|Mao Kun Map|
Four explorers of the Dark Dynasty
The Mao Kun Map, sometimes referred to as the navigational charts or the Map of the Land of the Dead, was a Chinese allegory map used to locate some of the world's more obscure and mystical places. With no fixed points, the ancient charts were the only guide that took into account the role of chance, fate and the supernatural in mortal affairs.
Originally given to the esteemed and great navigator Wu Ling, who was known for going on various journeys to the mysterious gates of the afterlife, this map was prized above all other charts. It used meridian arcs, equatorial divisions, geographic landmarks and magic keys to guide one's spiritual passage. The map would later be owned by the Pirate Lord of Singapore, Sao Feng. After Will Turner attempted to steal them, Feng would have given the charts to Hector Barbossa and his crew, who would take the route to the Farthest Gate. The weathered charts soon made its way to Jack Sparrow, who used the map in his quest to try and find the Fountain of Youth.
Compiled by the four explorers of the Dark Dynasty, this map was presented to the esteemed and great navigator Wu Ling for his journeys to the mysterious gates of the afterlife. The map led its holder to spiritual realms and legends of the land beyond death, particularly towards the Farthest Gate, Davy Jones' Locker, and the Fountain of Youth. It used meridian arcs, equatorial divisions, geographic landmarks and magic keys to guide one's spiritual passage. Death-inspired passages were also included on the map that were translated by the calligrapher. There were rings on the Chinese allegory map that were symbolic of lands that can only be accessed through dreams. These ancient charts would be passed down from generation to generation.
At World's End
Obtaining the charts
- "I've a venture underway and I find myself in need of a ship and a crew."
"Hmm...It's an odd coincidence."
"Because you happen to have a ship and a crew you don't need?"
"No. Because earlier this day, not far from here, a thief broke into my most revered uncle's temple and tried to make off with these. The navigational charts. The route to the Farthest Gate. Wouldn't it be amazing if this venture of yours took you to the world beyond this one?"
- ―Hector Barbossa, Sao Feng and Elizabeth Swann
The map would later be in the possession of Sao Feng, the Pirate Lord of Singapore and scourge of the South China Sea. He held one of the great keys to a true pirate mystery: the navigational charts that showed the way to World's End, serving as the only map that can take anyone to the Farthest Gate. As the guardian and proud protector of this priceless cartographical phenomenon, Sao Feng does not keep the charts at his his bath house where the damp salty air of his waterfront lair could damage its delicate pigmentation, but is closely guarded at a sacred temple owned by his wise and wizened old uncle. Otherwise, Sao Feng carries the irreplaceable sea charts on his back to keep them safe from harm.
By the War Against Piracy, Sao Feng had the ancient charts moved to his bath house after Will Turner was caught trying to steal them from his uncle's temple. Sao Feng learned from both Will, Elizabeth Swann and Captain Hector Barbossa that the charts would be used in an attempted voyage to Davy Jones' Locker in order to save Jack Sparrow, much to Feng's anger. As both Feng and Barbossa's crew battled against soldiers of the East India Trading Company, Will made a deal with Feng which resulted in Feng lending Will the charts and covering their escape. Standing with Tai Huang and his men, Will tells Barbossa that he has the charts, along with a ship and crew, all of which they would use to sail to the ends of the earth and the world beyond.
Journey to Davy Jones' Locker
After escaping Singapore aboard the Hai Peng, the pirate crew began their voyage to World's End, using Sao Feng's map and Captain Barbossa as a guide. Will Turner examined the navigational charts with Tai Huang beside him, learning that the map may not be as accurate as modern charts, but it leads to more places. Moving the circles within circles of the charts, rotating the rings constantly, Will focused on one of the inscribed poems: "Over the edge, over again, sunrise sets, flash of green." Barbossa looks at the map while Joshamee Gibbs provided input on the green flash, with Pintel and Ragetti arguing over the riddle afterwards. Will continued to look at the map as the Hai Peng went through the Ice Passage between worlds, sailing on waters that reflected the stars so perfectly that it was nearly impossible to find the horizon. However, upon reaching the Farthest Gate, the crew realized that in order to go to Davy Jones' Locker, they had to go over the edge of a massive waterfall at World's End, and so the ship was cast down and destroyed to pass.
Escaping the Locker
- "'Up is down.' Well, that's just maddeningly unhelpful. Why are these things never clear?"
