The research programme “Territories, Communities and Exchanges in the Sino-Tibetan Kham Borderlands (China)” has received funding from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for research, technological development and demonstration, European Research Council (ERC), Support for frontier research (SP2-Ideas), Starting grant n° 283870.

It is hosted by the Centre d'études Himalayennes, at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS)

For further information and any questions, please contact the Principal Investigator, Stéphane Gros

CEH - UPR 299
7 rue Guy Môquet
94800 Villejuif CEDEX
Tél : 01 49 58 37 36
Fax : 01 49 58 37 28

Home > Activities > Cartography


Approximate Extent of Kham Cultural Area
Rémi Chaix

As Kham never existed as a politically independent territory or an administrative entity, one of the main issue to map this region is firstly to define its boundaries on other criteria (cultural, linguistic, ethnic, etc.). Even though some geographers, like Gruschke in The Cultural Monuments of Tibet’s Outer Provinces (2004, map 5) or Ryavec in A Historical Atlas of Tibet (2015, map 4), have suggested approximate borders of Kham cultural area (see map below), the definition of its clear demarcation with other cultural area of Tibet and with China still remains an open question and no consensus exists. In the current state of research it appears more coherent not to focus on the precise geographical limits and display the region with a large “buffer zone” (Kham and neighboring regions) to keep any door open and being able to see if a consensus emerge at the end of our research program.

Borders of Kham according to A. Gruschke and K. Ryavec
A. Gruschke (2004) and K. Ryavec (2015)

In the framework of this project, we do not intend to make a synthetic atlas of Kham but rather produce series of maps in regards to different aspects of our research topics. This research program notably promotes a multi-scalar approach and a focus on networks that will be further developed through cartographic processing of data. Cartographic work will combine the results of the research conducted under themes 1 and 3 (Trade and Exchanges; Political Entities and Social Organization), in an attempt to map developments in communication and circulation networks, as well as the political and administrative units and their boundaries over time.

Today’s motor roads do not follow older traditional caravan and trade routes, and identifying these old communication routes is of crucial importance to understand the history of Kham region prior to mid-20th century. Gathering data from various sources in different languages, we were able to trace more than 18,000 km of tracks and routes in use from mid-19th to mid-20th century.

Overall, the historical geodatabase contains more than 1,500 place names (villages, monasteries, fortress, pass, bridges, etc. in English, Tibetan and Chinese scripts), hundreds of historical and modern roads and tracks (more than 40,000 km), along with hundreds of areas (administrative regions, pastoral and agricultural areas, etc.).

Maps of Kham in Today’s administrative context

Administrative boundaries and capitals
Population: density, evolution, ethnicity

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Maps of Western Travelers in Kham

Mapping old communication routes is of crucial importance to understand the history of Kham region prior to mid-20th century as today’s motor roads do not follow precisely traditional caravan (...)

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Maps of the book Frontier Tibet (2019)

This page includes all the maps that have been published in the edited volume Frontier Tibet (2019)

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