Pei Xiu: famous geographer of Western Jin Dynasty
During the Western Jin Dynasty (265-316), there was a famous geographer and cartography theorist named Pei Xiu (223-271), whom the famous historian Joseph Needham (1900-1995) claimed was "the father of China's Scientific Cartography." Equally famous as Ptolemaeus Claudius, the ancient Greek cartographer, Pei Xiu was a shining star in the world history of ancient cartography (the science of making maps).
Pei Xiu (also called Ji Yan) was a native of today's Wenxi County of North China's Shanxi Province. Curious and intelligent, Pei was often praised by famous people when he was still a young man. Born in an official family, he had the opportunity to learn about and encounter various materials on geography and cartography.
By the time of Warring States Period (475-221BC), the atlas had been applied in wars and state administration, but suffered huge loss after the Western Han Dynasty (206BC-24AD). Due to political and military reasons, Pei set out to make new maps.
The Yugong Diyu Tu, with 18 atlases and compiled under his leadership and organization, is the world's earliest historical atlas collection that can be verified by written records. For the convenience in use, he diminished a large map into a small one, with the names of cities and mountains on it, providing a scientific basis for political and military administration.
Pei's major contribution to cartography lies in his establishment of a theoretical foundation for the making of traditional Chinese maps for the first time by summing up the experiences of his predecessors.
In a prelude to Yugong Diyu Tu, he put forward the six principles in map-making, representing a milestone in the development of cartography theories. The six principles boil down to three factors: scale, direction, and distance, which are discussed in modern map cartography. Those principles were the most brilliant expositions on map cartography in ancient China.
As the basic scientific theories in drawing a plane map, the principles put forward by Pei Xiu continued to influence the traditional Chinese cartography until the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), and is of great importance in the history of world cartography.