate the angle which geographic north differs from magnetic North. Is the reading on the compass done at that particular geographic location?


                            Inclination at Kyoto, Japan (2015)

It may be noted that the compass is roughly at the same latitude as Japan to the east. Scientists are aware that compasses off the coast of Japan point to Lake Baikal, Siberia to the West. "The reason why we have now westward declination in Japan is probably due to the presence of a strong, positive, geomagnetic anomaly around Lake Baikal in Siberia. The N-poles of magnetic needles tend to be attracted to the anomaly to show westward declinations around Japan."


                                       Lake Baikal, Siberia

A compass is usually held horizontally. In the northern hemisphere it will point in the direction of the north of the Earth which is the South pole of the Earth's magnet. However, the magnetic field is not only horizontally aligned but also vertically aligned. This means it not only indicates the direction of North and South but also "in or out" of the earth. In Japan, the very tip of the needle "dips" toward the magnetic anomaly beneath the surface of the waters of Lake Baikal where there is a rift formation. To compensate for this dip a modern compass is balanced at the other end.

The ruler which is present at the top of the Selden Map is obviously a way to measure distances on the map. The eight "X's" which are present are marked to facilitate the measurement of distances. It is conjectured though that the "X's" could stand for eight directions found on the compass.

                                    The Big Dipper Asterism

Is it possible that the "X's" could represent the seven stars of the Big Dipper which is part of Ursa Major (the Bear)? Normally, the Dipper is considered to have seven stars, but there is another one present to the naked eye which is Alcor next to Mizar. These stars are Alkaid, Mizar-Alcor, Alioth, Megrez, Phecda, Merak and Dubhe. Alcor is either considered apart from the "canonical" or conventional seven or part of the binary Mizar-Alcor set. At any rate, eight "X's" do not equal seven stars.

The term "center of gravity" applies to a situation where there is a balance. For example, if one slips one's finger under a ruler at a point between both ends then one can balance it. This point is the center of gravity. It would correspond to the location of the infinity symbol.



The infinity symbol though is not composed of flowing curves like a typical infinity symbol, but rather straight lines forming partial triangles and curves or partial circles capping the ends. Since triangles can be used to compose squares it seems to suggest to the poet an approximate way to square a circle.

The stars Dubhe and Merak found in the bowl of the Big Dipper point directly to Polaris. The axis of the Earth also points almost directly to Polaris. This is why the Pole Star(s) is often called the Lode Star. Obviously, though, the Earth's magnet is not attracted to the Pole Star, but is coincidentally and approximately aligned with it. The Pole Star has been used throughout history by mariners to find North.


The Big Dipper can also be used to calculate time. The poet is aware that cowboys on the open plains of the American Mid-West used the position of the Big Dipper to calculate two hour shifts throughout the night. For example, at 24 hours the Big Dipper is in the North and so Dubhe and Merak point directly downward to Polaris. The Dipper then shifts in what appears to be a counter clockwise direction so that time can be calculated in one hour increments on a twenty-four hour clock.

In the middle of the ruler is a special symbol which is a super "X". It has been converted into a symbol which resembles infinity. On either side of the infinity symbol is a triangle pointing North. This triangle may itself represent a mechanical compass used in geometry. If one were to press down the needle of this compass and turn the knob then one can form a circle. The apex of the mechanical compass is the center of this dry compass. Chinese mariners though using maps indicating trade routes who plied the seas actually used wet compasses or needles floating on water.

However, an inquisitive and intrepid poet of the seventeenth century who was off the coast of Japan might simply follow the direction of the compass to Lake Baikal. The mischievous monkey, Sun Wukong, or the Monkey King might also use the needle behind his ear in a compass so that he knows the direction of the Northern Sea which he can reach in a single bound. Then, he can test the intellect and ingenuity of the Dragon King of Wells and Springs.


The poet now wishes to draw your attention to an "L'image" poem of the Celestial Giza Series. It is called 天体精密機器. It is pronounced in Japanese as Seresutiaru no seimitsu kiki. This may be translated as The Celestial Precision Instruments. In other words, these tools are not only found on the top of The Selden Map, but may be imagined in the heavens. Were they seen by the ancients as instruments to build the structures at Giza and their celestial versions near the binary Polestar system of Draconis 11 and 10 at the top of the North Circumpolar Rectangle between the Big and Little Dippers? Today, the Polestar is actually a system of three stars rotating around a barycenter or the common center of mass.


                                   Rectangles and Ruler

There appears to be another mystery concerning the rectangle within a rectangle which is located to the right of the compass. Naturally, one assumes that the larger rectangle represents the map itself which is rectangular in shape. However, what does the smaller rectangle within it signify?

One explanation might be that  these rectangles represent the bowls of the two Dippers. In other words, the smaller bowl of the Little Dipper is within the bigger bowl of the Big Dipper. If one combines the ruler with the large rectangle then one has the Big Dipper.

This would mean that the four stars of the bowl of the Big Dipper (which Chinese students prayed to for good marks in the distant past) combined with four stars of the bowl of the Little Dipper would add up to eight stars represented on the map's ruler.

The Big Dipper was recognized as the chariot of the Emperor. He was able to control the four seasons with it. One image of The Selden Poem series indicates the Emperor blowing the wind or qi.

The south-pointing chariot carried a movable pointer to always show the South direction. According to legend the Yellow Emperor Huangdi invented the south pointing chariot around 2634 B.C. He used it to navigate through fog in order to find and defeat the enemy. 


However, one does not have to go through such mental gymnastics to get four stars within the bowl of the Big Dipper. On the ancient Dunhuang star chart of around 700 or the reign of Emperor Zhongzong of Tang (705-710) there are four stars in the form of a square within the big bowl. They represent the seat of divine justice. This gives a total of eight stars where four are within and four are without.


copyright   D. Carlton Rossi
translated    The Celestial Pivot


                                    The Polaris Star System

Your attention is now drawn to two of The Selden Poems which are respectively called The Chinese Cardinal Directions (representing the five elements) and The Chinese Zodiac of twelve animals. Both poems are in a circular shape on rectangular backgrounds. One could place the circle of The Chinese Cardinal directions within a smaller rectangle at the center of the larger circle of The Chinese Zodiac bounded by a larger rectangle. The images would rotate around a central point in the heaven corresponding to the barycenter of the modern pole stars Polaris A, Ab and B or the Yellow Emperor. In other words, it is not nothingness at the center.

If the rectangles are empty it seems to the poet that one must fill them.
The moon is found on the north-west side of the map. One can still discern the letter "L" which would begin the word "Luna" or Moon. It is surrounded by clouds. The Sun is found on the north-east side of the map. It is labelled "Sol" or Sun in Latin; though, through time, part of it has been torn off. The Sun may be placed in the larger bowl. The Moon may be placed in the smaller bowl.  In other words, the Moon and the Sun would be rotating around their barycenter which is near the center of the Sun.


If the Moon covers the Sun one might also look upon it as an eclipse. A total eclipse of the Sun was centered on the Maluka Islands in the Banda Sea on June 30, 1601. It was preceeded by a volcanic eruption on Mt. Sinabung, Sumatra in 1600 which would have spewed ash into the atmosphere thus obscuring the sun; although, needless to say, there was no scientic connection between the eclipse and volcanic eruption.

D.卡尔顿 罗西
D. Carlton Rossi



Transformation through Spiritual Pilgrimmage

The poet wishes to thank Professors Batchelor and Brook whose publications provided inspiration. Batchelor's outline of trade routes and Brooks description of sailing were essential for at least the development of several poems in The Selden Poem series. He also wishes to thank the Bodleian Library at Oxford for their recognition of the importance of the map, their restoration of the map and their online access to the map which they have provided.

The poet has now looked more clearly and closely at the image in the upper left-hand corner of the map. This might seem to be a contradiction to the reader who expects a poet to write or recite a poem. Of course, the poet has written and spoken poems in the past. However, they were done in free-form which the poet defines as freedom of poetry and form of philosophy. He has also drawn poems as images which may be a shock to most readers because they will consider these to be sketches rather than poems. These poems tend to concentrate on more abstract philosophical forms.

The poet would prefer to write or draw poems. It is not desirable for him to talk about his own poems because his comments then appear as translations or imperfect copies being one step away from reality. Generally, he doesn't deconstruct other works of art. His preference would be to say that he believes that there are unrecognized images in The Selden Map and let the reader find them or to put it in a more simple way "Where's Waldo?"

It seems that he has to give a name to the small image which he examines. He is not enthusiatic about this step. Things may have the same name but change often. For example, I have assumed the name D. Carlton Rossi, but am I the same person a day ago as I am now? Is it the same river that I stepped in yesterday as I step in now or is it ever the same to paraphrase a well known conundrum?


                                    Emperor Qin Shi Huang

It is not as if Emperor Qin Shi Huang (秦始皇) 259 –210 BCE didn't have enough enemies who plotted a coup and three assassination attempts; but, he multiplied them at every chance he could when he buried alchemists, burned books, conscripted labour, and attacked various states in the name of unification. It was the beginning of the end though for the Xiongnu who were nomadic tribesmen on the open Mongolian steppe when Emperor Qin conducted a pre-emptive war to secure the rectangular Ordos Loop which controlled the nascent western trade route for silk and horses and which was the first line of defence for the fertile lands to the south. Emperor Qin did not undertake half measures as he sent an army of at least 100,000 to the North.

                                       Han-Xiongnu War
                             Note: Lake Baikal is north of the Ordos Loop

The result of the expedition was mixed. He did defeat the Xiongnu who retreated through the Gobi Desert which was their natural line of defence. He then set up a fortification to prevent further incursion and he began the building of a wall.  However, the Xiongnu were excellent military strategists and borrowed a tactic from their enemy--they established the Xiongnu Confederacy which was to harass, hinder and humiliate the enemy for the next 200 years.

                            Han-Xiongnu War  (127 BCE-89 CE)

Fast forward to the year 127 BCE when General Wei Qing invaded and took control of the Ordos region. He resettled 100,000 people to create a kind of buffer region. He also repaired and extended the walls to Dunhuang in order to separate the Xiongnu from their Qiang allies. The Han forces then invaded the northern regions of the Gobi Desert and won a decisive victory at the Battle of Mobei in 119 BCE. The Han forces pursued Yizhixie and his troops as far as Lake Baikal.


                                         Altai Mountains

Later, in 89 CE, General Dou Xian 窦宪 led an expedition against the Northern Xiongnu. He ended up chasing the Northern Chanyu into the Altai Mountains and defeating them. He led a triumphal march to present day Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia which was then the heart of the Xiongnu territory. He erected a stele at Mount Yanran (which is just south of Lake Baikal). In 2017, an archaeological expedition rediscovered the Inscription of Yanran in central Mongolia.


                                            Ban Gu

The Inscription on the Ceremonial Mounding of Mount Yanran was written by historian and poet Ban Gu who was on staff and earlier had been Marshall of the Black Warrior Gate. It is composed of 260 characters which concludes with five lines of Chu Ci style poetry. It was carved by the General of Chariots and Cavalry Dou Xian on a cliff in the Yanran Mountains. (modern Khangai Mountains). The expression "to carve a stone on Yanran" (Chinese: 勒石燕然) entered the Chinese language as a synonym for achieving a decisive victory.

The Silk Road was initially set forth systematically by Emperor Wu of Han (141-87). Major trade though began only when in the first century the Han under General Ban Chao 班超 (brother of Ban Gu) pacified the Hexi corridor (河西走廊) which was part of the Northern Silk Road leading to the Tarim Basin. Its maritime counterpart probably developed by the 1st century.

"A Maritime Silk Route opened up between Chinese-controlled Giao Chỉ (centred in modern Vietnam, near Hanoi). It extended, via ports on the coasts of India and Sri Lanka, all the way to Roman-controlled ports in Roman Egypt and the Nabataean territories on the northeastern coast of the Red Sea. The earliest Roman glassware bowl found in China was unearthed from a Western Han tomb in Guangzhou, dated to the early 1st century BCE, indicating that Roman commercial items were being imported through the South China Sea."


                                Maritime Silk Road or Route

"A Maritime Silk Road or Route encompassed numbers of bodies of waters; including South China Sea, Strait of Malacca, Indian Ocean, Gulf of Bengal, Arabian Sea, Persian Gulf and the Red Sea ...and also extended eastward to East China Sea and Yellow Sea to connect China with Korean Peninsula and Japanese archipelago." (Revolvy, Silk Road)

Historically speaking--so to speak since a poet speaks rather than an historian--the land and sea routes were therefore formalized at about the same time. They complemented each other. If a shipment were time sensitive or subject to seizure by nomadic robbers along the Gobi or Taklamakan Deserts then one would assume that it was sent by sea. On the other hand, if the shipment were bulky or involved horses, for example, it was sent by the land route.

In some cases, though, shipments might have been sent by sea and land. For instance, let's say that there were a shipment of porcelain from Japan to India. It might be sent at first by ship on a merchant trade route to Nanjing then overland through China to the Silk Road where it would complete its journey. It is no coincidence that Nanjing became the Buddhist cultural center for China and perhaps East Asia between (CE 420-589) since merchants made donations which were applied to monasteries.

As unlikely as it might seem, trade along the land versions of the ancient Silk Roads went hand in hand with the spread of Buddhism. Merchants found Mahayana Buddhism which was one of the three forms of the religion to be appealing. It emphasized "the elusiveness of physical reality, including material wealth." according to Xinru Liu. The merchants also liked to stay at monasteries which were safe havens if not heaven on their mercantile pilgrimage.

"During the 5th and 6th centuries CE, merchants played a large role in the spread of religion, in particular Buddhism." The reasons were twofold. The merchants found the ethical teachings of Buddhism to be attractive so they supported monasteries along the way thereby disseminating Buddhism. Secondly, they helped to "to establish diaspora within the communities they encountered, and over time their cultures became based on Buddhism. "



It was during the Tang Dynasty that Xuanzang and other missionaries visited India in order to access original Buddhist texts. With respect to trade though the Silk Roads it reached its zenith in this period when western merchants of Persia and Sogdiana benefitted commercially and Chinese cities became cosmopolitan as a result of foreign culture. During the Tang Dynasty there was also a strong Chinese maritime presence felt in the West.


However, the silk trade itself was influenced by other factors. One must keep in mind that a decline in the silk trade began with the collapse of the Roman Empire since there was little demand for luxury goods. In addition, enterprising, Nestorian monks learned the art of silk making which had been kept secret since 2700 BCE and were sent by the Byzantine Emperor to steal silkworm eggs resulting in a monopoly for sales in Europe with silk production in Thrace--probably at a monastery.


                            Poem 19 of Banpo Poetry Series
                       inspired by Buddhist Temple at Suzhou

It may be best at this point to switch to an historical, chronological account to avoid the confusion of mixing factual from fictional which seems to be the bane of the modern age. It is factual that a Buddhist monk named Xuanzang (玄奘) left Chang'an (Xian) in 629 CE on his journey to India and returned seventeen years later. He brought with him 657 Sanskrit texts which were translated into Chinese, three copies of of the Mahaprajnaparamita Sutra translated by a team, translated the Heart Sutra called the Cheng Weishi Lun and at the request of Emperor Taizong of Tang wrote an account of his travels called the Great Tang Records on the Western Regions (大唐西域記).


                                       Xuanzang (玄奘)

One of the remarkable aspects of his travel is that Xuanzang went on one Silk Road and came back on another. This was a feat that even Marco Polo did not accomplish. The two roads intersect at Dunhuang. It so happens that north of Dunhuang is the Gobi Desert and then one finds Lake Baikal. It is not implied that he visited Lake Baikal, but he may have been told about it as this lake was probably regarded as The Wild Goose Sea or certainly as 北海 which may be translated as the North Sea.       

