2006-04-16

Explain the world from a map

You can explain a lot of questions from looking at a map. You can also spot patterns and form hypothesis/theory with a map. Example by examining this physical geography map of Asia
  • Why S Korea is richer than N Korea from the beginning - more low-lying and flat land
  • Why Taiwan was colonized by the Chinese before the Japanese or the Ryukyu - Arable flat low land on the west coast (and population pressure in China of course, but there was also the neutralizing factor of dynasty discouragement)
  • Pattern: ancient civilizations all formed around the 33-37 parallel, Yellow River area, Mesopotamia, Persian Plateau, Indus River area and Greece. Theory/hypothesis: perhaps it is cold enough to have a winter so that people have nothing to do but think and innovate whiel it is not too cold that they cannot survive?
  • Corollary: Is Lee Kuan Yew correct on his praise for true invention of air-conditioner (I tend to make stupid mistakes in maths while at school in summer exams but did well in winters. I used to blame the higher brownian motion activities in summer for disrupting my neurons)?
  • See the area around Shanxi province in China (labeled Yellow Earth Plateau/Huangtu Gaoyuan), the desertification in China. This was the center of Chinese civilization from 500BC to fairly recently, then that of present Iraq (should yellower than as displayed in this map), Indus River Valley (Pakistan). Question: why these areas which nurtured early civilization are all desert today? Is Jared Diamond right on his Easter Island theory?
  • Hot and mountainous areas tend to nurture spicy cuisines (perhaps for better preserving food/killing germ or masking rotten smell?). e.g. Jiangxi, Hunan, Guizhou, SE Asia, India. What about the Sichuan Basin (just look for a 'basin' on the map, you won't miss)? Being surrounded and hence 'conquered' by mountain cuisine culture?
  • Match the map of arable land (low, flat, with water) with that of Han and ethnic minority population in China. Note the spots of Miao and Yao who shared the land with Han 3000 years ago. Corollary: why Han Chinese did not really colonize Xinjiang despite extensive control and migration during Han and Tang period even further west
You are welcome to add your insights.
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3 comments:

Richardson said...

“Why S Korea is richer than N Korea from the beginning - more low-lying and flat land”

That has nothing to do with the difference in wealth.

In fact, if not for North Korea’s communist government, they likely would have done far better.

The north was left with virtually all the heavy industry developed by Japan, including foundries and power plants, as well as resources such as coal and iron. Up until the late 1970s/early1980s, the north WAS doing better than the south!

If the north had wisely engaged in capitalism and market trade, the history of the peninsula would be very different.

On the other hand, South Korea had very little heavy industry, and was basically an farming society.

As in most cases, the political layout of the land is far more important than the physical features.

Sun Bin said...

I was not trying to explain everything with topography. But the fact that there is more flat land in South is certainly one of the factors for higher population in the South from the beginning (i.e. 1950s). Of course there are a lot mroe other reasons, esp regarding industrialization post 1960s. But I do agree with you that market economy matters a lot more.

Flatter land also makes it easier to develop road and other infrastructure in the past.

I am not sure about the "Japan's industry" argument. I know Pyongyeong was bombed into stone age during the war. As you can see from pictures, there is no old building in Pyongyeong. The heavy industry of NK is mainly built by Soviet aids. In fact, NK depended on USSR for aids and energy until USSR collaped.

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