City cartography

Source:Global Times Published: 2017/8/13 17:53:39

Shanghai launches first-ever authorized English-language map

Shanghai Municipal Institute of Surveying and Mapping recently launched the first authorized English-language map of Shanghai, Wenhui Daily reported. Unlike traditional city tourist maps, this map shows Shanghai from both historical and cultural perspectives, as opposed to simply as district areas. The map is available at most bookstores in town.

A couple checks a map at the Bund. Photos: CFP

Putting Shanghai on the map

Li Chenhong of the Shanghai Municipal Institute of Surveying and Mapping was in charge of the project. According to her, this English map is not a word-for-word translation of a Chinese map. Instead, it is an original interpretation based on historical and cultural aspects that appeal to foreign visitors.

The map's guidelines include several sections, each with their own theme, such as museums, traditional buildings, clothing streets and local foods, many which are not widely known even among local residents.

For those who want to explore Shanghai cuisine for instance, they go to the "local food" page, which introduces some authentic venues for Shanghainese food, such as steamed buns, braised pork and hairy crabs.

Likewise, for travelers seeking out Shanghai's traditional architecture, they could turn to the page that introduces the city's historical buildings. Everything is in English along with illustrations.

According to Li, Shanghai "desperately needed" a high-quality official English city tourist map. "In China, it is a big deal for an official institute to design a new map, so the reasons must be very urgent," Li said. "The problem is that most English maps available on market are more like advertising sheets, which are poor in content and quality."

She added that it is hard to believe that in a metropolis like Shanghai, there has never before been an authorized English-language map. Thus, Li and her team started field investigations and preparation work for the map in 2015.

"My colleagues and I sent out surveys to learn expats' preferences about the city. We also visited pretty much every bar, cafe and traditional Chinese restaurant favored by foreigners," Li said, adding the project was the most challenging of her eight-year career in cartography.

Aerial view of the Bund

Visualized maps

Travelers once relied on paper maps or guidebooks to help them navigate foreign cities and countries. But in today's world, visitors are more likely to use online "street-view" maps such as those offered by Baidu or Google.

"Full-text maps no longer meet people's demand, because modern people have become more used to receiving visualized rather than written information," Li said.

This change in reading habits therefore required the map makers to design a more visualized and reader-friendly map. "A map should first be accurate and scientific; secondly, it needs to be aesthetic; thirdly it has to be fun to read," Li said.

To design a map that meets all these standards, Li and her team drew inspiration from over 300 city tourist maps from all over the world. Li said she loves traveling, so at whatever city she went to, she would visit local bookstores to purchase the most well-designed local maps. Over the years she accumulated a huge collection.

For instance, Li said that Japanese city maps are informative, accurate and reader-friendly while European maps are more artistic and aesthetic. But Li also discovered a common problem among all these maps, including from China.

"Many maps are poorly translated from the local language. Chinese translations, for example, are very awkward; I could tell the translation was done by a computer rather than professional translators," Li said.

To give her Shanghai map the best English translation possible, Li and her colleagues invited professional foreign editors to polish their translations prior to sending it to the publishing house for further proofreading and review.

Before launching her map, Li also undertook a difficult design process. "But after we launched the map, we found that the most challenging part for us will be to promote the map to the public," she said.

"Shanghai Map" by Shanghai Municipal Institute of Surveying and Mapping is currently available at bookstores around the city.

Global Times

Steamed buns


Hairy crabs



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