Maps Collection

The Institut d’Asie Orientale has collected a large number of maps of Shanghai in the course of a research project on the history of the city in the 19th-20th centuries[1]. The collection includes original maps, photographic reproductions, slides and sometimes even Xerox copies. Altogether, a hundred maps are deposited in the map collection of the institute. Since Shanghai maps are scattered among many collections all over the world, we have been engaged in the digitization of Shanghai maps worldwide to make them available to scholars and students through this platform. Whenever possible, the current location of each original is indicated. The Virtual Shanghai digital map repository includes more than 500 items. The online version of our maps does not permit reproduction, except for the maps that are copyright-free or that we own.

The second and more advanced level of the map database is the collection of georeferenced maps of Shanghai. We georeferenced a sample of historical maps to take advantage of GIS technology in historical research. The present sample covers the period from 1855 to 2003 with approximate intervals of 25-30 years. Apart from the general maps of Shanghai, a systematic effort has been undertaken to digitize and georeference detailed cartographic surveys made in the 1930s, 1940s and 1980s. These detailed surveys are now available as a digital archive. They were georeferenced and integrated into the GIS server. Georeferenced original historical maps and topical maps produced by Virtual Shanghai are available for real-time use under the Live maps menu.

The third level represents the actual application of GIS technology to the processing of historical data, including textual and spatial data, as part of various research topics. In the course of the present project, we reconstituted the historical street grid of Shanghai linked to a street name database. This database makes the connection between the various denominations of streets and thei time span of their existence. In addition to creating vectorial data to represent each street segment, we have been introducing geocoding based on street numbers. This applies only to the former foreign concessions as no maps are currently available for such detailed geocoding in the former Chinese municipality.  From an initial 2,000-odd buildings found in the 1939 Commercial Atlas, we have been expading the stret number database with each new survey made on a given research topic (e.g. industrial concerns, etc.). The powerful GIS tool made available through our platform supports intensive studies in social history with a strong spatial dimension. We hope to make these tools available at a later stage to external users to create their own maps that fit to their own needs.

Our site has no intention to infringe upon the rights of the institutions that own the original maps presented here. Applications for digital reproduction of the maps should be addressed to the relevant institutions.

Duplication of cartographic materials: please consult our "Services" page.


  1. ^ See Henriot, Christian & Zheng Zu’an, Atlas de Shanghai. Espace et représentation de 1849 à nos jours, Paris, CNRS-éditions, 1999.

Last update on Tuesday 27 October 2015 (13:54) by  C. Henriot

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