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The Sinosphere of Atlas Altera

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Location  China in the past

From the Centre to the Margins - The Extents of the Sinosphere:
Mammoth-riding Yukaghirs, Hmongic nations, Langfang and other konsi republics in Nusantara, transoceanic contact by the Ainu in their itaomachips, Nisean horses preserved and traded in the Tea Horse Road, Phags-pa-writing and katana-carrying PNW Indigenous nations, Japonic-Austronesic cultural infusion in Okinawa, Ming Restoration, Rangaku policies and more organic modernization in the Far East...

This map explained: view the video here!

This is a map that u/varjagenu/Zveiner (deviantart profile) and I collaboratively produced for the Atlas Altera project: www.atlasaltera.comFor reference, you can check out the two world maps in my main gallery or take a look at the Q&A in the comments of the posts on Reddit: the main political map and the main chorographical maps.

Also, check out my YouTube for more backroom explanations and in-depth discussions


Support this kind of content:
To access in-depth lore and footnotes (explanatory etymologies for the Sinic meanings for each country and its nation-signifier), or to download a high resolution print-quality version join the Patreon!
Your funds will go to supporting me as well as other collaborators of the project. It took many long nights to produce something this in-depth and thought out, so really do consider showing us your support if you can. 

More content:
I'm doing backstage-style discussions for this project with my friend, which you can watch on YouTube and or listen on Anchor/Spotify.

Some extra explanations will be provided in the comments below.

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northking1's avatar
👑 u dropped this
TelamonTabulicus's avatar

Yes I did! hope you enjoy.

jofu77's avatar

So, in this universe, are the mammoths still around?

TelamonTabulicus's avatar

Indeed they are! I mention them in the Northern Marches blurb. There will be additional lore about the process of domesticating them from Mammoth Island (Wrangel Island), and then the accidental reversal of the taiga-tundra in northeastern Siberea (the high plateaus of Tunguska) back into mammoth-steppe or frigid steppe with the proliferation of domesticated muskox and mammoth herds. There's already lots of information on Pleistocene Park (Atlas Pro recently did one). I've been following for ten years now and am in the camp that the decline of the mammoth-steppe biome was human-induced and that at least in northeastern Siberea and northwestern Alaska it ought to be the default biome even today).

OneHellofaBird's avatar

did you have recourse to the "Ricci Map"? its transliterations are more mechanistic, but intriguing for all the corners of the 16th-century world portrayed; I even made a database for the Middle Chinese names but never got to make anything of it

TelamonTabulicus's avatar

Good eye! I got inspiration from the the Ricci map! You can see my allusion to it with the title of the fictional map source, only instead of "Ten Thousand" here it's "Thousand."

As I am not very literate in Chinese, I didn't really have the chance to scan the map for toponyms.

Instead, I used my own rules of phonetic-semantic transcriptions. I used Wiktionary and my Chinese-literate mother for confirmations once in a while haha.


I would love to see that database. You really should come aboard the Discord. We've got some great collaboration going on, including an effort to transcribe my map in different languages and a Visible Speech transcription app in the making.

TelamonTabulicus's avatar

About the legend: Every country in the Sinsosphere is listed and sorted in the legend. They are sorted by the Chinese sense of directionality relative to the Yellow River Valley, the traditional birthplace of Chinese civilization. Historically, the Chinese viewed those on the outside of the centre as "barbarians," even assigning different catch-all derogatory terms based on directions (Yi-East, Man-South, Rong-West, Di-North), but in Altera, there are fully or nearly fully Sinicized nations in all these areas around the heartland (i.e. all of Dongying/Eastern Maritimes; whereas Minyak in the west, Cochin in the south, and Cathay in the north are semi-Sinicized).

By Sinicized, I generally mean the adoption of Hanzi/Kanji/Hanja etc. (integrated with syllabaries in most cases), similar dietary preferences and restrictions, a pan Shendao/Shinto belief continuum that acts as an epidoxy or religious stratum on top of Mahayana Buddhism, the studying of Chinese classics and philosophy, etc...

Semi-Sinicized countries use their own Sinic-inspired writing systems without any Hanzi integration and retain certain non-Sinic or even antithetical cultural traits...

Those that are the least Sinicized are states that have come under Chinese political hegemony in the past but mostly use Indic-derived writing systems, follow different Buddhist sects, and have fewer cultural similarities with the Chinese.

About the motifs: The compass is based on the traditional Chinese mariner's compass rose, which shows directions with the 12 earthly branches, similar to how there are mariner's terms in the West/Mediterranean for different directions (Tramontana, Greco, Libeccio etc.).

The colours are what the Chinese traditionally assigned to directions, along with the five elements of wuxing in the cycle of Yinyang... Interestingly, I think these colours correspond to many Central Asian/Turkic associations for colour and directions... Note that these colours are also used for the map colouring scheme...(the secondary colours may seem unintuitive to a Westerner's eyes, but traditionally, the common Chinese colour qing did not clearly distinguish blue from green).