- ―Jack Sparrow
Captain Barbossa had the ancient charts when the crew arrived in the Locker, washing ashore to a beach where they reunited with Captain Jack Sparrow and the Black Pearl. Jack had no intention of sailing with Barbossa, Will, Elizabeth, Pintel and Ragetti, but couldn't use his compass because the strange realm of the dead was too mysterious for his magical object. With his compass useless, Jack Sparrow had no choice but to allow them aboard the Pearl, with Barbossa holding the charts. Bickering aboard the ship, Sparrow called Barbossa "chartman" due to the two arguing over captaincy.
The Pearl sailed on trackless seas while the crew tried to figure out a way to return to the land of the living, with Jack noticing Ragetti's wooden eye rolling on top of the charts. Gazing at the chart, still watching Ragetti's eye rolling back and forth, Jack idly plays with the rings of the charts until the Chinese writing lines up to read: "Up is down." Deciphering the map's cryptic message, Jack notices the center of the map is the drawing of a ship, which he spins upside down with rays of a sunset. Realizing "up is down" meant that the ship had to be flipped over by sundown, Jack tried have the crew rock the Pearl upside down in order to escape Davy Jones' Locker. Barbossa approached the map, but not before handing Ragetti back his eye, where he saw "up is down" as well as the image of an upside down ship during sunset and realized Jack's plan. And so the crew of the Black Pearl was able to flip the ship over before the sun sets, as the map showed, then the green flash shoots up to the sky and transports the Pearl, along with its crewman and the charts, back to the land of the living.
After escaping the Locker, the crew of the Black Pearl gathered around Will Turner as he indicated the charts to Captains Jack and Barbossa. Looking at Sao Feng's map, they found a fresh water spring on an island, where Will said they can resupply and get back to shooting each other later, only for Sao Feng himself to arrive from the Empress to raid the Pearl. Sao Feng's map would remain aboard the Black Pearl for the remainder of the voyage to convene the Fourth Brethren Court as well as the War Against Piracy.
The Fountain of Youth
Beginning the search
Following a pirate showdown with the East India Company, Hector Barbossa stole the Pearl from Jack Sparrow once again, with Sao Feng's charts still in his possession. Because some of the crew wanted to know about the item Captain Barbossa told them about with their own eyes, Barbossa pulled out the weathered charts to reveal the map to the Fountain of Youth. Barbossa's crew leaned forward as their captain unrolled the charts, only for them all to frown. Opening the charts completely, Barbossa saw a large hole in the center, where the map had been cut out. Having anticipated Barbossa's treachery, Jack stole the middle part of Sao Feng's charts. On another part of the Caribbean, aboard a dinghy, Jack pulled out the charts and cautiously rotated the circles, revealing a new map. Taking the route of "Ponce de León 1523" which showed a skeleton and an angel aligned with a chalice on the charts, Jack pulled out his compass and began his next adventure, sailing in his own quest to find the Fountain of Youth.
Even with the help of his map and compass, it wasn't the lure of charmed waters that first sent Jack on a course for the fabled Fountain but rather Jack set off in pursuit of his beloved ship, the Black Pearl. In his search, Jack was able to find the island where the Fountain was located, which was on the map, and had been close as reaching the cave entrance to the Fountain itself. But Jack never made it to the elusive Fountain and was forced to turn back.
Stolen and destruction
Year later, despite not finding the Fountain of Youth, Jack Sparrow gained some renown as the pirate who had a map and knew its location, though some misinterpret that he had been to the Fountain himself. After Jack Sparrow saved Joshamee Gibbs from a trial against him in London, Gibbs noticed the map on Jack's person. Grabbing the map and slowly unrolling it, Gibbs asked Jack if he had any luck in his quest to the Fountain of Youth, among other rumors. Taking the map back, rolled it back up and slipped it back in his coat pocket, Jack said his quest was delayed but vowed to taste the waters. When the two pirates were captured by the Royal Guards at St. James's Palace, Jack was taken to King George II, Lord John Carteret, and Prime Minister Henry Pelham, who were all aware that Jack was in possession of a map to the Fountain of Youth. However, upon their attempt to confiscate the map, Jack reached into his jacket pocket and, much to his surprise, the map was not there. He wasn't sure where it had gone, but he was relieved that the king's men wouldn't get it. In his mind he raced through what had happened after he'd shown the map to Joshamee Gibbs. All that he could figure was that Gibbs had somehow lifted the map when they were in the paddy wagon or during the commotion of their arrival at St. James's Palace. Taken to the Tower of London, Gibbs would spend his time studying the map well enough to memorize every route and destination.
