Jesuit Cartography and the Translation of Knowledge in Early Modern Global Asia

Title: 1264 | Jesuit Cartography and the Translation of Knowledge in Early Modern Global Asia
Area: Border Crossing and Inter-Area
Stream: History
Presentation Type: Panel Presentation
Florin-Stefan Morar, City University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong (organizer, discussant, presenter)
Sophie Ling-chia Wei, Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong (chair, presenter)
Richard A. Pegg, MacLean Collection, United States (presenter)
Elke Papelitzky, New York University Shanghai, China (presenter)


The concept of translation has emerged recently as a way to understand the cross-cultural and trans-national movements of knowledge. The study of translation in this sense is the study of a practice that involves power struggles and different interests and is also social, collaborative, and multidirectional. Translation is moreover, not only the vehicle by which knowledge travels but also a site for the creation of new knowledge. How does this concept apply to East Asia? This panel presents four studies focused on the role of European Jesuits and of cartography in connecting East Asia to the rest of the world through the translation. There are several questions the panel explores. First, the collaboration between Jesuits and Chinese scholars in the making of a translated material object such as a globe from 1623 (Richard Pegg’s paper). This globe was meant for a Chinese audience, but the Jesuits were also active in their role as translators of Chinese knowledge in Europe. This is the topic of Sophie Ling-chia Wei’s contribution, which shows how Jesuit Figurists attempted to create a hybrid religious geography. How was Jesuit knowledge used by actors beyond the Jesuit’s direct control? This question is explored in two papers. Florin-Stefan Morar shows that Chinese cartographic practitioners learned used mathematical map-making techniques already starting with the Qianlong
period of the Qing. Elke Papelitzky focuses on how both Ricci’s famous world map Kun Yu Wan Guo Quan Tu and Chinese maps of China were adapted in Japanese encyclopedias and changed from their original Chinese context to the new Japanese context.

Panel Abstracts:
A Jesuit World Map? A Forgery? Making Sense of a Newly Discovered World Map (Kunyutu 坤輿圖) From Switzerland
坤輿圖 is a large world map recently discovered in the basement of the Library of the Swiss Armed Forces in Bern (Bibliothek am Guisanplatz) in 2018 and donated to the Library of Zurich this year. The map is in Chinese and appears to display features common to Jesuit world maps such as those of Ferdinand Verbiest and Michel Benoît. Who made this map, and why? Close examination of the Swiss Kunyutu reveals that it is a sister copy of a now inaccessible map from the First Historical Archives in Beijing. While this map seems to deviate from other known world maps, there is no reason to doubt its authenticity. This paper argues that the deviations can be explained by the fact that the author of the map is not a Jesuit, but likely Zhuang Tingfu 莊廷旉 a Chinese scholar with strong interests in Western mathematics, who during the Qianlong reign invented a new type of cartographic projection similar to the azimuthal stereographic projection and used it to draw a map resystematizing the content of the Verbiest world map. The evidence linking the Swiss Kunyutu with the Daqing tongshu zhigong wanguo jingwei diqiushi 大清統屬職貢萬國經緯地球式 made in 1794 by Zhuang Tingfu relates to the common projection used, the place-name content of the two maps and the cartographic elements. The Swiss Kun Yu Tu is thus a valuable cartographic artifact which challenges the received view that Chinese cartographers were not able to create maps within the framework of mathematical cartography.

Spaces in the Jesuit Figurists Reinterpretation of Chinese Classics
In the history of Christianity in China and in the history of exchanges between the East and the West, the Jesuit missionaries played a pivotal role, not only as translators of Western knowledge and technology, but also as agents, choosing passages in Chinese classics which they claimed compatible with Christianity and disseminating back to the West. Their accommodation approach continued in the early Qing and High Qing dynasty when the Jesuit Figurists came and won the attention from the Kangxi emperor, with their reinterpretation of the Yijing. Not following the footsteps of the previous Jesuits, the Jesuit Figurists not only centered on the figures, symbols, numbers in their typological exegesis of the Yijing but also transformed the spaces/locations they studied from ancient classics, including The Zhuangzi 莊子 (Book of Master Zhuang), Huainanzi 淮南子 (Master(s) from Huainan), Liezi 列子 (Book of Master Lie), Shan Hai Jing 山海經 (The Classic of Mountains and Seas), which are linked with Chinese mythology and histories. This paper aims to examine the spaces the Figurists borrowed from the above classics and records of mythic geography: they aimed to create a new space to fit the histories and mythologies on both sides, such as the Garden of Eden and the astronomical signs in the sky. The new space they introduced in Chinese classics amazed the European readers and the travel of their manuscripts also manifests the inception of French Sinology.

Chinese Scholars and European Jesuits Make a Chinese Globe in 1623
The late Ming was an active period in the introduction and production of cartographic materials created in collaboration between Chinese scholars and European Jesuits. Matteo Ricci is well-known for the publication of the first Chinese maps of the world, the best-known in 1602. Two decades later, in 1623, an equally important, little known and still extant, Chinese made four-color lacquer terrestrial globe was fabricated in the city of Hangzhou. Two principal sets of actors participated in the production of this globe. The first were the Chinese scholar converts known as the “Three Pillars of the Christian Religion in China,” Li Zhizao, Xu Guangqi and Yang Tingyun, godson of Li Zhizao, who had all been intimate friends of Ricci, helping him with the publication of his world maps. After Ricci’s death in 1610 they continued their scientific work along with a second set of actors, all European Jesuits, on the globe project. They were the two who signed the globe, Nicolò Longobardo, successor to Ricci as Superior General of the China mission and Manuel Dias, who introduced the telescope into China. The third was Guilio Aleni whose Record of Foreign Lands, a concise geography of the world explaining Ricci’s maps, was also published in Hangzhou in 1623. Together these actors and others, in spite of historically challenging circumstances, combined a complex collaborative exchange of knowledge and technologies between Europe and China in the creation of China’s first terrestrial globe.

Chinese and Jesuit Maps in Edo-period Encyclopedias: Translating and Changing the Context of Knowledge
In 1602, the Jesuit Matteo Ricci made his famous Chinese world map Kunyu wanguo quantu. Shortly thereafter, the map arrived in Japan. Throughout the Edo period, this map enjoyed popularity with both faithful copies as well as adapted and updated versions appearing. At the same time, Chinese geographical knowledge also arrived in Japan in the form of books and maps.In addition to often anonymous copies of Ricci’s map that showed clear awareness of the European origin of the map, the map was reproduced in several encyclopedias starting in the early 18th century such as Nishikawa Joken’s Zōho Ka-i tsūshō-kō (1708), and Hirazumi Sen’an and Tachibana Morikuni’s Mokoroshi kinmō zui (1719). These encyclopedias focus on Chinese knowledge, taking Ricci’s map away from the Jesuit context and placing it alongside adaptions of Chinese maps of China. In doing so, both the Chinese maps as well as Ricci’s map were simplified significantly and the compilers sometimes added place names translated into kana to the Chinese language base maps or added annotations in Japanese so that a wider audience was able to read and understand these maps.This paper seeks to understand how Ricci’s map and Chinese maps of China were adapted in Japanese encyclopedias, which role they played in the books, and how the knowledge of the maps changed from their original Chinese context to the new Japanese context

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