China in 41 historical maps
The most commonly theory suggests that the name China refers to the Qin dynasty, which ruled China from 221 till 206 BC. The name China was adopted by Martino Martini and other 17th century (European) cartographers. On earlier maps the name Cathay, based on Marco Polo’s Italian name Catai, was used to identify the northern part of present-day China. The (eastern) coastline of China was not yet depicted on early European (world) maps based on Ptolemy’s descriptions. The large wall maps of Cresques (1375) and Fra Mauro (1450) were the first European world maps showing the extent of China to the east. On the other hand, a few centuries earlier, Chinese cartographers had already produced some remarkably accurate maps - at the time - of China and surroundings. The first separate maps of China, printed by Europeans, appeared in the 16th century.