Maps hiding in plain sight
Keywords: bronze ritual vessels, symbols, decode, land grant, Western Zhou
Abstract. Early Chinese elites were defined by their aristocratic control of land. That control came directly from the emperor and was documented on bronze ritual vessels, which were handed down from generation to generation. The land grant boundaries were defined using decorative symbols inscribed on bronze, and Western Zhou vessels containing these symbols were used to resolve land disputes. Methodical analysis comparing the inscriptions and symbols, combined with an understanding of early Chinese cartography and etymology, allows the bronze vessel land grants to be decoded.