Later that night at the Tower of London, Gibbs was threatened into being hung by the gallows by Hector Barbossa, now serving as a privateer for King George, unless he could offer something related to Jack Sparrow or the Fountain of Youth. Gibbs pulled out the map he stole from Jack from his pocket. Barbossa commanded Gibbs to hand over the map, only for Gibbs to smash a lantern on the map, instantly setting it on fire. Despite this, Gibbs revealed he had enough time to study the map, and now had every route and destination memorized. With the knowledge that Gibbs was the only one who could help him find the Fountain, and the map consumed by flames, Barbossa recruited Gibbs into His Majesty's Navy. It is unknown how much of the map Gibbs was able to memorize, aside from the route to the Fountain of Youth.
Appearance and design
Anyone planning that most difficult of voyages, a trip to the Land Beyond Death, must first seek the World's End. Only one map can take you there, Sao Feng's navigational chart to the Farthest Gate. Among his possessions, Sao Feng held one of the great keys to a true pirate mystery. Originally given to the esteemed and great navigator Wu Ling, who was known for going on various journeys to the mysterious gates of the afterlife, the Map Kun Map was prized above all other charts. As the Map to the Land of the Dead, it used meridian arcs, equatorial divisions, geographic landmarks and magic keys to guide one's spiritual passage. Its unique series of rings means that locations are never fixed. The map may not be as accurate as modern charts, but it leads to more places, as Tai Huang points out to Will Turner.
The Mao Kun Map was believed to have been painted on washi-handmade Japanese rice paper. These navigational charts were comprised of several rings upon which a map of the world was etched. By rotating the rings and lining one up with another, a reader could use the chart to find any number of mystical locations. The map also had a fairly accurate piece of Florida and Mexico. Some rings were symbolic of lands that can only be accessed through dreams.
Some death-inspired passages were included on the map that were translated by the calligrapher. The Chinese symbols on the map could be deciphered to reveal such phrases and texts, including "Geographic Landmarks and Magic Keys for Spiritual Passage," "Ghosts of Lost Souls at Sea to be Shepherded Through the Watery Passageway," "Forgotten Sailors Sleep with Eyes Open Dreaming of a Salt Water Death" and "The Rich Man Finds No More Hope of Continued Life-Death Will Always Be A Stairway Behind". Poetic locales include the "Sea of Forgotten Loves," Sea of Weeping Sailors," "Sea of Abandoned Children," "Regretful Beach," "Broken Promise Cove," and "Blue Dream River."
There are also paintings of several creatures, both real and mythological, on the map. Images of dragons—harbingers of good fortune in war—and tigers—devourers of evil spirits—could be found on the chart. The central ring depicted is an intrepid junk, surrounded by skulls, which is surrounded by the phases of the moon.
If lined up correctly, the map to the Fountain of Youth would be found, having the route through Whitecap Bay as well as a jungle-dense island which leads to the Fountain. The struggle for eternal life is symbolized by a tug of war between a skeleton and an angel, which is aligned with the the symbol of the Fountain itself: the Chalices.
As the guardian and proud protector of this priceless cartographical phenomenon, Sao Feng does not keep the charts at his waterfront lair where the damp salty air could damage its delicate pigmentation, but is closely guarded at a sacred temple owned by his wise and wizened old uncle. Otherwise, Sao Feng carries the irreplaceable sea charts on his back to keep them safe from harm. Indeed, this map was prized above all other charts by treasure seekers, with the directions to many marvelous places. With no fixed points, this chart was the only guide that took into account the role of chance, fate and the supernatural in mortal affairs. However, as many times as the Mao Kun Map has been used, the dates and distances can change and mislead the traveler who uses the map unwisely.
Behind the scenes
- "The inner workings of the map underneath are really beautiful, like a grandfather clock. Several hundred phrases needed to be translated into Chinese calligraphy, so propmaster Kris Peck brought in expert J.C. Brown. The original painting was done on washi—handmade Japanese rice paper—treated with layer upon layer of transparent washes of watercolors, some acrylic, and artist inks. There's a real history to it. Over the centuries, pirates have added their own secrets and scribbled notes to each other. There's unlimited mysteries held within. [...] There are some secrets on the map that are beyond even my understanding!"
- ―James Ward Byrkit
- The Mao Kun Map was created by conceptual consultant James Ward Byrkit for At World's End. Bykrit also worked (uncredited) on making additions to the map for On Stranger Tides.
