It can be assumed that maps, charts and plans accompanied even very early examples of these geographical works. Apparently the rectangular grid (a coordinate system consisting of lines intersecting at equal intervals to form squares which were intended to facilitate the measurement of distance, in li), which was basic to scientific cartography in China, was formally introduced in the first century A.D.
Pa€™eia€™s methods are comparable to the contributions made in this regard by Ptolemy in the west; but whereas Ptolemya€™s methods passed to the Arabs and were not known again in Europe until the Renaissance, Chinaa€™s tradition of scientific cartography, and in particular that of the use of the rectangular grid, is unbroken from Pa€™ei Hsiua€™s time to the present. As the Imperial territories of China increased through the intervening centuries, maps of various scales were made of part or all of the expanding realm.
Under the Ta€™angs China had attained a high degree of civilization, perhaps the highest it has ever reached, and cartography then made remarkable progress. As a probable adaptation of the older work, the Hua I Ta€™u is oriented to the North and concentrates primarily on the portion which covers China proper, but also includes part of Korea in the north and part of the Pamir plateau in the west - more than just a map of China, though by no means a world map. Curiously, the Hua I Ta€™u lacks the distinctive rectangular grid system that superimposes most of the other Chinese maps. Adding to the modern appearance of both of the Xian maps is the lack of the fabulous creatures, the religious themes or adornment of superfluous material so common to many of the European maps of the same period. The assumption of power by the great Chin dynasty has unified space in all the six directions. These three principles are used according to the nature of the terrain, and are the means by which one reduces what are really plains and hills (literally cliffs) to distances on a plane surface.

If one draws a map without having graduated divisions, there is no means of distinguishing between what is near and what is far.
But if we examine a map that has been prepared by the combination of all these principles, we find that a true scale representation of the distances is fixed by the graduated divisions.
A brief history of the Chinese cartographic tradition will serve to reference the sources upon which these two maps have drawn, and demonstrate the remarkable antiquity and show the continuity that prevailed in Chinese cartography. As the Imperial territories of China increased through the intervening centuries, maps of various scales were made of part or all of the expanding realm.A  Pa€™ei was followed by a number of cartographers, whose work is recorded in the dynastic histories, but of which no example survives. Also their orientation to the North (true of all Sung Dynasty maps that have survived) contributes to the allusion. So also the reality of the relative positions is attained by the use of paced sides of right-angled triangles; and the true scale of degrees and figures is reproduced by the determinations of high and low, angular dimensions, and curved or straight lines. Soothill, actually argues that the Hua I Ta€™u was Chia Tana€™s map, from which the sheets for the barbarian lands had been lost, and that the text was later substituted for them.A  Sung bibliographies do show, however, that versions of Chia Tana€™s map were still extant at this time, though kept secret at the imperial court and not easily accessible. Professors Needham and Ling, writing in their excellent multi-volume Science and Civilisation in China, assert, with ample justification, that this latter map is a€?the most remarkable cartographic work of its age in any culturea€?.
If one has a rectangular grid, but has not worked upon the tao li principle, then when it is a case of places in difficult country, among mountains, lakes or seas (which cannot be traversed directly by the surveyor), one cannot ascertain how they are related to one another. Thus even if there are great obstacles in the shape of high mountains or vast lakes, huge distances or strange places, necessitating climbs and descents, retracing of steps or detoursa€”everything can be taken into account and determined.

Because the maps are placed in opposite directions on the stone, this particular stele was most likely to have been used to produce rubbings and was not for public display.
If one has adopted the tao li principle, but has not taken account of the high and the low the right angles and acute angles, and the curves and straight lines, then the figures for distances indicated on the paths and roads will be far from the truth, and one will lose the accuracy of the rectangular grid. When the principle of the rectangular grid is properly applied, then the straight and the curved, the near and the far, can conceal nothing of their form from us. Based upon Jia Dan's Map of Chinese and Non-Chinese Territories within the Seas of 801, it shows the main natural and administrative features of the Chinese Empire up to the 1120s. They are now housed among a very large collection of engraved stones in the Pei Lin [the Forest of Steles or Tablets] in the Shensi Provincial Museum at Xian.
The texts arranged around the edges of the graphic part of the map provide quotations from historical and other sources and briefly explain the meaning and history of essential markers such as the Great Wall, the size of the empire, and the states to the west. This document was highly significant as a primary source for any cartographic effort during this and subsequent periods, which also can only be dated with certainty at least as early as the Chou Dynasty. The YA? Kung became and has remained a source of challenge and inspiration to all later generations of Chinese geographers and cartographers.

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