D.卡尔顿 罗西
D. Carlton Rossi





The poet will now divert his attention to the Kun image associated with Lake Baikal. It is somewhat premature to deal with the subject, but it is of some interest to him. He realizes that others may not see a similar thing, but he tries to keep an open mind about the matter. In fact, he regards it as highly probable that others regard it as improbable verging on impossible. Undoubtedly and understandably, they look at The Selden Map from the perspective of maritime trade routes.

On the other hand, the poet wishes to expand the outlook to include the whole trade route system which includes the land version of the Silk Roads. Furthermore, th
e poet is transitioning from the factual Xuanzong who was a real monk in the 7th century to  the fictional Xuanzang who was a monk of Journey to the West in the 16th century at the time of the Ming Dynasty. However, underlying his premise is the perception that The Selden Map may depict more than land forms and islands, structures like the Great Wall, Chinese writing, the seas, lakes and vegetation.

In other words, the map may contain images of animals and figures. With respect to animals he references those of the Chinese zodiac and the cardinal directions in particular. In regard to figures, for example, he has shown an emperor and controller of the winds whose image is in the shell of a tortoise-snake protecting the Chinese peoples who are sheep behind a defensive Great Wall. He has also depicted a Knighte Errant. His poem series is called The Selden Poems which pays homage to John Selden who was also a poet who wrote rather obscurely.

However, over the last decade, scholars have not referred to a single instance of an animal or figure on The Selden Map. It is almost as if they were to admit to the perception of single animal whether imaginary like a dragon or otherwise that they may have to concede there might be many animals on the map--perhaps a whole menagerie of them. However, generally speaking, an historian is not a poet. He deals with facts as he perceives and interprets them. On the other hand, a poet is not generally an historian; although, he may reference historical accounts as an adjunct to his primary goal.


                                 Kepler's Supernova SN1604

The situation reminds the poet of the view of the heavens as unchanging which was advanced by Aristotle. This viewpoint was held by scientists and philosophers until the year 1604. In October of that year a supernova explosion was visible to the naked eye in the constellation Ophiuchus. It was seen by astronomers in Ming Dynasty China as well as in Korea and Europe. This one exception to an unchanging heaven was noted by Kepler and Galileo to show change was the new normal. In political/religious terms there was the aborted Gunpowder Plot to blow up the House of Lords during the State Opening of England's Parliament on November 5, 1605.

At any rate, the poet will now refer to several images perceived with a high degree of poetic licence within Kun in the north-west corner of The Selden Map. The poet was trying to determine if there were animals of the Chinese zodiac within Kuni which were reflective of those perceived throughout the map. It so happens that 12 zodiac animals manifested themselves among others within this small space. He will concentrate though for the moment on the ox.


                                  Small ox or water buffalo


                                     Mid-size water buffalo


                                     Large ox or water buffalo

The poet perceives a small image of an ox. It is next to a larger image of a white, water buffalo which was often used as a substitute for the ox--particularly in Vietnam or as the poet saw in Guilin. Keep in mind though that Kun is just north of the very large image of an ox or water buffalo that represents the Gobi Desert in Mongolia. This means that there is a scaling from the microcosm to the macrocosm and vice versa. It came as a surprise however to discern a head and shoulders sketch of a man embedded in the smallest ox image when it was viewed frontally. He simply reports what he sees rather than jumping to too many conclusions. However, one cannot underestimate the importance and relevance of the underlying meaning and connection of these perceived images.



The poet sees a man looking westward. This is rather remarkable since the general location is the western edge of the map. He is a rather common-looking man who wears a cap. It seems to be a cap one might associate with the sea. Out of his cap--so to speak--there appears to be a violin. He may also have a moustache. There are other images of smaller animals embedded. Perhaps the poet also associates the man with the sea because there is a fish below the sketch of the man.


On the other side of Kun there is another image of a face in lighter colours of blue and white which is looking eastward. One can imagine that it is a woman looking at the man across the wide expanse. Between these two sketches appear to be a pair of white dragon and phoenix which are the heavenly equivalents to the man and woman.


                                        Dragon and Phoenix

One might imagine the dragon to be on the right side facing westward and the phoenix on the left side facing eastwards. They are very close and looking at each other. Both jaws and tails appear to be interlocked.


                                       Boy Crowned Knight

Below the image of the woman's face appears to be that of a boy. He, too, looks eastward at what appears to be immediately in front of him which is a miniature, pastoral scene. He is fed by a white bird which may be a crane (symbolizing long life). The body of the boy is a helmeted crown which is bell shaped like either a knight's helmet or an emperor's dress.

It is an unusual style of crown. At the top of the crown seems to be the parapet of a castle. There may be a shield in the crown. One gets the impression that a knight wears the crown. The knight's face though is rather ghastly and ghostly which implies that he has long since died. He looks eastward. If the head is construed as a bust then it may be resting on some kind of pedestal.

                                  Poetical Hypothesis

The poet has saved a special relationship until the beginning of the New Year. However, perspicacious readers would have earlier realized its nature.


 John Selden (minstrel with violin and father of jurist and scholar John Selden)


Margaret Selden (nee Baker of Rustington, West Sussex)

- mother of John Selden

- descended from knightly family of Kent


John Selden (jurist and scholar) as a boy at top with bat collar, regular ear and bat ear, mouse on top of head and fed by a white bird (possibly a crane symbolizing long life)

(16 December 1584 – 30 November 1654)

- born Salvington, West Sussex


                           Bat Boy John Selden wearing bat crown

         (frontal bat (l), horned death skull (m), left-side boy's face)


                                (bat face, skull, boy left to right)


                                            Knight of Kent

The Knight shows four faces. First, there is the right-sided skeletal face with fierce looking teeth, bulging eyes, large eyebrows and bulbous nose. The second face is frontal and appears more sedate with small eyes, round nose and small mouth. The third face is left-sided wtih mouth open. The fourth face (blue) is in the bottom left hand corner of the Knight image and is three-quarters right. It has a stone band around the top of the head with a bat and perhaps also a monkey on top. The four faces may symbolize the four directions, phases of the moon or aspects of character.


                                       Phases of the Moon

The poet reinterprets the next images which manifest themselves. They are related to one another in a way that was not anticipated. The poet watched the Apollo astronauts land "on" the moon in the year 1969. At that moment, scientific ideas of the moon fully replaced romantic ideals. However, prior to that date, vestiges of romanticism prevailed and were more strong the further one went back into the past. For example, a prominent belief was held that there was a man "in" the moon and his facial features could be recognized.

It was with some difficulty therefore that the poet had trouble defining and classifiying the images that had emerged from the whists and whispers of the past. They spoke to him though (in hushed tones) saying "phases of the moon". It is the most obvious reason why an image of a man's face is metaphorically overlaid on top of an image of a full face so that it is covered half-way. It explains why there be another image in three-quarters perspective next to them figuratively representing another phase of the moon. They all share the same middle eye, too. The open question though is whether or not the phases represent the facial features of a real man?



To put this issue into context one must consider the prominent image below the phases of the moon reflected and depicted outside of Kun. It is the unambiguous and labelled image of a full Moon. It is partially covered, too, by wisps of cloud as opposed to leaves and branches of a tree.


                                        Yukiang decreasing

All of these images are part of the northern winter landscape in and around the North Sea of Lake Baikal. However, they are not restricted to them. There is one important dual-faceted image of opposites. It is known as Yukiang with body of whale and hands and feet of a human.                      

It is not Mushashi riding on top of the whale, but rather his Chinese counterpart by another name who as a mythical creature ruled the Ocean. He was a dragon-riding deity with the body of a kuan or whale and the hands and feet of a human being. He came from the North Sea. The white whale descends into the depths as the full moon rests below the horizon in the West.


compliments of the Bodleian Library

                               The Spanish Influence

The poet presents a magnified portion of the upper part of what he has identified as the Kun image on The Selden Map. It is then rotated to the right in order to reveal a side image of a head facing right. It is conjectured that the individual is Felippe II who was the son of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. Felippe II died at the end of the sixteenth century after a failed invasion of England.


                                     Felippe II of Spain

There are several features in the image which identify a male of the Hapsburg line who may be Felippe II. The first feature is a large nose which is rather pointed. The nose is accentuated because it is part of what appears to be the snout of a fox. In addition, the beak of a bird also is part of the nose.

The second feature which is perhaps most important is the famous Habsburg chin which protrudes. This deformity resulted from inbreeding in the royal family. The trait was so pronounced in Charles II who was the last of the Habsburg line that he had trouble eating. It is said that he had the most elongated face, too.

The final feature which characterizes a male in the Habsburg line is an elongated tongue. The tongue may be drawn as an ermine. The ermine's tail sticks out or protrudes at great length. It ends in a serpent's tongue.

While the ermine is a royal symbol there is another symbol of royalty evident in the Habsburg male. That is the plume of feathers on the head. It is formed from the eagle's head.

It is rather surprising to find the image of a Holy Roman Emperor Felippe II even in a rather disguised manner on The Selden Map. Spain had established the colony of Manila in the Philippines, but the colony was struggling with raids of the Portuguese and also had to contend with pirates. Felippe was content with the size of his empire and did not wish to expand it in the South China Sea--especially because it did not have the money to do so--Spain had declared bankruptcy several times.

However, there were those in Manila who wished to conquer China itself for either religion or riches. According to Samuel Hawley in The Spanish Plan to Conquer China, all representatives of the Spanish colony of Manila met on April 20, 1586 to promote the invasion of China. Martín de Rada wished to conquer China so that Augustinians could save Chinese souls. Diego de Artieda tried to convince Felippe that trade and invasion were inseparable.

                     The Distinguished Gentleman (on the left)

compliments of the Bodleian Library

The poet would be remiss if he didn't mention the frontal image of a distinguished elderly gentleman to the left of Felippe II. It comprises the upper body and full face of an elderly male. No identification has been made of this figure. The figure may or may not be related to the Felippe II image. 


                                          The Bullfighter

compliments of the Bodleian Library

To reinforce the general Spanish theme the poet unveils The Bullfighter. He is found on the right hand side in blue and facing left with his right arm extended. Of course, he is challenging the horned bull which menaces his abdomen.

It might be as good a time as any to mention the novel Don Quixote which was published in two parts in 1605 and 1615. Earlier, the poet contended that both Journey to the West and Don Quixote have influenced the drawing of The Selden Map.  It might be appropriate at this time for the poet to speculate on the inspiration for Cervantes' character Don Quixote who was mad from reading books on chivalry, but otherwise was rational when talking about other topics. His madness may have been modelled on Joanna the Mad of Castille.


                                         Joanna of Castille

Joanna was madly in love with Philip of Hapsburg who became King of Castille as Philip I. However, he died rather prematurely at the age of 28. While she was exceptionally clever her mental instability manifested itself at this time when she refused to depart from her deceased husband's remains.


                                      Dulchinea of Tobaso

The madness of her love reminds one of Don Quixote's love for Dulchinea del Toboso. Basically, he invented her. He says that "her rank must be at least that of a princess, since she is my queen and lady".


                                                Charles V

As for the knight-errant aspect of Don Quixote's character one might look at the son of Philip I and Joanna of Castille. Their son was Charles who became known as Charles V or Holy Roman Emperor, King of Spain and Prince of the Habsburg Netherlands. He revitalized the medieval concept of Charlemagne's universal monarchy through thirty-five years of warfare.

In conclusion, the image of Felippe II on The Selden Map is important because it may provide a clue as to who was the map  maker, whence did he draw the chart and for what purpose. It could indicate the map maker was from Manila. Whether he supported Felippe's views on maintaining the status quo in the South China Sea for a peaceful mission of conversion of souls and trade or one of empire expansion through knight errantry is uncertain.

D.卡尔顿 罗西
D. Carlton Rossi





The counterpart or balance to the descending Kun 鲲 is the ascending Peng 鵬. The Kun comes from the darkness of the North Sea or Lake of Heaven. It transforms into the Peng which journeys to the darkness of the South Sea or Lake of Heaven. Peng was originally a variant of the word feng 鳳 as in fenghuang 鳳凰 or Chinese phoenix. The Kun and Peng are giant "imaginary" animals.


International Zuangzhi Conference at Great Hall Beijing
Poet wears a blue shirt in back row


                       The fish image sees me as I seize it.
                       It leaps free to break bonds that hold.
                       A bold bound upward does unfold.
                       Gold drops fall off of scales sunlit.

                       D. Carlton Rossi copyright 2016

The title may be translated as "The fish is happy"


The Daoist philosopher Zhuangzi started out with the fish-bird myth in his philosophical writings. The first chapter ("Free and Easy Wandering" 逍遙遊 begins with one of three versions of this myth.

In the northern darkness there is a fish and his name is K'un. The K'un is so huge I don't know how many thousand li he measures. He changes and becomes a bird whose name is Peng.... (Wiki Peng mythology)

The cicada 蜩 laughs at the distances the giant Peng travels. It is unbelievable to the cicada since it can only fly to the nearby tree or nearly to it. However, if a Peng eats a cicada cannot the cicada fly great distances and become a Peng?


                                        Korean Temple

It seems that the original meaning of Kun 鲲 was "fish roe"; fry; spawn" (ca. 200 BCE Erya). In the same way, if a bird (seagull) ate one of them then the fry would become the bird which is large in comparison (ie similar or small difference). At the same time, the bird would become one of them since, as they say, you are what you eat.

                                       Yukiang increasing

 (reader may wish to turn image counter clockwise for better recognition)


                                        Increasing  Peng


                                              Sol rising

Yet, when the white kuan got angry he rose from the ocean depths with the rising of the blazing sun in the east. The "Kuan" transformed into Peng or gigantic bird. Its waves and winds whipped up terrible storms. (M. Soymi, in P. Grimal, 1963)



                                Rectangles, Peng and Yukiang


                                          Decreasing Peng

It is hardly surprising that the Peng and white kuan are next to a set of rectangles of emptiness. Together the mythological creatures symbolize the rising Sun of the east or anger associated with the increasing rectangle. On the opposite side of The Selden Map is the falling Moon of the West. In addition, there is a falling turtle-bird along with a falling kuan with hands and legs of human which are represented by the decreasing rectangle.


According to the Prajna Sutra of Mahayana Buddhist teachings "That which is profound, has sunyata and non-attachment as its significance. No form nor deeds, no rising nor falling, are its implications." It is also said "Materials are form, which by their nature, imply obstruction. The special characteristic of the "great void" is non-obstruction." In other words, it does not obstruct the material world to exist or function. This expression of Buddhism where there is no rising or falling seems on the surface to be different than the Daoist concept expressed by Zhuangzi.


Journey to the West  西游记 is attributed to Wu Cheng'en and published circa 1592 or just prior to the drawing of The Selden Map so it would not be irrational to assume it might have influenced the cartographer. The Monkey King is a satirical figure who along with protectors accompanies a monk named Xuanzang in this alchemical classic of the Ming Dynasty.

Withn the Peng image is found the protectors of Tan Sanzang who was a fictional character. One doesn't want to be disrespectful but it might be thought that the real Xuangzang was reincarnated and did not escape earthly travail. Tan Sanzang's protectors had disturbed the order of Heaven and were cast out or down. They seek redemption by aiding the monk on his quest for Sanskrit scrolls of Buddhist wisdom from India. The most famous protector is the Monkey King known as Sun Wukong 孙悟空. Basically, he is a Trickster demon.


