People in Taiwan seem to have a fascination with maps, which is odd considering that a vast majority of those published in Taiwan, be they tourist or transport maps, are incorrect and impossible to comprehend.
The population might be cartographically challenged, but this doesn’t stop books focusing on old maps of Taiwan from becoming bestsellers. Copies of the Council for Cultural Affairs’ 2005 calendar featuring ancient maps of Taiwan from selling out in less than a day, and people from flocking to exhibitions in droves whenever maps are the order of the day.
And the current Taiwan in Maps exhibition at the National Taiwan Museum is no exception. Since the colorful and insightful exhibition opened recently, the museum has seen a steady flow of visitors.
Taiwan in Maps is one of the largest exhibitions to be hosted by the museum in recent years, and the extensive and fascinating displays are located in exhibition halls on all three floors of the museum.
Jointly organized by the CCA and the museum, the exhibition features dozens of original maps and an equal number of reproductions and copies, along with photographs and other artifacts related to cartography in Taiwan.
While those with a whim for cartography and/or Taiwan history will have already seen some of the better-known maps on display and in various publications, there are still plenty of maps in the exhibition that will stoke the interests of anyone with an eye for geography or history.
The exhibition is well-organized and covers every conceivable topic and theme, from the earliest maps of Taiwan hand drawn by Portuguese and Spanish explorers in the 15th century to explanations of cutting-edge satellite imagery used by cartographers now.
Along with the multitude of geographic and topographic maps, there are also plenty of demographic maps on display. These include maps that plot Taiwan’s indigenous peoples, the nation’s economic growth, Taiwan’s farming production and its transportation networks.
Although the maps are far too numerous to give a detailed account of all those on display, a couple of the most eye-catching charts include a simplified military map from 1958 showing the possible flight paths of military aircraft in the event of war with China, and a highly detailed map of Taiwan drawn by members of the Royal Geographic Society in 1864.
Taiwan in Maps is comprehensive and gives visitors insight into the history of cartography in Taiwan, but it is not without its flaws.