Pictorial maps, which include out-of-scale pictures of special features of a place, have long been popular, but they had something of a heyday in the middle of the 20th century. “A Map and History of Peiping…” by Frank Dorn is considered one of the masterpieces of this era.
At the time of Dorn’s posting to Beijing, the capital of the Republican government of China was in Nanjing, where Chiang Kai-shek had established it after defeating the warlords of the Beiyang Clique, who had ruled northern China after the defeat of the Qing dynasty. Beijing, however, with its history as long-time capital, was still the pre-eminent city of China. It was also in close proximity with Japanese holdings after the 1933 Japanese annexation of the province of Jehol, just to the northeast. Indeed, at the end of July, 1937, about 18 months after Dorn completed his map, Beijing was taken by Japanese forces as Japan expanded its Chinese holdings in the second Sino-Japanese War.
This highly ornate and detailed map shows the area within the old city walls of Beijing as well as some of the surrounding area, including the Great Wall, the Jade Fountain, and the Summer Palace in the upper left corner of the map. The upper right and right border of the map show a historical chronology of the city, with some 20 images and annotations, from “Before 1100 BC, birth of the original Chou city,” through “Capital of Kublai Khan, 1264,” “visit of Marco Polo,” “End of the Ming Dynasty, 1643,” to “The Republic,” “Capital moved to Nanking,” and, finally, “Today – Cultural Capital of China.”
The lower right corner of the border shows a wedding procession, and the lower left shows a funeral. At bottom center is a cartouche with the full title of the map and booklet. The rest of the map is given to a detailed map of the city itself, crowded with images of buildings and people of Beijing.
The work shows the artistic influence of Jo Mora, of whom Frank Dorn was a friend and admirer. Mora was an artist of some fame, particularly in the San Francisco Bay Area, where Frank Dorn was a high school student.