                                          Sun Wukong

At the birth of Sun who was awakened to emptiness, two beams of light shot toward the Pole Star Palace of the Jade Emperor. One might conjecture that a long time ago one beam went to Draconis 11 and another to Draconis 10 which form a binary star system in the North Circumpolar Rectangle or a shape similar to The Selden Map. These stars rotate around a common mass or barycenter and the other stars seem to rotate around the center.


                                            Zhu Baijie

The second protector is Zhu Baijie 猪八戒 who is better known as Pigsy. He proves the old saying though that one can't change a pig's ear into a silk purse. Of all the characters he shows the least redemptive qualities.


                                            Sha Wujing

The third protector is Sha Wujing or Sandy. He is known as the Water Buffalo. He lived in the Liúshā-hé 流沙河, "flowing-sand river". Basically, though, he is an embellishment of a supernatural figure in Monk Hui Li's 慧立 7th century account of the historical Xuanzang. While he was in the desert near Dunhuang the spirit appeared to him in a dream and led him to water at an oasis.

The poet draws the reader's attention to the small horns on top of Sandy's head which represent vestigal water buffalo horns of a monk protector. Furthermore, there appears to be a broken vase (turned upside down) within the head which Sandy had deliberately or accidentally broken in the Jade Palace. As a result, he was expelled from the Jade Palace.


                                      White Dragon Horse

The White Dragon Horse (白龍馬) is the third son of the Dragon King of the West Sea. He typifies the theme of transformation which the animals undergo. For example, in The Selden Poems there is a Chinese vessel which is part horse and part dragon. It is called 中国帆船. In Journey to the West, the dragon swallows Xuanzang's white horse to become White Dragon Horse which is a powerful steed.

The monk Tan Sanzang of Journey to the West fame is a fictional character. However, he is based on the Tang dynasty monk whose name was Xuanzang who might be regarded as a great sage. It was said by Hanshan Deqing (憨山德清, 1546-1623) who was a master of esoteric Buddhism that the Peng is the image of the Daoist sage. Therefore, one might consider the Tang Sanzang character of Journey to the West to be equivalent to the Peng.

If one considers there to be a Peng drawing on the Selden Map then one might argue that it is probably derived from the Peng-Sanzang representation in Journey to the West published in 1592. The beak of the drawing of the Peng is symbolically touching the outside rectangle whose core is emptiness. On the other hand, it is at least conceivable that the Peng drawing could be directly derived from the real Tang Xuanzang who is much further back in time during the 7th century.

So far, the poet and probably everyone else has regarded the larger rectangle to be fully four sided; however, it is not. There is a small opening in the upper right hand corner. There is a tendency to dismiss this opening on the basis that it was perhaps hastily drawn. On the other hand, what if the opening is intentional?

If the largest rectangle represents the map as a whole then there is a part of it with an opening. That part seems to coincide with the rising Sun. In other words, sunlight streams through the void. There is now color in the void as opposed to the lack of color or blackness. At the same time, the sunlight reflects off the Moon.

There is another image connected with the Peng which has an irregular shape. It is generally defined with whiteness. There is the whiteness of two, tree trunks on either side. On the right side, the whiteness then curves upward around the white, whale's head at the top and cuts downward through the neck of the Peng. The dominant feature enclosed within the whiteness appears to be the face of a man which has an oval shape. To the poet the entire shape may be Xuanzang himself.


                                Stone Egg representing Sanzang's Head

In this drawing of the perfect sage, the tree of life springs from the third eye. In Hinduism, Buddhism, and Taoism the mark on the center of the forehead is called the Urna or Eye of Wisdom. Hinduism regards the right eye as the Sun and the left eye as the Moon. The third eye sees beyond the apparent and protects the good. In Buddhism, the third eye sees beyond the senses. Taoism teaches one to focus on the third eye to tune into the correct vibration of the universe in order to reach a higher meditation level.

The poet through imagination regards the oval shape of Xuanzang's head to be also representational of an egg. Not surprisingly, it would be the egg belonging to the Peng bird. The egg is made of stone. Within the stone egg is a stone monkey who hatches to become the Monkey King or Sun Wukong. This would mean that the location is the imaginary Flower Fruit Mountain. According to the Selden Map the birthplace of Sun Wukong might be construed to be Tyr, Russia (特林; pinyin: Tèlín).

However, Flower Fruit Mountain could also be an island in the Amur River or perhaps off the coast. It appears Ming Chinese had known for at least two centuries that Sakhalin was an island, but European cartographers realized this later. Chinese of the Ming dynasty knew the island as Kuyi (苦夷 Kǔyí) or Kuwu (Chinese: 苦兀; pinyin: Kǔwù), and later as Kuye (Chinese: 庫頁; pinyin: Kùyè), as it is known today. There is also a small island off the western coast of Sakhalin called Ush.  

                                  Bat Boy covered by blanket

There are now two images of Bat Boy in the Peng image which means double luck. The reason that this is important is because it establishes a relation with the Bat Boys of the Kun image directly across on the western side of the map. It also generally develops the Kun theme.


                                           Baby Bat

The first image of Bat Boy appears as if he were riding on top of the blue Peng. It is almost as if he is tucked under the blue, wave covers. The second image appears in the white horse. He is so cute so he is called  Baby Bat. In fact, there is a heart shaped symbol underneath as if to punctuate his cuteness. What distinguises this pair of Bat Boys in the East is that they are younger than those in the west. Baby Bat is clearly born in the East.

D.卡尔顿 罗西
D. Carlton Rossi






It is of utmost importance to try to pinpoint the exact location of the Peng. On the surface, this assertion may seem absurd because it can be pointed out that the Peng is an imaginary bird used by Zhuangzi for purposes of illustrating Daoist philosophy. As well, it can be argued that there is no reason for an imaginary bird or for that matter an imaginary Yukiang (kuan or whale) to be on The Selden Map which is concerned only with trade routes whether or not they are maritime or land; nevertheless, they are there.


                              In pursuit of the white whale

The poet who doesn't know it, though, contends that whether or not the Peng and Yukiang are real or fictional is moot. They are archetypes within mythology and therefore are relevant to The Selden Map. What might be argued as one of the best American novels called Moby Dick was concerned with Ahab's existential pursuit on a sailing ship for the white whale. If you think that Jonathan Living Seagull is just about an ordinary seagull then you have missed the underlying meaning.


                        Charting the trip down the Mississippi

Of equal importance in the corpus of American literature is the journey of Huckelberry and Jim rafting down the Mississippi to Cairo. There is no question about how Samuel Clements (whose pen "imaginary" name) was Mark Twain did serve as a riverboat captain carrying passengers and freight on that river. Even the name Mark Twain signifies a measuring of depth on the river or one's life. There is no question that there is a little bit of Huckleberry and Jim within the character of Clements or Twain. The meaning of the journey though is that it reflects how there is a little bit of Hucklelberry and Jim in all of us. Finally, even if someone is illiterate the archetype is important because it dwells in the subconscious and occasionally surfaces.


                                         Buriyat Shaman

There is another reason that is no less significant to sailors. Whether sailors are on Lake Baikal or in the strait between continental Russia and Sakhalin Island they are superstitious. Even, today, shaminism is practiced by some who are on land or venture on the water in these areas. They want smooth sailing in life and they try to propitiate the spirits. They neither want to be swallowed up by a giant whale or its equivalent nor picked up by big bird or face any other natural disaster so they display a totem.

It would be useful to categorize both Moby Dick and Adventures of Huckelberry Finn in terms of what kind of novels they are. Moby Dick may be regarded as a tragedy while Adventures of Huckleberry Finn may be seen as a satire. They were highly influenced by the King James Version of the Bible printed in 1611. One wonders if John Selden who was a dutiful member of the Church of England was ever consulted about a translation issue. The KJV contained the story of Jonah who was swallowed by a whale. It is repeated iteratively in Moby Dick when Ahab is lashed to the white whale. In a sense, too, Huckelberry and Jim are escaping to the promised land of Moses.


                          Don Quixote by Pablo Picasso c. 1955

There was an earlier novel that influenced them; although, it was written in Spanish. It is called Don Quixote which was a farcical comedy by Cervantes completed in 1605. It was imaginatively poetic in style. The reader may like to refer to the poet's Knighte Errant who rides a mouse in the Selden Poems.


                           Tom Thumbe carried off by giant bird

One may wish to keep in mind that the days of King Arthur were told in Richard Johnson's The History of Tom Thumbe which was published in 1621 as a booklet. It was based on folklore that went back almost a century to a real dwarf named Tom Thumbe who was born about 1519 and died in 1620. In a later narrative, a marble monument is raised to Tom Thumb with the following epithet:

Here lies Tom Thumb,
King Arthur’s knight,
Who died by a spider’s cruel bite.
He was well known in Arthur’s court,
Where he afforded gallant sport;
He rode at tilt and tournament,
And on a mouse a-hunting went;
Alive he fill’d the court with mirth
His death to sorrow soon gave birth.
Wipe, wipe your eyes, and shake your head
And cry, ‘Alas! Tom Thumb is dead.

(Wiki Tom Thumb)


Cervantes wrote a second novel 10 years later called The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha. It may be classified as a satire which uses a philosophical form. Together these novels set the format and formula for the western novel.

One might say that the theme of Don Quixote is transformation through creative imagination. In the Tale of Inappropriate Curiosity, two friends whose names are Anselmo and Lotario conspire to test the loyalty of Camela who is Anselmo's wife. It changes into a kind of morality play of philosophical issues. While Camela passes the test it eventually leads to the suicide of Anselmo, the death of Lotario in battle and to the despair of Camela in a convent followed by her death. The tale which begins with comic overtones ends in tragedy.

This tale though must be understood in a larger context of the battle between two enemies or Don Quixote and Don Fernando. Don Fernando has married two women whose names are Lucinda and Dorotea. Quixote defends the virtue of Dorotea by slaying the giant (Fernando) which turns out to be wineskins. In other words, Anslemo and Lotario who were friends have been transformed into enemies whose names become Quixote and Fernando who share the first name.

In the tale "Which continues the history of the famous Princess Micomicon ..." Fernando is overwhelmed when he coincidentally meets his wives and the other husband while Quixote sleeps. He is convinced through reason and the improbability of the situation presented by fate to recognize a virtuous wife as an equal and accept the marriage of Cardenio and Luscinda. In effect, he surrenders his free-will to providence. This tale which begins as a tragedy changes into a comedy.


                            Journey to the West characters

However, Journey to the West preceeded Don Quixote. It was published c. 1895 and is attributed to Wu Cheng'en. In some respect, it resembles the novel Don Quixote since the hero Sanzang also goes on a quest with a sidekick. Some might regard Journey to the West as the first novel. It combines imaginative poetry in a comedic form with satirical prose which is critical of the times.


                            天篷元帥  (tian_peng_yuan_shuai)  

To the poet, the Peng image on The Selden Map which includes Sanzhang, Monkey King, White Horse, Sandy and Pigsy (among other images) is a poem. It is a wordless poem filled with archetypal images. Doesn't the reader regard it in the realm of probability that the presence of an archetypal character such as Zhu Baijie who was Marshall Tang Peng in charge of 80,000 marines is a symbolically necessary presence to secure the lower Amur Region and Sakhalin Island, act as a precursor and promoter of trade, and finally foster spiritual values on behalf of the Ming Dynasty? The poet suggests that Journey to the West with its Buddhist, Confucianist, and Daoist concepts which manifest themselves in archetypes was bound to have influenced the cartographer in the drawing of The Selden Map.

It is this poet's contention that both Journey to the West and Don Quixote may have influenced the painter-cartographer of The Selden Map which was made sometime after 1606. Journey to the West which was based on folk tales was first published in 1592, while the first part of Don Quixote was published in 1605. These novels were written just prior to the dates that have generally been accepted for the creation of The Selden Map. Both novels involve adventurous journeys over land. In Don Quixote, a sea element is suggested since Pancho Sanza is made governor of an island and Quixote is interested in the former empire called Trebizond around the Black Sea while a duenna speaks of the Kingdom of Kandy (Sri Lanka).

Both Journey to the West and Don Quixote use poetry in what are basically prose, satirical novels. For example, in Don Quixote, a wise old man recites poetry from a play to support the argument that a woman should be locked-up at home to protect the flower (Part 1, Chap. XXXIII, p. 304). However, even Sanza sometimes rhymes his aphorisms.

In a paper called "Don Quixote as World Emperor", Frederick A. de Armas suggests that Cervantes used the technique of anamorphosis which allows an image to have a series of meanings which develop. This technique may actually have arisen at the court of Charles V. The painting called Charles V at Mühlberg by Titian "leaves room for different perspectives" when Charles carries a lance as opposed to a spear. It is said that Leonardo da Vinci was the first modern painter to use anamorphosis.

The anamorphic technique in the novel Don Quixote is used for satirical purposes. With respect to The Selden Map this poet concludes that anamorphosis is used for philosophic, poetic, sacred and commercial themes. The poetic images presented in Quixote's visit to the Cave of Montesinos resemble those of Hell while Panza's fall into a large hole mimic Purgatory. On The Selden Map, the poet's image of a knight errant riding a mouse expresses the satirical (蜕变) translated as Transmutation.

The relationship between poetry and painting may be derived from the views of Simonides of Cos in antiquity according to Yates. Simonides said that "the poet and the painter both think in visual images which the one expresses in poetry and the other in pictures.” (de Armas, p.78). In The Selden Map, the poet D. Carlton Rossi has viewed poetic images where others have just seen background filler like fauna. Is it any wonder why a minor poet like Rossi developed his technique from Free-Form poetry to actual poetic images; whereas, Picasso went in the opposite direction from painting to poetry?

If The Selden Map were not used at sea as some suggest due to its highly developed artistic aesthetic then why would it be necessary for the map to be drawn in a one hundred percent realistically accurate fashion based on the standards of the day? To be specific, if a particular landform looked like a dragon to both map's designer and sailors then would it not be natural to accentuate the dragon features? If it were common knowledge that China resembled a rooster then would an artist ignore that impression either consciously or unconsciously? If a yellow compass rose were added to the map in a western fashion then wouldn't it be logical for a reader to assume that it resembled the Sun with multiple spokes of sunlight since the real Sun rises on the map and because the compass rose sun is right above what the poet recognizes to be an outline of the Yellow Emperor with flaps on headdress? This same image of the Emperor conveys the message that he controls the wind with his breath--something that is of paramount importance to sailors.

Let us assume that the map was commissioned by a wealthy, merchant trader. It may be that he requested the map to depict accurate, maritime trade routes. On the other hand, he might have found them difficult to remember or recognize unless they were drawn in a familiar pattern such as an errant knighte riding on a mouse or on a dragon horse. Indeed, this was the reason that sailors navigated by stars grouped in constellation patterns such as the dragon. Perhaps the map was intended as a gift, so, a familiar pattern would be highlighted to please the recipient. It is conceivable that the commissioner of the map did not want certain, secret trade routes to be disclosed since there was a trade war undertaken at the time. It is not suggested though that the trade routes are imaginary or invented or that the general pattern is not accurate, but rather that small changes might have been made in terms of what was included or excluded from the map.


                                South China Seas Claim Map

It is obvious to all concerned that The Selden Map has come to the attention of scholars because of China's claim of sovereignty in regions of important trade routes. Trade routes were important at the time of the Ming Dynasty and King James' England. The debate was raging over open and closed seas around the coasts of England where pirates were roaming and in the South China Seas where the Dutch were aggressively pursuing trade. John Selden was right in the middle of the debate of whether the seas were open or closed. He wrote a book on the closed sea at the request (demand) of the monarch, but it is uncertain how much those expressed views reflected his own.


