German bird’s-eye view map of Qingdao

This colourful and detailed map of Qingdao was used for much more than simple orientation

A Chinese artist drew the map as a souvenir around 1900. Today, it is reminiscent of an imperial pipe dream of the German Empire

From “Napfkuchen” (a German cake) and Germania beer to half-timbered houses – the German conquerors of the 1900s wanted to "saturate" the entire province in their culture

But this mission to form an “ideal colony” was met with resistance, not least from the Yihetuan fighters, who carried out the “Boxer Rebellion”

Object data

Date of production: Around 1900
Acquisition by the museum: Purchased by the museum from Herman Gerlof in 1903




Paper, paint: barium sulfate, zinc white, ocher, cinnabar




W 174 cm, H 89.5 cm

Inventory Id:

A 4375

Places and buildings were marked by labels on the map which were individually glued on.

Dreams and reality of an "ideal colony"

The almost two square meter map in a bird's eye view shows the city of Qingdao around 1900. Piers, lighthouses, ships, barracks and individual houses are depicted from an oblique angle and in great detail. In blue, green and brown, the landscape was also recreated in realistic colors. But the buildings on the Bay of the Yellow Sea are labeled in German: the Prinz Heinrich Hotel, a Deutsche Bank branch, a church and a prison. The streets are deserted and everything gives the impression of being orderly and peaceful. This is probably how the German occupiers would have wanted the city to look. The reality was different.

Like most European bird's eye view maps, this one only shows selected locations and deserted streets

In 1897, when German naval ships dropped seven hundred sailors in the bay in November, Qingdao was a fishing village with clay huts, a temple and some military installations. Kaiser Wilhelm II had extorted the Chinese government into signing a 99-year lease for the entire Kiautschou area. China possessed large reserves of natural resources and coal deposits and had the promise of becoming a lucrative market for European products.
Immediately after the contract was signed, the Germans started to turn the village into a massive, loud construction site. Steamers dropped anchor as cranes hauled materials ashore.

From the photo album of Peter Schmidt, a seaman on the East Asia voyage of the armored cruiser "Fürst Bismarck" 1906-1908

Streets, railroad tracks and entire city districts were built. Strictly organized and technically state-of-the-art, complete with the latest infrastructure - this is how the Europeans envisioned their model colony on the Chinese coast. Life in the spacious, half-timbered houses was pleasant. With German bread, German beer, religious instruction and German education, the new "cultural center in the Far East" was meant to amaze and astonish the rest of the world.

Construction work in the German colony of Qingdao

Building this "fantastic city" cost the empire 200 million marks. In some places, colonial architecture, as can be seen on the map, still characterizes parts of the cityscape of Qingdao. Today, the metropolis has 9 million residents.

This is how Qingdao looks today
Travelers from all over the world visited and photographed the growing metropolis and bought souvenirs like this map. The artist knew exactly how to combine Chinese landscape painting while keeping the taste of the clientele in mind. The occupiers were more than unpopular with the inhabitants.

Colonial Qingdao was strictly segregated according to racial and class-related categories. The Europeans, who were only a couple of hundred in number, lived in mansions in the center of the city, separated from the residential quarters of the Chinese population and far away from the homes of the local workers. For them, homes with sewage systems and all the comforts of modern living were not provided. They were forced to obey the "Chinese order" (“Chinesenordnung”), which restricted their freedom with arbitrary regulations on lighting, curfew and clothing.

The protests against the unequal treatment, the privileges of the Germans and their general conduct grew louder. The Chinese journalist Zhu Qi, who edited a daily newspaper in Qingdao, wrote in an editorial in 1908: "The Germans are pompous upstarts basking in their glory and haughty against others. That is why they behave like brute tyrants toward the Chinese."

Chinese resistance groups also rebelled against missionaries. They called themselves Yihetuan or Yihequan, meaning "fists of justice and harmony". From this name, the name of the fighting alliances was derived, which later became known for the "Boxer Rebellion".
The colonial rulers reacted with so-called punitive expeditions and burned entire villages. In June 1900, Kaiser Wilhelm II assembled a corps to put down Chinese resistance as part of an "Alliance Army of Eight States." Fueled by the "Hun Speech" he had delivered at Bremerhaven during the deployment, the German troops were conspicuous for their particular cruelty to the civilian population.

Church shown on the map (detail)

From the photo album from the German seaman Schmidt. On the bottom left, the government building can be seen.

World War I shattered the imperial plans of the Germans and Japan became the new ruler of the colony. In 1922, ownership of the territory was reverted back to China.

The MARKK last showed the bird’s-eye view map of Qingdao in 2021 during the exhibition “Colour Meets Map” (“Farbe trifft Landkarte”). Further historical maps from the museum’s archives were presented in this context and published in the corresponding catalogue (see sources).

 The era of German colonial rule in China is further attested to through other objects in the archive, amongst which are private photo albums like the one of graphic designer Ivo Puhonny shown here.

  • Bird’s-eye view map of the City of Qingdao, inventory number A 4375, restored with funding from the Rudolf-August Oetker-Stiftung
  • Map teaser: Peter Hermes Furian / Alamy Stock Foto 2K6P8WE
  • Photo album from the collection Peter Schmidt, Album1, inventory number 2008.12:1
  • Photo album collection Puhonny, album 5, box 10, inventory number 88.68:34 ff.
  • Quote of the Journalist Zhu Qi: Mechthild Leutner (Ed.): Musterkolonie Kiautschou. Die Expansion des Deutschen Reiches in China. Deutsch-chinesische Beziehungen 1897 bis 1914. Eine Quellensammlung. Berlin 1997
  • Literature: Magazine manuscript cultures Nr. 16, exhibition catalogue “Farbe trifft Landkarte-Colour Meets Map”, 2021, Centre for the Study of Manuscript Cultures at the University of Hamburg; Gert Kaster, Stadtarchiv Qingdao, Die Vogelschaupläne von Tsingtau, Kiel, 2017; Charlotte Ming, Unter deutschen Dächern, taz 28.01.2023!5908989&s=tsingtao&SuchRahmen=Print

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