A Chart of the Yellow Sea and part of the Continent of China


This manuscript map depicting the Yellow Sea and part of China was produced by Sir John Barrow, comptroller of the first British Embassy to China. Headed by Lord Macartney, the envoy travelled to the Empire between 1792 and 1794 in order to secure British trading interests in the port of Canton. Barrow’s map shows Canton (modern day Guangzhou) at rear, part of Taiwan at bottom right and the east coast of China up to the ‘Gulf of Petcheli’ (the Bohai Sea). At the top of the map some of ‘Tartary’ is shown, this is an archaic English geographical term used during the Qing dynasty to describe the regions of Xinjiang, Mongolia, Manchuria, Qinghai and Tibet. ‘Gehol’ (Chengde), within Tartary, was the summer residence of Ch’ien-Lung, the Qing Emperor of China, with whom Macartney and his delegation intended to negotiate British terms of trade. 

Barrow’s pen and ink-drawn map, produced in 1794, adopts the standard cylindrical map projection used for nautical purposes. This is called the ‘Mercator Projection’ because it was first presented by the Flemish geographer and cartographer Gerardus Mercator. Upon it Barrow has drawn with a blue dotted line the trajectory of two of the Embassy’s ships, the Hindostan and the Lion, as they navigated up the Yellow Sea from the Strait of Formosa to the last anchorage at the ‘Gulf of Petcheli’. Next to the line are numerical figures which represent soundings taken with a chronometer to measure the depth of the water at various intervals. Barrow also shows inland rivers and canals that ‘open communications between the northern and southern parts of the Empire’.

Accompanying the map is a hand-written leaflet, a ‘Note to the Chart of the Yellow Sea’. Barrow describes the weather conditions as the Embassy progressed their journey north: it was almost incessantly ‘squally’, ‘continually hazy’ and thick with fog. Rarely did anyone on board get ‘a sight of land’, and owing to such poor visibility Barrow states that parts of his map only offer ‘general outlines’ of the coast. He reports that the bad weather often affected the taking of accurate chronometer soundings. There are also brief descriptions of the rise and fall of tides, and a list of longitudinal and latitudinal readings.

Full title:
A Chart of the Yellow Sea and part of ye Continent of China on Mercator's Projection In the former of which is laid down the tract of the Hindostan, and on the latter are drawn these Rivers or Canals that open a Communication between the Northern and Southern parts of the Empire.
Manuscript / Map
John Barrow
Usage terms

Public Domain in most countries other than the UK.

Held by
British Library
Maps 8.Tab.C.8.65.

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