- The name "Mao Kun Map" came from On Stranger Tides: The Visual Guide. Until then, it was referred to as the Map of the Land of the Dead, navigational charts, Sao Feng's Map, as well as simply the charts or the map.
- In real-world history, the Mao Kun Map was a series of maps published in the late-Ming Dynasty military encyclopedia, WuBei Zhi. Believed to be based on the travels of Zheng He, they showed sailing directions between ports of Southeast Asia and the northern Indian Ocean, as far as Malindi.
- There was a big meeting between director Gore Verbinski, James Byrkit, creature designer Crash McCreery, property master Kris Peck, production designer Rick Heinrichs, and more members of the film crew, where they threw out all these crazy ideas like about Sao Feng's Map. Such ideas included that maybe it's lit from underneath and projects stars, maybe it's oragami, or the globe that expands from a Chinese lantern. The idea of a ring-type map was referenced, which everyone liked and went with by the end of the meeting. Although Byrkit had a mock-up of the circular map, the map kept evolving based upon several conversations and input from Verbinski, and it took several months for a final version of the map to be painted. "The rings can line up in infinitely different ways, like a combination lock, and each way reveals some new secret, some unknown territory, some unexplored place, some metaphysical place, some parallel universe." A mixture of ink, blood and fingerprints (Bykrit's specifically) was used on the map's design, which had to be fully detailed because of the closeups shots the map had in At World's End.
- There are paintings of several creatures, both real and mythological, on the map, including a dragon, a tiger, and a small creature who resembles legendary mouse. When asked about it, Byrkit smiles mischievously and says, "There are some secrets on the map that are beyond even my understanding!" Images of Jack Sparrow and Elizabeth Swann can also be found within the map.
- In Pirates of the Caribbean: The Complete Visual Guide, the map's first riddle in full was "Over the edge, back, over again, sunrise sets at the flash of green." The beginning of the riddle is featured in the revision screenplay draft of At World's End.
- In the revision screenplay draft of At World's End, when Hector Barbossa found that there was a hole cut in the center of the map by Jack Sparrow, he was not going to say "Sparrow..." like in the finished version of the film.
- "I wrote a lot of death-inspired passages to be included on the map that were translated by the calligrapher. There were different versions of the map, one with a fairly accurate piece of Florida and Mexico. There is the version barely seen in 4 with the lighthouse and mermaids that is the most beautiful. There are rings on the map that are symbolic of lands that can only be accessed through dreams. That would make a good story."
- ―Jim Byrkit
- There were at least three versions of the map. The first was seen several times in At World's End, the second wasn't seen until the last scene of At World's End (which had Florida, Cuba and the symbol of the Fountain of Youth added on it), and the third from On Stranger Tides (which was the second version but with an island added on it).
- The map serves as the background for the DVD menu screens of both At World's End and On Stranger Tides. The Pirates of the Caribbean Four-Movie Collection has Sao Feng's Map as the "Collectible Map" or "Secret Map" included in the Limited Edition set.
- The paintings from the map were used for the design of building that held The Legend of Captain Jack Sparrow attraction, particularly the Fountain of Youth portion of the map seen in At World's End.
- The Legend of Captain Jack Sparrow
- Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End (First identified as the navigational charts)
- Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
- LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean: The Video Game (Non-canonical appearance)
- Kingdom Hearts III (Non-canonical appearance)
- Pirates of the Caribbean: The Complete Visual Guide
- Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides: The Visual Guide (First identified as the Mao Kun Map)
Notes and references
- Information shown from the Map of the Land of the Dead product info.
- "Ponce de León 1523" was written on the map, therefore, the map would've been made after Ponce de León's search for the Fountain of Youth.
- Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End
- Masters of Design: James Byrkit: Sao Feng's Map
- Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
- POTC Interview with Jim Byrkit 2012
- Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End "Inside the Brethren Court" featurette
- Pirates of the Caribbean: The Complete Visual Guide pg. 86-87 "Sao Feng's Map"
- Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End (junior novelization)
- Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides: The Visual Guide, p8-9: "Captain Jack Sparrow"
- Disney Second Screen: Pirates Of The Caribbean On Stranger Tides
- Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (junior novelization)
- At World's End production notes: Chapter 15 - Props: Weapons, Maps, Rings or Whatever
- Bring Me That Horizon: The Making of Pirates of the Caribbean
- Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides: The Visual Guide, pg. 26-27: "Mao Kun Map"
- Category:Mao Kun map - Wikimedia Commons
- Worldplay: Calypso's Fury draft of Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End script