                                       Painting by Picasso

However, one should not be biased to the point where one solely concentrates on trade and ignores potentially important cultural and civilizing aspects which may be relevant to the understanding of the map. Why wouldn't the Spanish or English traders as knightes errant want to slay the Dutch dragon or why wouldn't the Chinese want to scare it away with loud noises? Why wouldn't issues of the power of Parliament at the time of James I be relevant or Xuanzang's trip to India without the permission of the Tang Emperor as later reflected in Journey to the West. Today, one may argue whether or not free-trade influenced by wealthy corporations, conglomerates and executives who have little accountability except to themselves should be at the expense of human rights, minimum wages, the environment or the right to earn a living without being sacrificed to the bottom line or automation.


By Kmusser - Own work using Digital Chart of the World and GTOPO data., CC BY-SA 3.0

Without further ado the location of the Peng is revealed. To be specific it was 特林 Tèlín near present-day Tyr, Russia. Tyr is currently a settlement in Ulchsky District of Khabarovsk Krai, Russia, located on the right bank of the Amur River, near the mouth of the Amgun River, about 100 kilometers (60 mi) upstream from Nikolayevsk-on-Amur" which is on the left bank of the Amur River. (Wikipedia). At 特林 Tèlín a Nurgan Regional Military Commission was established in 1409 on the order of the Ming Emperor Yangli. A Buddhist temple was built in 1413.

It may seem strange that both the Kun and Peng images which are Chinese oriented are in Russia; namely, Kun at Lake Baikal in the west and Peng within the Khabarovsk Krai region of Russia. Incidentally, the Russian Anton Chekhov visited both locations in the last decade of the 19th century. It may be no coincidence though that both locations are on a similar degree of latitude. The coordinates for the northern end of Lake Baikal (Kun) are Latitude: N 55° 46' 35.6629". For the southern end of Lake Baikal (Kun) they are Latitude: N 51° 30' 31.4729" . These latitudinal coordinates correspond roughly with the northern and southern end of the Peng on the Selden Map.

The Selden Map is provided courtesy of the Bodleian Library, Oxford

The above chart was extracted from The Seldon Map and then highlighted to depict the northern boundary zone of the Ming Empire. The reader will notice that the western and eastern end of the land mass are marked by two drawings which are symbolically sign posts; namely, Kun and Peng respectively. Professor Batchelor has identified the river as the Amur. Ironically, both the Kun and Peng are today on Russian territory. However, Chinese troops had reached Kun (Lake Baikal) during the Han-Xiongnu War. They reached Peng (特林 Tèlín) which was located on the right bank of the Amur about 100 kilometers upstream from Nikolayevsk-on-Amur and where it meets the Amgun River through nine military expeditions begining in 1411 during the Ming Dynasty. The expeditions also included the island of Sakhalin, Russia known in the Ming Dyasty as Kuyi (苦夷 Kùyí) or Kuwu (Chinese: 苦兀; pinyin: Kùwù), and later as Kuye (Chinese: 庫頁; pinyin: Kùyè), as it is known today. However, 苦夷 Kùyí or Sakhalin is not on the Selden Map.

A brief description will ensue. The upper red line goes from the top of Kun (which includes bat symbols) to the top of the compass rose to nearly the top of the set of rectangles to above Peng. In other words, the bat symbols and Peng are winged which suggests soaring ambitions. The bat symbolizes good luck while the Peng might be considered lucky as it would carry off enemies, but, at any rate, is associated with ascending and descending to one degree or another as well as transformation. Both Kun and Peng also have Yekiang (kuan or whales) which are associated with ascending and descending to one degree or another and are also linked respectively with the North and East Seas.

The middle, yellow line which is the most important goes from the middle of Kun to the center of the compass rose. With respect to the compass center it is also evident that if one draws a north-south line through it then one finds The Seldon Map is divided into two equal parts. The yellow line then continues to the middle of the set of rectangles and to the middle of Peng. It appears on the Selden Map that this location is below the Amur. However, if one looks at a modern map then it is manifest that the Amur snakes considerably in a water dragon-like fashion to the south-east and then slithers a great distance to the north-east where it empties into the sea.


                                           Lake Baikal

It is standard practice today to measure the latitude of a lake in the middle. This takes on more significance because Lake Baikal which is shaped like a new moon is 636 kilometers long. Remember that the phases of the moon were observed by the poet within the Kun image. The latitude of Lake Baikal is 53°30′N. In the middle of the Peng to the east is 特林 Tèlín at 52° 55' 43" North. This seems to be a close enough match. However. if one wanted a closer match to the latitude of Lake Baikal then it would have to be Ush Island.


                                             Ostrov Ush

The island of Ush is found off the northern coast of Sakhalin. It is located between a shallow bay and the Sea of Okhotsh at the mouth of the Sakhalin Gulf. The fourteen kilometer island does not run north-south as does Lake Baikal, but rather west-east, so directions are opposite. In another way, they are opposites, too, because the North Sea (Lake Baikal) is fresh water while Ush Island is land within a salt sea (East Sea). Ush Island is found at coordinates 53°33′N 142°22′E. The Selden Map indicates Peng (bird) to be located at the juncture of the Amur and Amgun Rivers.  

The lower red line begins in the west between the middle of Kun and the Moon and then on to the bottom of the compass rose then proceeds to the bottom of the set of rectangles. It next extends between the rectangles and ruler. Finally, it goes to the bottom of the Peng.

Within the Baikal Band one becomes aware that Kun and Peng are not the same size. The Peng is shorter than Fuxi. This might lead to the erroneous conclusion that Kun is male and Peng is female. However, Kun is both male and female while Peng seems to be male since it is referred to by Zuangzi in a translated version as "he"; although, this does not exclude that it might also be "she". The question remains open though why the symbols are not of equal height.


                Shen Zhou: A Crying Cicada on an Autumn Willow

There is a curious association between the 53rd parallel and the length of the summer solstice. At this latitude the sun is visible for 16 hours and 56 minutes. This is nearly 17 hours. Seventeen years is the hibernation period of the cicada 蜩. It is claimed that Xuanzang in the Tang Dynasty took 17 years in total for his journey to India and the return. Also, in the opening paragraphs of Zhuangzi's treatise it is the small cicada which laughs at the large Peng. This image has had conflicting interpretations for the last 17 centuries. In nature, the cicada remains in statis for 17 years before it is rejuvenated and resurrected so to speak.

The poet will add to the controversy by saying that the Peng stands for the summer solstice. In the winter it is a white bird during as found within Kun in the west at the location of Lake Baikal on The Selden Map. It may migrate to the south in the cold weather. Then, in the summer it returns to the east on the same 53 degree latitude as the blue Peng.

The cicada also represents the summer soltice. This is because it stays in the cold ground as an insect for 17 years and then emerges as a flying insect at the height of summer. Since it doesn't travel very far it remains within a short distance at the Peng location. Of course, other cicadas emerge every year for the entire seventeen year period. The issue though is rather complicated because as Zhuangzi observed the mantis eats the cicada and the bird eats the mantis.

There may come a time when one is developing an original hypothesis where the facts or reality intrude. The poet has reached just such a point. He has introduced a modern map to help readers understand the ancient Selden Map. However, it seems to present more problems to the poet himself than provide answers. If the poet is confused then it certainly won't provide clarity to his readers. He cannot consult other scholars who are concerned with different matters which are important to them. Therefore, he must listen to his own internal critic.

The basic problem is that a modern map relies on the most up-to-date information using sophisticated GPS technology. On the other hand, an ancient map such as The Selden Map was drawn at some point up to 1654 ie. after the fall of the Ming Dynasty.  Its depiction of land components relies on accounts of traders, itinerant Buddhist monks, government officials, available maps, historical accounts and one might even say hearsay if that is not heresy. The key is neither to overrate the relevance of a modern map nor to underrate its referencet in order to understand an ancient map. However, the ancient map must always take precedence.

Let's provide an example. The poet has designed and designated a banded section of the Selden Map which is called the Baikal-Amur Band. It runs from Lake Baikal in the west, to the Amur River in present day Heilongjiang Province and finally to the north-east section of the Amur as it empties through its delta region into the Tatar Strait. In addition, the Selenge River System which discharges partially into Lake Baikal and then becomes the Uda River tributary running to the Chumikan Delta is prominently displayed.  However, the problem is that it seems the cartographer has neglected, minimized or has been ignorant of the southern loop of the Amur. In other words, the Amur seems to discharge in an easterly direction directly into the Tatar Strait without considering the loop.

If one uses a modern map one can clearly see the Amur Loop . In the past, it mightn't have seemed too important because there were relatively few people in the region. However, the poet wants to stress the importance of ancient 特林 (Tèlín) near modern Tyr where the Amur comes out of its loop and meets the Amgun River. It is not necessary to establish a fearful symmetry in the modern sense between an Ordos Loop of the Yellow River in a northerly direction and on the other hand an Amur Loop in a southerly direction. It is required though that one identify the location of the Peng marker on The Selden Map. The important point is that the Peng is located at a point that's a relatively short distance upstream from the Amur Delta and to which riverine expeditions were sent. Its relation to the center of the compass rose and Kun's relation to the center is the critical factor as this establishes the yellow line of the Baikal-Amur Band.

As said previously, it is a custom today to measure longitude and latitude in relation to the center of a lake or for that matter any other landform. This may not have been the custom in the past. It should also be recognized that degrees of longitude and latitude may differ from the past to the present. It is enough though to use the imaginary horizontal line running through the compass rose to go to the middle of the Kun and Peng symbols. In the same way, an imaginary, vertical line can be construed running through the middle of The Selden Map dividing it into two equal parts. It can also be imagined that vertical lines of longitude can run through both the Kun and Peng symbols at the ends of the Baikal Amur Band.

In conclusion, the poet will display a modern map without superimposing a Baikal-Amur Band upon it. The map will be included as a general reference to the public; however, specific inferences should not be derived from this source. It is true that the island of Sakhalin does not appear on the Seldon Map; however, it has been substantiated that both the Yuan and Ming Dynasties have sent military expeditions to the island and to the north-east Amur Region so it is pertinent to use Sakhalin as a general reference, but under no circumstances should the Band be extended to Sakhalin Island. In addition, the band should not be applied to other boundaries of the map.

Finally, with regard to the poet's perception of animals, human images and semi-divine figures on the Selden Map it can be said that his interpretation may be incorrect or subject to alteration. However, the poet does not cite singular instances but rather establishes that a series or pattern of three or more has been perceived and reproduced along with explanations which draw on other sources for examination which include the historical. He prefers to recognize complete sets such as twelve from the Chinese zodiac, five ancient directions, five characters from Journey to the West, four Selden family members and at this point three representative ages of John Selden himself.

D.卡尔顿 罗西
D. Carlton Rossi





One might recapitulate at this point. Historians concentrated on the uniqueness of the compass and ruler at the top of the Selden Map. It was noted that it was unusual to have these western instruments painted on a Chinese map. The set of rectangles posed a mystery to them. There was little reason to draw a straight line going west and east through the center of the compass. The poet also initially took this view. However, he realized that if such a straight line were drawn then it could represent a latitudinal coordinate. More importantly, the east location was actually touching the set of rectangles. To make a long story short, he identified the physical locations of Lake Baikal and Tèlín, associated them with Kun and Peng and then investigated successfully if special longitudinal coordinates were also manifest and the rest as they say is history.

The author wishes at this point to transition gradually along the 53rd degree of latitude from the north-east section of the Selden Map where Peng is located to the north-west section where Kun is located. One might consider it as a kind of journey to the west. Firstly, Peng and Kun will be looked at briefly with respect to their role as markers. Then, their longitudinal aspects will be examined. Next, the history of the north-east Amur Region will be outlined mainly in terms of military expeditions, but also touching on trade and religious aspects. Pilgrim's progress will be made along the latitudinal line through the center of the compass rose from which zodiacal lines radiate. Finally, the destination of Kun will be achieved where it will be defined and from which Chinese zodiacal symbols are revealed.

The Peng and Kun will now be examined as markers. However, historians have been unaware of these markers up to this point. The reasons are many. The most important is that The Selden Map has been buried for centuries so to speak in a vault. It was only unearthed when it was realized that it had relevance to the South China Sea dispute and whether or not the sea was open or closed. It was also realized that the scholar and jurist whose name was John Selden (who happened to be the leading intellectual at the time) had owned the map and bequeathed it to the Bodleian Library at Oxford. By remarkable "coincidence" he was an expert on the issue of open and closed seas around England.

These circumstances meant that when scholars examined the map they were mainly interested in maritime trade routes going north-south. They were also interested in the map because China has made a claim to the sea, built islands within it and are enforcing their claim not according to international law as would have been the choice of Selden but by the force of their navy. Lastly, they concentrated on the map because the South China Sea has become one of the most busy and congested sea lanes in the world and has earned the sobriquet "Bermuda Triangle".

Historians were aware of land routes along the Silk Roads to India which were used for trade at least from the time of the Tang Dynasty and used by Buddhists to access original, scrolled scripts. However, the importance of the land aspects to the map and its west-east routes seem to have been downplayed as they concentrated on maritime trade routes. They did not look in depth at how to integrate historical aspects of maritime and land routes.

If an holistic approach is not taken then it will be difficult to understand the current One Belt One Road initiative of the People's Republic of China which involves land and sea trade routes. It also means that China must fully realize that the success of its historical, land and maritime trade strategy was tempered by spiritual aspects. It was more of an open, free and enlightened system. The Tang Emperor may have forbade travel outside of the Empire because the dynasty was mired in territorial war, but the Buddhist monk ignored this injunction on his quest for spiritual enlightenment and was rewarded by the Emperor on his return primarily because trade was opened.

It is not absolutely necessary to have complete understanding of the cultural aspects of Peng and Kun as they pertain to Buddhist, Confucian and Daoist principles, the Chinese zodiac, the fictional novel called Journey to the West, history or poetry. The poet himself is disinclined to translate the Selden Poems expressed as images derived from the map. However, some understanding of all of these things did help to facilitate the discovery of Kun and Peng as markers and will help to elucidate their full significance. The Kun and Peng markers define the sea and land territory of China at the time of the Selden Map. The land marker called Peng at the confluence of the Amur and Amgun Rivers was upstream from what was referred to as the East Sea. The sea marker called Kun can be correlated with Lake Baikal which was known as the North Sea. It is argued therefore that these locations must be considered in terms of both maritime and land boundaries.

To support the contention that Lake Baikal (Kun) and 特林 Tèlín (Peng) were territorial markers on the Selden Map is not a difficult task. At both physical locations, in the west and east, monuments were erected in the Han and Ming Dynasties respectively. Of course, monuments are not necessarily markers, but one can safely assume that when they are erected immediately after major wars at or near the sites that they primarily serve as territorial markers.

                                         Yuan Dynasty

With respect to the east, the Yuan Dynasty under the Monguls (according to the History of Yuan) set up a "Command Post of the Marshal of the Eastern Campaign" near the modern settlement of Tyr in 1263. It was the Nivkhs of the "wild Jurchen" (Nivkhs, Oroch, Evenki) who recognized Mongol sovereignty. It was around this time that a shrine was built on the modern day Tyr Rock.

                                         Ming Dynasty


The poet believes this monument with stelae resembles a depiction of the five elements as described by Chan Zen Buddhism. In that case, the void is represented at the top.


