University of Pittsburgh
April 8, 1999


Contact:  412-624-4147

PITTSBURGH, April 9 -- Chiao-min Hsieh, emeritus professor of geology at the University of Pittsburgh, has been awarded a Rockefeller Foundation Innovator's Grant to create an "Atlas of Chinese History and Culture."

Last year, Hsieh led a group of prominent cartographers and geographers from Beijing in a conference, "Mapping China's Past: A Cartographic Reconstruction of Chinese History," at the Rockefeller Foundation's Bellagio Center in Milan, Italy. The group, which included Hseih's wife, cartographer Jean Kan Hsieh, discussed ways to resolve difficulties arising from creating maps from historical records. The success of that conference, combined with his earlier book, "China: A Provincial Atlas," convinced the foundation to support his current project.

"The biggest problem we face is converting all the data into maps," said Hseih, who will travel throughout China in May to recruit people to assist him in the project. Geographers, demographers, students and professors at Peking University and Fudan University, which has an Institute of Historical Geography -- anyone who can help will be put to use, according to Hseih.

The new atlas will depict the land, the people and the history of China through each of the major Chinese Dynasties, from the archaeological and Han Dynasty through the People's Republic.

Four maps for each dynasty will include such information as changes in climate, vegetation and wildlife population, expansion and shrinking of national and provincial boundaries, migration patterns and the evolution of Chinese architecture.

"This is an especially important project now," said Hseih, "because China has been closed to the west for so long. It's an opportunity to create better understanding by learning the cultural and historical perspective of Chinese."

Hseih, originally from Zheijang Province in China, previously won a Senior Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities and three Fulbright Research Fellowships.