The Importance of Legends
It was a badly-kept secret among intellectuals that the vaults under the British Museum held a portal to another world. It was a jade gate that had been stolen from China in 1840. When its secret was discovered in 1848, a stream of explorers and archaeologists had entered it, never to reappear. Eventually, the gate was locked up.
Until 2012 . . .
Cameras clicked and flashed as Dr. Forbes stood in front of the jade gate.
“I discovered the map in our archives,” he said. “The corner was torn off, but I managed to decipher the ancient Chinese to see that it is a map of the land beyond. It shows where the dangers are, as well as a magnificent treasure, across this plain and beyond these mountains.” He pointed to a reproduction of the three-foot square map. “I will now enter the gate with my team. We plan to be gone a week.”
The next day, a janitor was cleaning up the archive room and found a scrap of paper under a desk. It said 一寸是一万里*, not even English. He threw it away.
*(1 inch = 3600 miles)
Generally, in North America, we don’t think about what place names mean much. Either they’re in English (e.g. Grand Falls, Red River) or they come from French, Spanish, German, or any number of native American languages, and often very corrupted from the original language.
In Korea, however, all major place names can be written with Chinese characters, which makes it easy to look up the meaning. The notable exception to this is Seoul, which cannot be written in Chinese characters. I have made a map of Korea with the meanings of all major cities on it in English. (In case you’re wondering, the name “Korea” comes from a former kingdom called Goryeo, which means “high beauty”.)
I live in Perfect Area. (original map from es.rice.edu)
What do you see when you look at the picture below? My wife said it looked like an amoeba. What it is, is a topographical map I drew of part of a world I’m creating. Here’s what I see:
- It’s a valley with steep mountains around it.
- This map was originally 16 pixels to a mile, so it’s about 35 miles across.
- Each elevation line is 1000′, so the highest peaks are about 16,000 feet off the valley floor.
- The darker areas are the mountains. The green areas in the middle are depressions in the valley floor.
- There are 137 mountain peaks, ranging from 3250′ to 16,340′ tall.
- The circular area on the right is a deep lake with high mountains all around it. There is a waterfall falling off the northern face.
This is why I love drawing topographical maps. I can look at them and see the places in my head. To some people, it may just be a bunch of lines, but for me, it’s truly inspiring.