                 The smaller monument with Chinese script only

The Nurgan Regional Military Commission whose mandate covered the lower Amur River region and Sakhalin was set up in 1409 during the Ming Dynasty. Shortly thereafter General Ishiha (亦失哈) on behalf of the Ming as a Haixi Jurchen led four major invasions (and probably smaller ones) between 1411 and 1433. Just as the military talent of the Xiongnu had been used in the Han army to fight the enemy, so, too, were the talents of a Haixi Jurchen used to subjugate the wild Jurchen.


                                       Map of Ming Empire


Ishiha stayed for nearly a year at Tèlín (特林) where in 1413 he commissioned the Buddhist Yongning Temple (Temple of Eternal Tranquility). He erected a stele (marker) at the site which was written in four languages; namely, Han, Mongolian, Jurchen and Tibetan. In Hanzi it read 唵嘛呢叭吽 which was the Buddhist chant of "Om mani padme hum". However, the shamans were not so tranquil. They burned the temple down. It was rebuilt nearby some twenty years later at Ishiha's orders. A single Chinese script of the chant was written. However, by 1435 the Ming military presence was abandoned and the commisson disbanded. Therefore, it seems the stelae did not represent a decisive victory, but figuratively the concept of peace.


The marker at Lake Baikal (贝加尔湖) also known as (Han-hai) which means 'huge lake' has already been mentioned, but it will be useful to remind the reader. The Han-Xiongnu War was a protracted conflict that lasted over 200 years. At the end of this period, the Xiongnu Federation was asked to pay tribute. When they refused the Han army completely annihilated them.


                                      Inscription of Yanran

General Dou Xian (窦宪) then led a celebratory march to present day Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia which was the center of the northern Xiongnu territory. He erected a stele in 89 CE at Mt. Yanran which is just below Lake Baikal. The inscription was written by Ban Gu who was a staff member and former Marshall of the Black Warrior Gate. That inscription is well known to Chinese as "to carve a stone on Yanran" (勒石燕然) which means to achieve a decisive victory.


                                        Han defeats Hun

Unfortunately for General Dou as soon as he turned south on his triumphal march he was heading toward his eventual downfall. It should be noted that in the year 78 CE his sister had become Empress Zhangde who was the wife of Emperor Zhang of Han. This meant that Dou's position was quite secure. However, the Empress' position changed to Empress Dowager and Regent of the ten year old Emperor He of Han. Dou was suspected of stirring revolt. As a result, he was forced to commit suicide in 92 CE. In the same year, Ban Gu lost his official position, was arrested and died in prison.

"When a fire is at its hottest point it begins to die down; when thunder drones its loudest it begins to die out. If we examine thunder and fire they will appear to be full and strong. However, the sky gathers the sound of thunder and the earth absorbs the heat of fire. Similarly, a family at the apex of fame will be spied out by the spirits." Yang Xiong (揚雄)in his "Justification against ridicule" (解謿)

The victory though was at Lake Baikal. It was at that degree of latitude and longitude where the real markers in a Taoist sense are found which designated the end of a two hundred year war. They were markers that were not lost and found two thousand years later, but rather ones which had always been there.


                                  Location of Ogoy Island


                                Dragon Rock near Ogoy Island

First, there was the jagged formation uplifted by nature some millions of years ago in the shape of a water dragon champing on a Baikal seal. It is found near Ogoy Island in the Maloe More Straight between the Cape Shara-Shulun on the west coast of the Olkhon Island and Kurminskiy Bay on the western shore of Lake Baikal. The coordinates are 53°7′43″N 106°59′56″E.


                                          Shaman Rock

However, the more well-known marker and more easily accesible to the Han army was Shaman Rock at Cape Burkhan, Olkhan Island near the present village of Khuzhir. The latitude for Khuzhir, Irkutsk Oblast, Russia is: 53.190595 and the longitude is: 107.330684. While the Shamans keep out visitors they tell of an old legend in which a dragon swooping down from the sky and swooshing his tail creates Lake Baikal. Later in history the site was remarked to have been the burial place of Ghengis Khan.


                                             Ice Dragon

Of course, intrepid visitors who are not interested in history can see wondrous markers on Lake Baikal in the winter with temperatures -30 degrees. Gases well up from the deepest lake in the world and put pressure on the ice to form unusual shapes and colors. In the above picture the reader can imagine a jagged ice dragon surfacing.


                             Baikal Mountains and Lake Baikal

One would be remiss if not negligent to omit Lake Baikal itself as a marker of the furthest extent of Chinese territory represented on The Selden Map. The lake is so large that it was called the North Sea in Chinese. It is the largest and deepest fresh, water lake in the world. Lake Baikal has more fresh water than all the Great Lakes combined. There is the potential for it, too, to become an ocean at some point as the rift valley below it continues to open or diverges at about 3-4 mm per year.


                          Lake Baikal and associated rift basins

The Baikal Rift Zone runs northeast to southwest as another marker. It extends 1200 miles. The rift forms between the Eurasian Plate to the west and Amur Plate to the east.


                                             Amur Plate


                                             Okhotsk Plate

The large map above shows the Amurian or Amur Plate. Its French name is "Amour" while "Eurasian" is expressed as "Eurasia". The Amur Plate covers Manchuria, the Korean Peninsula, western Japan and part of southeast Russia below Lake Baikal. The smaller map provides a close up of the Okhotsk Plate as it interacts with the Amur and Eurasian Plates.

One might correctly argue that it is anachronistic to talk of plate tectonics as they apply to the design of The Selden Map in the seventeenth century. Plate tectonics were envisioned in the 1950's and the Amur Plate itself was recognized as a distinct entity only in 1982-83. One can imagine though that people could still hear rumblings and experience vibrations.

However, the poet contends that as an hypothetical example the boundary lines of plate tectonics can be used to help illustrate the relative position and location of the Kun and Fuxi markers. The Peng marker is found on the east coast of Asia approximately just below where the Eurasian plate meets the Amur plate in transformation. The Amur Plate then loops northwest and droops down to the north end of Lake Baikal. At this point, it diverges with the Eurasian Plate creating the Baikal Rift Zone with the greatest stress at the southern end of Lake Baikal.


                                          Qinghai Lake

Qinghai Lake 青海湖 is the largest lake in China. It is saline and slowly shrinking in size as many of its sources have disappeared. At the time of the Han Dynasty (206 BCE–220 CE) though it was called the West Sea 西海. During the 1620's the Gushri Khan and other Mongols migrated to an island in the west of the lake. The lake's co-ordinates are lat. 36.7599 and long. 100.3497. On The Selden Map, Qinghai Lake is found directly below Lake Baikal. Therefore, Qinghai Lake as the West Sea is a map marker.



                         Sun-Moon Mountain  Qinghai Province

Another important feature nearby is Sun-Moon Mountain (日月山) which is east of Qinghai Lake. The mountain separates the grassland on the west and the highland on the east. On the sixteen thousand foot mountain was located a border defense fortress between the Tang Dynasty and middle Asian countries.



The above illustration shows the connection between the Sun and Moon on The Selden Map. The line runs from the Sun on the right side to the upper right hand corner of the Northwest Rectangle through the middle of the set of smaller rectangles to the bottom of the compass and then onward to the Moon. What makes the connecting line all the more remarkable is that it parallels the line of the ruler. The full significance of the connecting line is not yet evident.


                                 Northwest Rectangle (NWR)

The reader may be aware that the lakes and seas described so far are territorial boundaries of the Han Dynasty. Lake Baikal 贝加尔湖 and Qinghai Lake 青海湖 were regarded as the North and West Sea respectively. The west boundary ran between them. In the north, the boundary ran from Lake Baikal to Tèlín 特林. The east boundary ran from Tèlín through the East Sea (Sea of Japan) to the north end of Formosa (Taiwan 中華民國) where the East China Sea meets the South China Sea 南中国海. The south boundary ran from Qinghai Lake to Quanzhou, Fujian Province which is found on the southeast coast of China. The line then went through the South Sea 南海 or (as it was called Zhang Hai 漲海 during the Han Dynasty) to Taiwan. For ease of reference the poet refers to this horizontal rectangle as the Northwest Rectangle. The Northwest Rectangle might be interpreted to be the smaller empty rectangle within the larger one at the top of The Selden Map.

                   Maritime sailing ships off the Quanzhou coast

Quanzhou 泉州市 is the southern marker of The Selden Map. The city is found at the following co-ordinates: 24°55′N 118°35′E. Quanzhou or (Zaiton as it was known during the Song Dynasty) received an international trade bureau at the end of the eleventh century. This propelled its growth to the extent that it quickly surpassed in terms of volume the overland trade routes. During the Yuan Dynasty the Mongols used Zaitan as a naval base against Japan. Its prosperity though declined due to various factors in the 13th century.

It seems the basic Han boundary lines were followed in the Ming dynasty as evidenced on The Selden Map. For example, the Yuan and Ming did try to establish a presence on Sakhalin Island which was just outside the eastern boundary. However, they failed to maintain it. This may explain why Sakhalin does not appear on The Seldon Map. There was no victory celebrated.

It is not surprising that rejuvenated Han lines might be used in the Ming period because they represented defensive demarcations against the northern tribes which remained a persistent problem. Also, just before the time of The Selden Map, there was a romantic and popular revival of the myth of the western journey and pilgrimmage through the publication of novels such as Journey to the West.


                                           Cross references

Perspective is also a matter off importance. These boundary lines follow long, latitudinal and longitudinal meridians. For example, the Tèlín-Quanzhou line might be seen as representational of the eastern boundary line. On the other hand, Tèlín (特林) itself might specifically refer to the East, Qinghai Lake as West, Quanzhou as South and Lake Baikal as North. There is a kind of balance in the directions with a lake called a sea (N) and an actual sea (S) as well as a lake called a sea (W) and an actual sea (E).

It is clear that if Lake Baikal is to represent North on The Selden Map then a problem is evident. The reason is that it is not either at geographical north nor magnetic north. It really represents the Northwest. In one way, this is symbolic. The most important direction concerning trade was Northwest because that was the beginning of overland trade on the Silk Roads during the Eastern Han Dynasty.

Keep in mind though that Lake Baikal is a very special location in terms of magnetic north. This is because below Lake Baikal is a rift valley. For example, if one uses an unweighted compass off the coast of Japan it does not point North but rather to Lake Baikal. It may very well be that if an unweighted compass were used at Dunhuang which is located at the beginning of the old Silk Roads then it may have "inclined downward" to the rift valley sandwiched between the core and Lake Baikal rather than to magnetic north.


                                        Luoyang Bridge

If one wishes to be absolutely logically consistent then one must choose a marker within Quanzhou. There is no argument as to what that marker would be. It is Luoyang Bridge. This stone bay bridge runs north-south for 731.29 meters. Bridge construction began in 1053 during the reign of Qingli in the Northern Song Dynasty. It is known as one of the four ancient bridges of China.



A critic will point out though that that the southeast corner of the NWR can actually be found in the middle of Taiwan. The marker might be Mt. Yushan (玉山) which is literally Jade Mountain. (Incidentally, there is a rare white jade found near Lake Baikal) When covered with snow it appears as pure jade. The mountain rises 3952 meters and the ocean depth off the east coast falls 4000 meters as the Eurasian Plate slids over the neighboring Philippine Sea Plate. The meridian co-ordinates for Yushan are 23° 28′ 12″ N, 120° 57′ 26.16″ E.

However, given a choice between Quanzhou and Mt.Yushan it is hands-down for Quanzhou. There are several historical reasons. First, Quanzhou was the start of the Maritime Silk Road and it can be argued that it was either the largest or second largest international port.

Second, the Mongol Empire had unified nomadic tribes of the steppes (descendants of those who had fought the Han during the Han-Xiongnu War for 200 years). Scholars hold the view that the Xiongnu were either proto-Mongols or more likely a multi-ethnic group of Mongolic and Turkic tribes. (wiki/Mongols). The nomadic Mongols conquered three Chinese empires; namely, western Xia, Jin and Song. With the collapse of the Song Dynasty, Muslims traders moved to Quanzhou in 1278 and helped establish a vibrant center of international trade.

Third, the Chinese boundaries and markers were to define territory which were generally speaking to be protected against the Xiongnu confederation in Han times, their descendants in times following and Mongolian peoples from the steppes in latter times. For example, Mongolic Xianbei migrated to the area around Lake Qinghai in the third century CE. They established the Tuyuhun Kingdom. Later, it was attacked by the Tang in order to gain control of trade routes. The Song defeated the Tibetan Kokonor Kingdom in the 1070s. It then came under the administrative rule of the Yuan. For a short time, it also came under Ming control.

Finally, one must consider the Northwest Rectangle which may be discerned within the larger rectangle of The Selden Map with respect to brotherhood. To paraphrase Confucius "All within the Four Seas are one's brother." In other words, ren never stops at the doorway of the home.

D.卡尔顿 罗西
D. Carlton Rossi





Fresco of ploughing at Dunhuang Grottoes, Northern Zhou Dynasty (557-581 CE)

The story of Prince Kalyanamitra who was sad to see the plight of his people. In this scene he witnesses ploughing.

First Day Cover of May 21,1988 from collection of D. Carlton Rossi


Tyr, Russia: (特林) Tèlín: Coordinates: 52°56′N 139°46′E

Olkhon Island, Lake Baikal (贝加尔湖) Bèi jiā : Russia: 53° 9′ 24″ N, 107° 23′ 1″ E

Qinghai Lake (青海湖): 37° 0′ 0″ N, 100° 8′ 0″ E

Quanzhou, China (泉州 ) 24° 55′ 0″ N, 118° 35′ 0″ E

One will immediately notice when examining the above meridian co-ordinates that they do not all match up. It is true that there is a consistency across the 53rd line of latitude where the Lake Baikal (Kun) line runs across to Peng through the center of the compass. However. when one follows the longitudinal line from Lake Baikal at 107 degrees it is found that it deviates from the Qinghai Lake coordinates at 100 degrees by seven degrees. This deviation is even more marked when one goes south from Peng at 139 degrees east down to Quanzhou at 118 degrees east. Again, if one runs a latitudinal line from Lake Qinghai at 37 degrees north to the east that it does not match up with Quanzhou at 24 degrees north which is close to the Tropic of Cancer.

There are several minor reasons for the lack of consistency in coordinates. One is that an image on The Selden Map may not be drawn accurately by modern standards. This holds particular significance for Lake Qinghai. The size of the lake has actually shrunk from the time of the Ming Dynasty. On The Selden Map it resembles a gourd. It has one river in the west supplying it.

The second reason leading to an inconsistency of coordinates is that most modern maps use different scaling systems to project lines of latitude and longitude of a globe onto a flat surface. In the seventeenth century it was known that the Earth was round. However, it seems that the Chinese preferred to think of it as flat with respect to map-making.This coincided with their belief of a square earth and round heaven. As an aside, the poet wonders if there is a relationship in scale between the rectangular Selden Map, the mid-size Northwest Rectangle and the smaller set of empty rectangles at the top of The Selden Map.


                                Map by Matteo Ricci  1602

Thirdly, Chinese geographers did not have a precise system of measuring co-ordinates. In 1602, Emperor Wanli asked Mateo Ricci to plot the co-ordinates of five major cities. For our purposes it will be shown that Xian and Beijing are the most relevant in terms of longitude with respect to The Selden Map.

There is a simple explanation though as to why modern, positional co-ordinates differ to a small or large degree from those outlined in the Northwest Rectangle of The Selden Map. The poet did not utilize them in the establishment of the Northwest Rectangle. He relied solely on The Selden Map. In other words, the modern co-ordinates were not applied retroactively, but only consulted subsequently in order to be illustrative for his readers.