The numerals on the outside count from up by 15 degrees in the Huafa or Suzhou numeral system, a traditional Chinese shorthand alternative to the abstract counting rod system for doing mathematics in the Far East. These numerals were used by merchants and people who had to work with numbers regularly and had the same advantages as the Indo-Arabic numerals. Although they fell out of use in the early 20th century, in Altera, they continue to be the main arithmetic and numeral system for most of Serica.

TelamonTabulicus's avatar

Sinic Topoynms: The Chinese/Hanzi characters printed in every territory on the map is the nation signifier, usually the more archaic, literary, and poetic character used to refer to a country. In a political context, it goes with the guo or go suffix in Mandarin and Japanese. You may notice that only countries closer to the core have unique characters separate from their two-character country/land names. This is due to longer associations with Chinese history, with older/outdated histories carrying over onto new geographies (antiquated names or references to ancestral connections). Interestingly, in China today, these signifiers are also used as abbreviations (confusing tourists when they buy train tickets). They are more often tagged onto words the way English might use prefixes (i.e. Anglo-, Franco-, Luso-) or be used as a descriptor (i.e. instead of doing something like saying Latin as a subject, you might say Wa/Yamato-studies instead of Japanese studies; or you might say Gallic culture instead of French).

The Chinese writing system can be adapted by any ethnolinguistic group to fit their language if they have the drive to put themselves through the mental torture of configuring it to their totally different linguistic traits. The Japanese, Vietnamese, and Korean cultures did this, and they belong to separate language families (Japonic and Koreanic are isolates, and Vietnamese is Austroasiatic), all unrelated to the Sino-Tibetan family.

Hanzi/Chinese toponyms are one thing that would for certain be standardized across all languages using Chinese characters, even for countries that have systems mixed with syllabaries, since proper nouns and toponyms are almost always written with Chinese characters as they lend themselves well to semantic-heavy contexts. What is really neat is hearing topoynms pronounced by Chinese, Cantonese, Hokkien, Shanghainese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese speakers. You can hear similarities and also appreciate each language's difference. Wiktionary is great for this as it shows this breakdown effectively.

Phonetic-semantic transcriptions: In common parlance, most people use the two-character terms when referring to a geographical area or place. In Altera, these characters more or less correspond to the English phonetic transcriptions as they are what Westerners used to transcribe Serican place names in the Age of Exploration. In OTL, prior to the modern period, Sinic cultures preferred to use a balance of preserving phonetic qualities while also conveying the meaning/semantics of foreign places/persons, so that the transcription was approximate in both senses: compare the exonyms for England (Yinguo), France (Faguo), Holland/Netherlands (Helan), Germany/Deutschland (Deguo), America (Meiguo; the guo is cognate to gook btw) with later-familiarized countries known to the Chinese such as the completely non-sensical but phonetically more similar names of Canada (Jia-na-da), Mexico (Muo-xi-ge), Nigeria (Naijiliya).

For countries in the Sinosphere, the semantics were usually quite interesting, either being derogatory and xenophobic, showing respect and of equal status, or used to exotify or convey geographic infromation. I've gotten rid of xenophobic names in Altera. Also, in Altera, there are more countries that have longer exposure / more significant connections to the Sinosphere, so I had to do a lot of work to create these kinds of toponyms. It's not 100% plausible that such meaningful/articulate names could have been chosen for every place, but the lore is that in the 19th and 20th centuries, various thinkers and states people in the Sinosphere choose to up their geography traditions the same way that the Germans, French, and even Americans were becoming interested in geographic knowledge, creating their own geographies instead of relying upon foreign sources to translate uncritically.

Exonyms: A lot of the areas outside of the Sinosphere would not be as intimately known to the Chinese, so I chose to use regional names the way Europeans use them as approximate geographies: i.e. Tartary, Cathay, Indies/India, the West, the Northwest... The names are quite colourful and either pegged to archaic historical names (India = Tianzhu) or lore-filled references (the Polynesian topoynms all have a character with the boat radical and use characters associated with Hokkien-Austronesic contact; the Manila Galleon trade leads to early knowledge of Mesoamerica/Nicaragua and suggest there is positive reception/perceiving of the cultures across the Pacific etc.). There's too much to unpack here, so feel free to ask about specific places and I can provide transcriptions and etymologies by request!

**Number of countries...**Only after using Excel to systematically transcribe every country in the Sinosphere, plus writing out the lore-filled etymology, did I realize I have close to as many countries here as there are in the entire real world...around 170. Suffice it to say, this took a lot of work on my part. I hope you come to appreciate the thought and effort, even if you don't read archaic Chinese!

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