Initially, the poet drew his poems. He was able to draw up a set of cardinal directions that went back thousands of years--at least to the time of Huangdi. At the center could be either the emperor in terms of dynastic importance and relations to heaven or the void with respect to a competing religion or philosophy such as Daoism or Buddhism which appeared later.

The poet became aware that Chinese zodiacal animals were evident and comprised a full set of twelve. He then extended this concept to apply to characters from Journey to the West involving four animals and one monk. These again may reflect directions placing Buddhism at the center with its emphasis on the void.

More complex themes of slaying the dragon were introduced in his poetry. These involved archetypes. The western powers such as the Spaniards, and Dutch wanted to slay the dragon by monopolising trade routes and through thorough colonization by recruiting Chinese citizens to inhabit Taiwan and other islands in the South China Sea. The Portuguese found an opening in what is modern day Macao.

With the rediscovery of The Selden Map the emphasis has been placed on the Maritime Silk Road which comprised the East and South China Sea. The South China Sea came to the forefront though because of China's reef enhancement program in this area. As a result, the North and West Seas were neglected.

If the seas are considered as a group of four then one can conceptually integrate the old Silk Roads with the Maritime Silk Roads as undoubtedly happened on a practical and real basis. To a great extent this integration was accomplished through two diametrically opposed systems. Remember that the Emperor's edit forbade travel outside the empire, but at the start of the Tang dynasty the monk Xuangzang left Changan for his journey west. On his return, Xuanzang was welcomed by the same emperor because contacts led to increased trade and expansion of the empire. Buddhists built temples along the Silk Roads. Later, they built temples along the eastern fringe of China bordering the East and South China Seas. The city of Nanjing on the coast became an important Buddhist and trade center.

Ultimately, though, we are talking about directions. With its compass rose The Selden Map is perceived to reinforce the concept of the north-south Maritime Trade route. It is also called the Maritime Silk Road. North-South orientation was important during the latter part of the Ming Dynasty. This explains to some degree why The Selden Map is drawn rectangularly with a vertical orientation.

However, a regular compass has four cardinal directions. The West-East orientation should not be neglected because it was the foundation of the whole trade route system. Heaven and magnetic pole on The Selden Map may have been North, but trade, pilgrimmage and territorial expansion had been Northwest until the Maritime Silk Road supplemented, surpassed and surplanted it. Therefore, the horizontal Northwest Rectangle is a hidden compass on The Selden Map.

The upshot is that if any nation tries to establish supremacy in the South China Sea in terms of trade and territorial expansion then they cannot solely rely on force. It is not enough to express it as a "sacred mission" which really means a nationalistic one. Ultimate success relies on a spiritual element. It establishes trust. Merchants could trust accomodation at Buddhist temples. If it wasn't heaven it was at least a haven. Eventually, many merchants converted to Buddhism and so did the Emperor. A solid expansion of trade and prosperity over a period of centuries was the result.

One can win over the mind and body with propaganda and force respectively, but one cannot elevate the soul or civilization to a higher plane unless one draws on feeling and faith of individuals whether singly or collectively. It is not enough to fill the void simply for the reason that it is not being used. It serves a higher purpose other than utility.

The reader may recall that mention was made of the fifteen degree angle that is projected from the center of the compass rose to the ruler. It pointed to two measurements on either side of what was identified as an infinity symbol. Normally, one would stop at the ruler, but what if those lines were extended?



Courtesy of the Bodleian Library

Before this topic is discussed though the poet will draw a line from the center of the compass rose to the infinity symbol. This line (2) on the map will then be extended. It is curious that the line just bypasses Beijing which is circled in red. Now, the Emperor resides in Beijing. The implication might be that the Emperor approaches infinity, but is tantalizing apart from it. The second line in the middle (1) goes directly to true South and touches the right side of Beijing on the small scale of this illustration. The third line on the left (4) touches the left side of Beijing if the lines are drawn correctly.

The Ming emperor's presence is tangible as seen from the outline in yellow. Beijing is found in the emperor's hat which flies with two wings. He controls the wind through breath or qi coming out of his mouth to the province of Shaanxi. The area below the image may be construed as the Yellow Emperor's robe which is shaped like a bell. His role is to strike the right tone or kung. For all intents and purposes the emperor is China.




Courtesy of the Bodleian Library

Attention will now be focused on the right side (3) of the fifteen degree angle which goes through the ruler. With respect to the ruler the reader will notice that it meets the eastern boundary of the four seas, Northwest Rectangle. That eastern boundary runs South to Taiwan where the East China Sea meets the South China Sea. It may be significant that when the right side (3) of the angle is fully extended it meets a right angle at Taiwan. Before it does so, though, it must pass through Quanzhou. On the other hand Line 2 goes through the infinity symbol down to Guangzhou which is just outside of the rectangle. Line 4 appears not to meet anything significant in the rectangle. However if extended a great distance it passes Hue and much further on the city of Palembang as illustrated on Batchelor's Selden Map rediscovered.

The poet believes that there may be more to the highlighting of Taiwan than meets the eye other than Jade Mountain or a point where the seas meet. There appears to be an image of an Arab with traditional headscarf. In all probability others have noticed the image because it is prominent on the Bodleian site; although, it is not identified nor commented upon. It may have significance though in light of spectroscopic analysis of the watercolour painting which suggests that "Overall the binding medium and pigment use appear to be more consistent with a Persian or Indo-Persian tradition than that of Chinese, Japanese or European in this period." (The Origins of the Selden Map of China)


                                     Taiwan as an Arab  

The poet is not suggesting the cartographer/painter or trader comes from Taiwan. Rather, the poet employs subtlety in his argument. He pays attention to the direction the Arab is facing. His contemplative gaze is directed to Quanzhou (ultimately Mecca). He presumably lives in Quanzhou where he worships, works, trades and has contacts.

D.卡尔顿 罗西
D. Carlton Rossi



                                                     The Riddle of Xian                                                               


Erecting the Buddhist Pagoda in Dunhuang Grottoes, Northern Zhou dynasty (557-581 CE). The sutra instructs the people to practice good deeds as they sow as many seeds as possible in the field of good fortune.

First Day Cover dated March 25, 1988

From the collection of D. Carlton Rossi


Xian (长安) was the capital of four major dynasties and many other minor dynasties over the centuries. Under the name of Changan it served as the start of the overland journey to the Silk Roads. One might ask simply though "Where is Xian?" To answer this question one may look at four, different, time lines: around (4500-3750 BCE), Han Dynasty (206 BCE -220 CE), Ming Dynasty (1368 BCE-1644 CE) and today. Since the location of Xian doesn't change one also has to extend the question in the following manner. "Where is Xian relative to what? The answer is the Yellow River.


                                             Banpo Pottery

The poet has dwelt on the topic of Yangshao culture at Banpo Village (near modern day Xian) which was the root of Chinese civilization. He has drawn poems in his Banpo Poetry series based on zoomorphic and geometric designs of Banpo pottery. As well, he has equated the "read "downword" the mountain (shan) with the "journey downward" the Yellow River from its source, to Banpo Village, to Yangshao Village in modern Anyang (安阳), to Fu Shan, to Dawu Village and onward to the delta of the Yellow River.  It mirrors the journey down into the subconcious and the return to light-logic of the conscious with regard to psychology expressed by Jung, dialectic by Hegel and fluid dynamics of both physics and geology. This was done in the Poetic Analytics.

Yangshao culture flourished because of its proximity to the Yellow River. Tributaries of the river met at that location. As a result, sophisticated pottery evolved based in part by inspiration provided by the frog and fish, the idea that life had an ordered pattern and a sacred respect for the Big Dipper.


                               Ordos Loop of the Yellow River

During the Han Dynasty a major war began with the Xiaongnu and its allies. That war ended after two hundred years with a battle of the Xiongnu and Han near Lake Baikal. Changan was now oriented to the Ordos Loop of the Yellow River. The Great Wall is found at the southern boundary of the Ordos Desert. Much further north one finds the site of the victory and marker of territorial extension at Lake Baikal. This lake was referred to as Beihai for the first time in 110 BCE. (The Face of Baikal--Names, S.A. Gurulev)

More importantly, Changan was now oriented north or more specifically northwest because of the nascent trade routes opening in that area. The security of those routes were enhanced with victories of General Ban Chao 班超 (brother of Ban Gu) further west in the Tarim Basin. He was made Protector General of the Western Regions.


                                Hua Shan    Shaanxi Province

During the Western Han Dynasty of Emperor Gaozu the city of Changan was also beginning to be oriented to the West with respect to one mountain called Hua Shan (华山) or Splendid Mountain. Hua Shan is in Shaanxi Province some 124 kilometers from Changan and at the southeast corner of the Ordos Loop.


           Four of five Sacred Mountains are close to Yellow River

Hua Shan was one of Five Sacred Mountains representing cardinal directions; namely, north, west, south, east and center. For our purposes four of those mountains are important in terms of their proximity to the Yellow River. Hua Shan (华山) was the West. Heng Sheng (恒山) which is found in Shanxi Province represented the North. Song Shan (嵩山) which is located on the south side of the Yellow River in Henan Province represented the Center. Tai Shan (泰山) is found in Shandong Province and its peak called Jade Emperor is the most sacred of the five mountains. It represented the East. The only exception to a cardinal direction located near the Yellow River is Heng Shan (恒山) in Hunan Province whose capital is located on the Xiang River or tributary of the Yangzte River.


                                  Northwest Rectangle (NWT)

Courtesy of the Bodleian Library

D. Carlton Rossi
copyright 2018

The northeast line of the NWR runs from the source of the Yellow River through roughly the mountain range of five peaks associated with Hua Shan to close proximity to Xian (Changan) to a locale close to the Ming capital of Beijing and then onward to the East Sea. The line reflects that the political center of the Empire has now shifted over thousands of years from Xian to Beijing. It may be away from the Yellow River, but politically it is toward the Ming Emperor whose reign is a continuation from the first Emperor Huangdi who was known as the Yellow Emperor.

Politically and religiously speaking Beijing became the earthly center on The Selden Map which was drawn near the end of the Ming Empire. Beijing is directly below the center of the compass rose which was drawn as the Sun-Moon. By the way, it is said by some that together the characters Sun-Moon are the most beautiful in the Chinese language.             

While Xian was the start of the religious piligrimage to India it was from the new capital of Beijing that the Ming emperor began his pilgrimage. The imperial pilgrimage had been undertaken over the ages from the capital of the time. The word "pilgrimage" actually meant paying respect to a holy mountain. From Beijing the emperor would begin his journey at the start of his reign to the Five Sacred Mountains (五岳). These mountains were made by the creation god Pangu.


                                Heng Shan in Shanxi Province

The southeast line of the NWR ran from the Kun to just south of Heng Shan to the crossroads in Shanxi Province to Quanzhou. In one respect it symbolizes the shift in trade from the Silk Road routes to the Maritime Trade Routes. The line runs to Quanzhou from which all Maritime Trade routes began. In summary, the whole east quadrant of the NWR became important with respect to religion, politics and trade.



 Courtesy of Bodleian Library

The illustration called Infinity offers another way to look at change over time. Basically, the western section represents the journey to the west for spiritual pilgrimage and trade over the Silk Roads in the northwest. The two seas are the North Sea and the West Sea which are the lakes Baikal and Qinghai respectively. They were markers which defined territory against the barbarians who were generally the Xiongnu Conferation in the north and Mongols in the west.

The eastern section of the illustration emphasizes the sea journey over the Maritime Trade Routes and the spiritual presence along the coast at Nanjing where Buddhism flourished and at Quanzhou which supported various creeds. The East and South Seas met at the Taiwan Straits between Taiwan and the mainland. In the northeast, Tèlín (特林) was an ancient, symbolic marker of peace while the Luoyang Bridge in Quanzhou was well recognized for linkage in a cosmopolitan city. The barbarians to be defended against were the Mongols and Manchus.

Politically speaking, the capital had been located at Xian over many centuries and dynasties. However, at the beginning of the 17th century power had shifted to the new capital in Beijing. The political center was now the Forbidden City from which decrees and dictates were sent. Domestic policy was conducted by Mandarins. Foreign policy was run by Eunuchs. With respect to religion, trade or politics one might say that the year 1600 represented a change from the old to the new.


                                        Yanran Square

Courtesy of the Bodleian Library

D. Carlton Rossi
Copyright 2018                                   

The poet wanted to find out what was far north of Xian on The Selden Map. In the middle of nowhere is a small inscription. It reads as follows when translated. Who first was here is victorious. What might this mean?

It needs a better translator to understand its meaning. The main problem experienced was in what direction to read the four characters. Is it read top to bottom, bottom to top, left to right or right to left?

One also notes that the inscription is within a square which for clarification ithe poet has designated the Yanran Square. However, it is a square drawn with what seems a purposeful opening in the upper right hand corner. This resembles the opening in the upper right hand corner of the mysterious, large rectangle. It is suspected that it is a peculiarity of some esoteric school of Buddhism or Daoism. It will be necessary in the future to determine which school.

The square and the rectangle have something else in common. One can draw a horizontal line going east from the top of the Yanran Square through the center of the compass to the outside edge of the rectangle. One need not stop there as the line can be extended to the middle of the void within the smaller rectangle. In other words, the middle of nowhere --meaning the location of the Yanran Square-- is linked to the middle of the void.

                                     Inscription of Yanran

It is recalled that the Han fought the Xiongnu Confederacy for over two hundred years. The war began in the Qin Dynasty when Emperor Qin Shi Huang (秦始皇) launched a preventative strike against the Xiongnu in 215 BCE which had the goal to expand the empire. This began the war known later as the Han-Xiongnu War. In the year 89 CE, General Dou Xian (窦宪) pursued the enemy northward to the Altai Mountains near Lake Baikal where he won a strategic victory. He returned on a triumphal march and on Yanran Shan erected a stela commemorating his victory. This is called the Inscription of Yanran or more formally as "The Inscription on the Ceremonial Mounding of Mount Yanran (封燕然山銘).The expression "to carve a stone on Yanran" (勒石燕然) entered the Chinese language as a synonym for achieving a decisive victory.


                       Altai Mountains in relation to Lake Baikal

By Dmitry A. Mottl - Own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3688708

It is proposed that the four character inscription within the square on The Selden Map is a reference to the Inscription of Yanran (rectangle) discovered in 1993 and translated recently. In addition, the short inscription pinpoints the location of Yanran Shan. It is located within the range called the Kangai Mountains. In ancient China it was known as 燕然山 or Yanran Mountain in pinyin. The coordinates of the Inscription of Yanran are 45°10′40.3″N 104°33′14.7″E.             

The Selden Map is concerned with land trade routes from the Han to the Ming period and maritime trade routes during the Ming period. The sea trade was undertaken in sailing vessels. It so happens that the poet successfully completed a sailing course in Vancouver. Basically, he wanted to understand the city and since it is on the water he thought the best way to understand it was from the perspective of the sea.

He enrolled in a sailing course. His fellow students were mostly airline pilots who wanted to buy yachts so that they could relax in their spare time. To pass the course one had to rescue a team mate in a simulated exercise. A life jacket was thrown overboard and the prospective sailor had to retrieve it. This is no problem if your 35 foot yacht has a motor, but this yacht had sails. It was racing along at an extreme angle, at high speed with a strong wind.

One has to tack against the wind to accomplish the exercise. It is very easy to go with the wind. Our instructor said that "a monkey could do it". Mind you the poet is not aware of any monkey that has tried or accomplished it. However, one has to tack in zig-zag patterns against the wind to return to your floating comrade in a simulated exercise on that big ocean. The poet accomplished it on his first try and was granted a certificate.
There is one thing though that the poet did learn on his two week course. In order to face adversity or an adversary one must neither act like an oak or palm in a strong wind because both will be uprooted. When conditions are favourable then go with the wind. If conditions are unfavourable then tack against the wind.

It is now important to determine whether or not the Maritime Trade Route was open or closed at the beginning of the 17th century and relative to what. It was decided to quickly assess whether the land and maritime trade routes were open or closed.

To begin with it appears that the overland route was successful because it was open. One might look to at least the following four reasons for its success.

1. the Xiongnu Confederation was defeated which reduced a potential threat. 2. the protection of the beginning and end of the route was secured by a military garrison. 3. the establishment of Buddhist monasteries fostered the growth of trading centers 4. its strength was based on the silk trade for which they retained a monopoly up to the sixth century.

There were times though when the land route was closed. For example, the Xiongnu were able to capture and destroy both Luoyang and Xian respectively in 311 and 316 CE. This necessitated the movement of 2 million people further south and the transference of the capital to Nanjing on the east coast. At this time the Maritime Trade Route was able to make inroads to mix metaphor.

The Maritime Trade Route grew rapidly in an open system of trade. At first, it supplemented the overland route and then supplanted it. It was protected by a powerful navy which under Zhang He promoted trade and projected power. New markets were accessed and developed. Quanzhou became a cosmopolitan center with over a hundred nations represented in one of the world's largest ports. In summary, foreign trade flourished as a source of revenue in an open sea under the Tang, Song and Yuan.


                 Pirate raiding between 14th and 16th century

However, the adoption of the Haijin (literally "sea ban") clearly signalled a closed sea for most of the Ming Dynasty. The first emperor of the dynasty forbade private trading on punishment of death. This was mainly aimed at curtailing pirates known as Wokou (倭寇) of multiple ethnic groups; although, other explanations have been proposed. Nevertheless, the Haijin (海禁) had the unintended consequence of increasing piracy.


                                          Emperor Longqing

It was only when the sea ban was abolished in 1567 under Emperor Longqing (隆慶) that piracy was checked. One can say that beginning at this point and later when The Selden Map was drawn that it was an open sea. There were brief interludes when trade was interrupted; such as, the Japanese invasion of Korea or when the Dutch used pirates and coercive tactics to seize junks and ports in order to further their monopolistic interests.


                               1602 letter of Queen Elizabeth I

It may not be well known that Queen Elizabeth I sent three letters over a period of 44 years to Emperor Wanli (萬曆) 1573-1620. They were sent in the years 1583, 1596 and 1602; although, there were problems of delivery. In the latter letter she hoped that trade relations could be established. One might say that the "medium was the message" because the letter was carried by George Waymouth (or Weymouth) who had been sponsored by the East India Company to search for the North West Passage. However, even if his letter had been delivered to Emperor Wanli, it is highly unlikely that there would have been a response because the emperor was in self-imposed retreat.

D.卡尔顿 罗西
D. Carlton Rossi



                       Kun                                            Peng

Courtesy of the Bodleian Library                                           Courtesy of the Bodlein Library

In the dark sea of the north there is a fish; it is named the Kun. The Kun is so huge no one knows how many thousand li he measures. Changing, it becomes a bird; it is named the Peng, so huge no one knows how many thousand li he measures. Aroused, it soars loft, its wings like clouds hung from the sky. As the sea shifts, it turns to set its course toward the dark sea of the south, the Pool of Heaven.

Zhuangzi, Chapter 1, Free and Easy Wandering

Sometimes something is so obvious that one cannot see it. That is the case with the Kun. Its representation appears in the far North in the Mongolian steppe at the top of The Selden Map in the shape of a sea monster. One can presume that where there is a sea monster then one will find a sea--perhaps frozen during the winter. In an existential sense, the creature is the sea from which it emerges. If it were only so simple though because the sea creature seems to have the beak of bird.

                                 Sea Monster Kun

Courtesy of the Bodleian

The sea creature rests on top of the Ox. Both face West. Both rest on top of the Black Tortoise (of the North) which faces East. Within the shell of the Black Tortoise is the emperor's head, headdress and breath of the four winds. Xian, Shaanxi is located within the breath. Therefore, Xian is directly south of the actual Kun of the North.

While the importance of the final battle of the Han-Xiongnu War around the Altai Mountains near Lake Baikal cannot be underestimated it may be that the marker was what was actually remembered. Normally, a marker is found at the same location where the battle was fought. In this case, though, the battle was fought over a large swath of territory. At the conclusion of the battle, General Dou led a triumphal march southward; although, in retrospect, it represented a decline or the beginning of the end for him. It is apparent though that the Inscription of Yanran which appears as the Yanran Square on The Selden Map is found within the sea creature. The marker was meant to remind the enemy of their defeat and the Han of their victory (ie. Hun were assimilated into Han within the empire).


Is the boat floating in the air or on the water of Lake Baikal?

The author has taken artistic or poetic licence in repositioning Lake Baikal further west at the 100th degree of latitude instead of the 108th degree. In other words, it is not above the Yanran Square which is roughly in line with Xian, but rather above Lake Qinghai. It is therefore positioned at the upper lefthand corner of what the author has called the Northwest Rectangle. Incidentally, the white turtle image (ancient north) is also positioned in the northwest corner of the Kun.

                             Northwest Rectangle

Courtesy of the Bodleian Library

The Kun symbol representing Lake Baikal in the Northwest is juxtaposed with the Peng symbol in the Northeast. Both are found at the corners of the NW Rectangle. The Kun dives to the bottom of the sea or in other words to the top of the rift valley below. The Peng stands upright on land. The land is near the East Sea and the Peng faces West with its beak to the edge of the empty rectangle. It is poised to launch itself or ascend from the land into the air.

The repositioning of Lake Baikal (North Sea) at the Kun symbol in the Northwest is an expression of western expansion. Indeed, Han territory expanded past the 100 degree longitude along the Silk Trade Route as far as Lake Balkaish. Ban Gu's younger brother whose name was Ban Chou (班超) administered the Western Regions as Protector General and also expelled the Xiongnu from the Tarim Basin.


                                          Ao Shun

The Kun symbol may also represent Ao Shun (北海龙王) or the Dragon King of the Northern Sea. His brothers are the other seas. This mirrors the concept that all Chinese are brothers. The Monkey King visited the dragons in order to trick them into giving away their special powers.

Quite simply, if Lake Baikal were positioned above the Yanran Square as it is on a modern map then one would not have a quadrilateral with equal angles. In the other corners of the quadrilateral are found Lake Qinghai designated as the West Sea, Tèlín on the coast of the East Sea and Quanzhou on the South Sea. Lake Baikal is the North Sea.

The Han Empire did not want to expand north above the Yanran Square to Lake Baikal. Rather, it wanted primarily to go northwest for military and trade reasons. These routes to the northwest of Xian were developed during the Tang Dynasty. While the Northwest Rectangle is not explicitly delineated on The Selden Map; nevertheless, it is implicitly evident in order to reflect the boundaries of the empire through the open, overland Silk Trade Route and the openness of the Maritime Trade Route with which it was interrelated. One may also generally say that over time the older trade route established in the Han Dynasty decreases while the maritime trade route of the Ming Dynasty increases.


                                 Position of Ruler

Courtesy of the Bodleian Library

It may be worthwhile to take a quick look at the ruler on The Selden Map. Its primary use was to represent distances on the map. One might though consider its position. Its left end is directly above Xian or capital of 13 dynasties among which was the Eastern Han Dynasty AD 190 to 195. In the center of the ruler appears to be an infinity symbol. One might draw a north-south line from the center of the compass rose downward through the infinity symbol and then onward to the new capital of Beijing. The ruler is above the outline of the Emperor. Furthermore, its right end is just below the Peng symbol. Finally, its right end roughly defines the eastern boundary of the empire.

The compass rose is located in the middle of The Selden Map above the location of Beijing which was the new capital of the Ming Empire. The imaginary line running west to east through the center of the compass rose then takes on more importance. This line runs West to the top of the Yanran Square and goes on to the middle of the Kun. To the East the line runs through the middle of the set of rectangular voids, then continues to the middle of the Peng symbol and then on to Tèlín. To use a modern expression it was necessary to place the Kun symbol where it is in order to "get one's ducks in a row".

Courtesy of the Bodleian Library

It is generally accepted that the Four Seas concept was derived during the Han Dynasty. Furthermore, there is support for the idea that the seas defined territory of an expanding empire. Prior to the Han Dynasty it seems there were mainly two seas recognized; namely, the East and South China Sea. However, these two seas would have given a rough dimension to the future, four seas concept because longitude and latitude were roughly established regarding territory. For example, the East Sea met the South China Sea at what was later called the island of Taiwan and Quanzhou on the mainland. Is it fair to say that people beyond the Four Seas were not brothers but rather barbarians despite exceptions like Ban Chou who was the brother of Ban Gu?


                                 Emperor Liu Bang

The four corners of the empire was a common theme expressed by Liu Bang (Emperor Gaozu of Han 漢高祖) who reigned from 202-195 BCE. It was recorded in his poem called Song of the Great Wind. He would sing it as he played the guqin or seven string Chinese zither.

Song of the Great Wind

A great wind came forth,

the clouds rose on high.

Now that my might rules all within the seas,

I have returned to my old village.

Where will I find brave men

to guard the four corners of my land?

Calgary  July 18, 2012

Orchestral Rendition of Song of the Wind


The answer to the question which finishes the poem may be his four brothers. Liu Jiao 刘交 was the youngest and most trusted of the brothers. He was made Prince of Chu. It would seem that the four brothers were to defend the four corners which were the Four Seas. The fifth brother who was Liu Bang would be at the center of the empire.

Emperor Liu Bang initially wanted the capital of the empire to be at the center of the Sun which was Luoyang. However, he changed his mind due to economic and strategic considerations. The new capital was to be Changan (modern Xian). It was at the center of a road system leading to the provinces of Gansu, Sichuan, Henan, Hubei and Shanxi.

During the Han Dynasty both Lake Baikal and Lake Qinghai came to the forefront because of Han territorial expansion. It is true that neither were really seas, but rather large lakes. Metaphorically, if not metamorphically, lakes became seas. Indeed, though, if one waits long enough it is said by geologists that the Baikal rift may open over millions of years and the lake will become an ocean.

It is argued herein that Lake Baikal was metaphorically and poetically repositioned on the map to roughly correspond to its opposite on the map. Its opposite was the East Sea. Lake Qinghai which has actually gotten smaller over the centuries transformed or increased imaginatively on The Selden Map into the West Sea. Notice the kind of balance achieved. Two large lakes are now regarded as seas or in a more general sense the smaller lakes transform into larger seas (along with territorial expansion). The larger East Sea and South China Sea appear on The Selden Map to become smaller relative to both the land mass of the mainland and the close proximity of the islands to the East.

With regard to latitude there is a rough overlap on the southern boundary of the NW Rectangle with the Tropic of Cancer. The Northern Tropic is currently located at 23 degrees 26' 12.9 N. The cities of Quanzhou and Guangzhou are located at 24.8741 N degrees and 23.1291 degrees N respectively. Officially, Lake Qinghai's latitude is 37 degrees N, but on The Selden Map it appears to be in-line with the Tropic of Cancer.

Is it possible to plot the time of the summer solstice on the map? It would seem that the compass rose which may be interpreted as a Sun symbol might be equivalent to the peak time of daylight hours. This is the time when the emperor who resides in Beijing shines brightest.


The descending white Kun on the left shares a fluke with the bird beak of the turtle. The turtle shell takes on the appearance of a tiger's face.

The cartographer placed the Kun symbol just above the full Moon. While it may be subject to interpretation or for that matter correction, the author regards the full Moon's whiteness to represent the autumnal equinox which is also reflected in the whiteness of the descending whale. From this point onward the daylight hours are rapidly decreasing.

On the other side of the map is the Peng symbol which stands for the spring equinox or beginning of spring. The Peng stands upright. It is increasing as the daylight hours increase.


                       John Selden (Father and Farmer)

Courtesy of the Bodleian Library

The Kun symbol is also associated with phases of the Moon. To express one thing that hasn't been mentioned yet with regard to phases would be the three-quarters portrait of John Selden (independent farmer) who is the father of the jurist John Selden. His face is illuminated by the reflected light of the full Moon. However, the back of his head is in darkness. Together, they may represent a three-quarters Moon.


                                Three-faced luminary

While it is common today to consider the four phases of the moon it has not always been the case. In fact, Cervantes refers to the customary way of viewing three phases of the moon in Chapter XLIII as the "three-faced luminary". The phases or faces are waxing, waning and full moon. In a poetic sense, these three phases or faces may correspond to the three generations of the Selden family or ancestral (waning), mother and father (full) and son John Selden (waxing).



Courtesy of the Bodleian Library

The phases of the Moon express transformation or metamorphosis. The small ox or water buffalo embedded in the John Selden portrait may be said to transform into the larger ox or water buffalo below it and vice versa. Furthermore, a descending bird may be said to transform into a turtle. Perhaps one can say that the bird has eaten a turtle egg and then the bird becomes part turtle and vice versa. In Zhuangzi's philosophy one might find that when the Peng eats the cicada the little becomes bigger and the bigger becomes more little. The hibernation period of the cicada in Asia or for that matter the bat during the winter season is roughly 17 weeks.


                                  Mambrino's Helmet

Both transformation and metamorphosis are also evident in the "historical" novel Don Quixote which was purportedly written by Cide Hamete Benengeli (as witnessed by the errant knight and Sanza). Benengeli may be a pseudonym for Cervantes who may have wished to shield himself during the Inquisition. Change may be reflected in the three ways the barber's basin is regarded in this novel of knight errantry. To the barber it is a basin (Chap. XLV). The basin is the real (historical). To Quixote, however, it is the golden helmet of magical properties which belonged to Mambrino. Quixote's perception of the helmet is the poetic (imaginary). Yet, between these two perceptions is a third. In this case, the barber has strapped the helmet over his head to protect himself from the rain which seems to be a combination of the real and poetic. It has a name combining the word basin and helmet which may be similar to "bashelmet" or a basin like a helmet which gets bashed in.

One may be able to compare these three perceptions to phases or faces of the moon (since a white basin may be regarded as moon faced). The past or history is a waning moon and is represented as the barber's basin. The present is the full moon where the real is used in an imaginary way where the barber straps it to his head to protect himself from the rain. The future is the waxing moon which at this stage is poetic or imaginary.


                       Sanzhang faces three directions

Courtesy of the Bodleian Library

The five characters of Journey to the West can also be found in the Kun as they were in the Peng. In the middle of the Kun is Sanzhang. This fictional character has morphed from the real Xuanzang of the Tang Dynasty. He wears a crown and holds a staff.

The Monkey King or Sun Wukong who holds a rod overlaps with the top of the figure and shares the same crown. Sun though looks westward toward John Selden (the young boy) who looks in turn at him. Selden has a mouse on his head (ie. a mouse that is elsewhere part of a bat crown). The Monkey King is a woodland monkey. John Selden, too, was born under the sign of the woodland monkey since his birthday may be December 16, 1684.

Sun Wukong is rather hard to spot. This may be because he is a mischievous monkey. However, keep in mind that he is also a cloud-soarer who starts from the Northern Sea on his visit to the Eastern, Western and Southern Seas according to Journey to the West, Ch.2, p.28. Today, if you are a cloud-soarer with a Lenovo IBM program in the cloud then it may be easier to identify him.

The water buffalo or ox represents the character Sandy who had been thrown from heaven as punishment and presumably given a chance to reform. The largest manifestation of Sandy on the map is the ox of the Gobi and Taklamakan Deserts. It might represent the mythical one legged ox. The smallest representation of the ox is in a previously described pastoral scene just in front of the face of John Selden (young son).

Pigsy is also represented within the Kun. There are two figures. One is a pig and the other is a pig man. It is difficult to distinguish between the two which suggests that there is very little transformaton or reformation of a character ruled by vice.

                                  Dragon Horse

Courtesy of the Bodleian Library

White horse is the steed of Sanzhang. Within the Kun the white horse is coloured red. The dragon is above the horse which suggests a kind of dragon-horse as depicted in the ship of the Selden poems. The tiger is below the horse in the Kun. On the bigger map the image of the smaller tiger is part of the bigger horse which can also be viewed separately as two of the zodiacal figures. Of course, the ox, monkey, pig and mouse are also zodiacal figures.

The symbol to the right of the white, decreasing Kun may be seen in two ways. First, it may represent a bat; afterall, it has a bat crown on its head. It is not surprising if one refers to a giant bat since Lake Baikal is a very strange place. There are also other bat crowns on the heads of the Selden family. Indeed, there are over 100 species of bats in the caves around the lake. The bat would actually hibernate upside down from the ceiling until the warmer weather appears. In the spring it comes out at night to hunt insects and sleeps during the day.

The waxing and waning of both trade route systems can no better be illustrated in the population of its capitals. Luoyang during the Tang dynasty was called Dongdu (东都), the "Eastern Capital". At its height its population was about one million. It was just short of the population of Changan which was the largest city in the world. By the time of the Ming Dynasty, the city of Beijing had become the world's most populous in the year 1500 and retained that status for centuries.

                                       Illustration D

Courtesy of the Bodleian Library

Basically, the Northwest Rectangle of the Han Empire showing the Four Seas and the Kun and Peng symbols transforms into Illustration D of the Ming Empire which extends from Moon to Sun on The Selden Map. In other words, Changan with its emphasis on the overland silk trade routes wanes as Beijing waxes with the growth of the maritime silk trade routes.

                                  Polar Quadrilateral

Courtesy of the Bodleian Library

In illustraton D, a polar quadrilateral becomes part of the NWR and extends further to the Sun. In other words, Changan and its routes are associated with the Moon while Beijing and its routes are linked to the Sun. Furthermore, the yellow pattern of squares and circles manifests itself as a square earth and round heaven with Beijing at the centre. Earth is in harmony with Heaven.

                                 Polar Quadrilateral

Courtesy of John C. Didier

The poet was inspired by the illustration of the polar quadrilateral in John C. Didier's "In and Outside the Square". At the four corners of the quadrilateral are the stars Alioth-Mizar of the Big Dipper and Kochab-Pherkad of the Little Dipper. Draconis 11 (Thuban) is at the top of the quadrilateral with Draconis 10 beneath it. Didier contends that Draconis 11 corresponds to Taiyi (太一) and Draconis 10 to Tianyi (天一) or the two highest Chinese gods.

The poet agrees that the two highest Chinese gods are located at Draconis 11 and 10 as does Didier. However, he adds that the binary star system or something is balanced by the gravitational barycenter of the system. This barycenter is nothing.


                                The Chinese Directions

Four Directions

Sì Shòu 四獸

Black Tortoise (North), Red Phoenix (South), White Tiger (West), Azure Dragon (East)

Courtesy of the Bodleian Library


Courtesy of the Bodleian Library

                            Black Tortoise and Snake

The Black Tortoise is representative of seven northern constellations; for example, determinative stars are of the ox, emptiness and the wall. Normally, it is depicted as a tortoise entwined by a snake. In the poem called The Chinese Directions, the poet recognizes both tortoise and snake in the North just below The Great Wall as they appear on The Selden Map. In other words, the shell of the tortoise which is female defends China (Earth) as does The Great Wall. Rather than entwinning the turtle, the snake (phallic symbol) or one leg of the ox seems to protect it and China. In time, the Black Warrior replaced the Black Tortoise.

One might say that the rounded back of the tortoise symbolizes Heaven. The belly of the tortoise stands for Earth. The reader will observe that the capital of Beijing resides in the flat belly of the tortoise on The Selden Map. Joseph Needham in Volume 3 of Science and Civilization said that "In ancient China, the prevailing belief was that the Earth was flat and square, while the heavens were round". This assumption went virtually unchallenged until Matteo Ricci introduced in 1602 the concept of the sphericity of the Earth on a flat map.


Courtesy of the Bodleian Library

At this point, the poet briefly expands his explanation of the Peng symbol. The symbol of the horned, water buffalo now becomes the horned Panku who emerges from the Cosmic Egg which is broken open. The interaction of yang and yin leads to the birth of Panku. There seems coincidentally to be a slight resemblance between the word "Panku" and the words "Peng" and "Kun" which may respectively represent Yang and Yin (greater and lesser light). Actually, Xu Zheng( 徐整) was the first to write about the myths of Panku in the Three Kingdoms period which was a considerable period of time after the birth of Zhuangzi (莊子) in 396 BCE who wrote about the Peng and Kun in a text attributed to him called The Zhuangzi.

Earlier, the poet had seen Sha Wujing (沙悟净) within the Peng symbol or the water buffalo of Journey to the West fame. The buffalo known familiarly as "Sandy" has horns and a humped back. He was exiled from Heaven when he accidentally broke a vase. Part of that broken vase becomes the broken Cosmic Egg in the Peng symbol. Now, the humped back of Sandy metamorphoses into the humped back of Panku. Furthermore, it changes into the shell of a tortoise which represents the rounded vault of heaven. The right side of Panku's face is framed by the Tree of Life which springs from the square Earth. In other words, the small image of a round Heaven and the square Earth within the Peng is a microscopic representation of the macroscopic drawing of the Black Tortoise just below the compass rose on The Selden Map.


                              The young John Seldens

Courtesy of the Bodleian Library

In conclusion, the map has traditionally been designated The Selden Map because it was donated by John Selden in his will to the Bodleian Library at Oxford. However, several images have been perceived on the map by the poet which have been interpreted to be those of John Selden--including Baby Bat hatching from the egg. They appear to show him wearing a bat crown. The Northwest Kun image itself seems to be an upright bat with bat crown. About a king, John Selden said "A king is a thing men have made for their own sakes, for quietness' sake".

D.卡尔顿 罗西
D. Carlton Rossi


                                    Illustration D

The Selden Map is courtesy of the Bodleian Library for educational purposes only

The poet is revisiting an image revealed to him on February 11, 2017 in order to make a descriptive comment on it. The image is superimposed on The Selden Map of the seventeenth century. It may surprise the reader to realize that he/she is viewing a poem. It is a poem of D. Carlton Rossi. It is a poem in the style of Poetic Analytic Imagery or to be specific Poetic Analytics of Imagery through Streams of Consciousness and Unconsciousness.

In this case, the poem is called Illustration D because the poet actually did not want to name it more specifically or for that matter describe it. He wanted the onlooker to see it without interpretation much as one would look at a painting in an art gallery or without commentary as one would read a poem.

An exception is made to the rule at this time because on The Selden Map he is now contrasting an unnamed poem involving a sandglass with a new poem involving the infinity sign. In other words, a rectangle is divided by an X into four parts. The infinity sign is horizontal and the sandglass sign is vertical stressing two different concepts of time and space. These signs are within Illustration D.

The viewer may appreciate the beauty of the geometric form evidenced in the illustration. Basically, it shows the Mandate of Heaven in the Middle Kingdom around 1619; that is, the relation of heaven, man and earth. More practically, it shows maritime trade routes complimenting older Silk Trade Routes on land. The emphasis though is on Beijing rather than Xian which was highlighted in an image poem called North-West Rectangle.

A brief description of Illustration D follows. The most important vertical line goes through the middle of the horizontal infinity symbol and the vertical sandglass sign. It also goes upward through a large yellow square.  In the center of the large square is the smaller square. At its bottom is Beijing and within it is the Forbidden City and within it is the Temple of Heaven and within it is the Observatory near which sacrifices were made.

The small square is superinposed on another image. It is an outline of the Emperor dressed in Ming Dynasty style attire . As far as the poet knows he is the only one who has seen this hidden image. It is an image of the Emperor blowing the wind. Beijing is located in the Cap of the Emperor. It may be imagined that the Emperor is protected by the wall around the Forbidden City and one can see the Great Wall which protects China at the top of the Cap.

The line then continues north or upwards through the smaller infinity sign in the middle of the ruler. It progresses onward to
the North Circumpolar Rectangle or Polar Quadrilateral. At the top of the large yellow square is the yellow rectangle (NCR). At the top of the square and rectangle is the center of the compass. It represents the location of Draconis A and B (ancient Pole Stars).

At the top, left-hand corner of the large square the poet has identified the Yanran Inscription within an horizontal rectangle. It marks a major victory of the Han over the Xiongnu Confederacy in 89 CE. The line then goes through the point at the center of the compass. It then goes eastward to the middle of the vertical rectangle representing the void. In other words, the importance of a major victory is contrasted with the unimportance of nothingness.

A poetic interpretation of The Selden Map through geometric form is relevant today. It defines the historical boundaries of modern China. Generally speaking, the Four Seas of the Han Dynasty mark the North, South, West and East boundaries of the Empire as defined in Illustration D and as explained in the poet's thesis called The Selden Poems. This illustration may or may not provide historical justification for China's claim to some or all of the South China Sea through either force or discourse based on the harmony of heaven, mankind and earth as a moral or legal imperative. However, it acts as an historical reference and guide for all parties.

The map itself is named after John Selden who wrote the draft for Mare Clausum or the closed sea in 1618 and the final version in 1635. He attempted to prove that the sea was "in practice virtually as capable of appropriation as terrestial territory." In the area of the South China Sea it contrasts to the Dutch East India Company's claim to an open sea enforced in 1619 with their seizure of the Javanese city of Jayakarta. The doctrine of the open sea was promulgated by Hugo Grotius in his Mare Liberum (1609) with respect to the Dutch involvement in the West Indies.

D.卡尔顿 罗西
D. Carlton Rossi


From Infinity to Time Measured by a Sandglass

The Mandate of Heaven was a compact between the people of the Zhou Dynasty (1046 BCE-256 BCE) and the supreme god. It conferred legitimacy on the Zhou ruler. The ruler was bound to uphold harmony and honor within the empire. The Zhou was the longest lasting dynasty at 790 years.

The Han Dynasty (202 BCE-220 BCE) was the second longest imperial dynasty at 422 years. The Four Seas (四海) concept was a pre-Han Dynasty belief which was held since at least the beginning of the Zhou Dynasty. However, the Han Dynasty defined it more clearly and expanded upon the concept. The seas included the East China Sea, South China Sea, Lake Balkash as the West Sea and Lake Baikal as the North Sea.

Today, China's offshore Four Seas are the Bohai, Yellow, East China and South China. It was announced on November 28, 2011 that military exercises were held near the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea, East Sea, in the north Bohai Sea and Yellow Sea. The exercises continue to the present time.

The most disputed area with respect to legal rights pertains to the South China Sea. On September 25, 2017, China announced a claim called the Four Sha” (四沙 meaning four sand). It extends sovereignty and maritime jurisdiction to the island groups called Dongsha, Xisha, Nansha, and Zhongsha.

The poet is reminded of the "X" symbol in the middle of the ruler on the Selden Map. It resembles infinity. The symbol is employed by the poet on both the Northwest Rectangle (Silk Road trade routes) and expanded Illustration D (includes Maritime Trade Routes) to define the extent of Chinese territory based in part on the old and modified concept of Four Seas during the Han Dynasty. The horizontal infinity symbol represents an unlimited period of time.

With respect to the human time span one might consider the period from the Zhou to the Qing Dynasty which is exceedingly long. However, if the infinity symbol is turned so that it becomes vertical it resembles a sandglass or hour glass. It measures short periods of time. For example, the shift for a Chinese sailor during the Ming Dynasty as measured by a sandglass was two and a half hours or one tenth of the day. Therefore, the shift from what had been the Nine Dash Line to a shifting sands Four Sha claim seems to be equivalent to that of a sandglass with respect to time. It is short and rather fleeting compared to the longer 2957 year period from Zhou to Qing which involved both the Mandate of Heaven compact and the Four Seas concept.

However, the Chinese government and Communist Party is officially atheist. They have connected the Four Seas which are adjacent to China. Since the South China Sea links the Pacific and Indian Oceans it then becomes part of the One Belt One Road plan which is an expanded view of Xi Jinping Thought. One Belt One Road has been renamed the "Belt and Road Initiative" (BRI) which is intended to join China with more than 100 countries through railroad, shipping and energy projects.

The BRI may be regarded as a grandiose scheme. Historically speaking, how have grandiose schemes fared in Chinese history? Qin Shi Huangdi (秦始皇) was the first emperor of a united China. In the North, he built the precursor of the Great Wall to defend the Qin state from the Xiongnu and in the South he built the Lingqu canal to transport supplies to the army. He was unable to secure an elixir of life from the island of Zhifu which has since joined the mainland by sand and soil of the sea's floor. His Plan B was to build a tomb and 38 square necropolis for the afterlife. The Qin Dynasty (秦朝) was one of the shortest since it lasted only fourteen years from 221 BCE-206 BCE.

Then there was the Yongle Emperor (永樂帝) who was the third emperor of the Ming Dynasty. He reigned from 1402 CE-1424 CE. He called for a massive reconstruction of the Grand Canal. He also continued the building of the Ming Great Wall as a defensive measure and to protect his tomb. The Forbidden City of the new capital of Beijing took years to build at great expense. The inauguration took place on February 2, 1421. On May 09, 1421 the Forbidden City was struck by lightning. The fire burned down the Hall of Great Harmony, Central Harmony and Preserving Harmony. The Emperor lost the Mandate of Heaven.

Before the fire, the emperor had sponsored ZHENG He's sixth expedition of nine-masted treasure ships which sailed on March 03, 1421. The main purpose of the Treasure Fleet was to display Chinese might in order to secure tribute as early as 1409. A fleet of smaller vessels had sailed down the Sungari and Amur Rivers to Telin (特林) where the poet argues the Peng is located and the boundary of the Empire. The expenditures of the construction projects and the Treasure Fleet as well as ill-fated military expeditions left the empire in poor financial straits.

The main problem with the grandiose Belt and Road Initiative (involving the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road) is that there is no clear idea of its cost, timeline or extent.The cost estimates vary from $1 trillion to $8 trillion. The Center for Strategic and International Studies said in 2018 that China's trillion dollar infrastucture promise may not be met for several years. The main danger to the program seems to be inflated expections--especially if $8 trillion promises are touted as they have been by commentaries in the Hong Kong Economic Journal and mirrored by the Asian Development Bank. One might say that inflated promises of spending encourage countries to curry favour with China in order to secure funding. Is currying favour not the equivalent of paying tribute?

The China Communications Construction Company (CCCC) has taken part in BRI projects. It is said to be "the fulcrum of China’s BRI ambitions". Five of its entities have been placed on The Entity List of The Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS). The BIS placed restrictions on the companies which enabled the People's Republic of China to reclaim and militarize disputed outposts in the South China Sea.

D.卡尔顿 罗西
D. Carlton Rossi





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Four Guardians of the Four Compass Directions


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(Banda Sea and Maluku Islands)




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Four Guardians of the Four Compass Directions


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