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[Chinese Year of the Ox]

China in Maps: 16th - 19th Century

The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) Library will present an exhibition, China in Maps: 16th - 19th Century, in the University Library Gallery from 27 June, 1997 to 15 October, 1997.

This exhibition features HKUST Library's special collection of antique maps. They date from the 16th century through the 19th century and show the growth of knowledge about the geography of China and the surrounding region. The artistic quality of the maps is outstanding, as is their historical value.

The important works of notable mapmakers are represented. The first Western atlas of China by Ortelius, published in Antwerp in 1584, was based upon the surveys of the famous Portuguese cartographer Luis de Barbuda. A decade later one of the most important charts of this region was published in Amsterdam by Linschoten, who collated the reports of Portuguese mariners, thus providing one of the first printed records of Portuguese knowledge of the coasts of China and Japan.

Matteo Ricci, influential in the European cartography of China, arrived in Macao in 1582; his finest work was the multi-sheet wall map of the world produced in Peking in 1602. Ricci placed the prime meridian for the map along the Pacific coasts of Asia so that China remained centrally located as the Middle Kingdom. In 1655, Dutch cartographer Johannes Blaeu published Atlas Sinensis, an important atlas on China by an Italian Jesuit, Martino Martini. The continuing influence of Jesuit cartography can be seen in the works of the late 17th Century Italian, Coronelli.

The successor to Martini's atlas came nearly a hundred years later when new surveys were undertaken by the Jesuits in 1718 for the Chinese Emperor. These formed the basis for D'Anville's Nouvel Atlas de la Chine, published in 1737. D'Anville's maps included detailed surveys of the extremities of the Chinese Empire, including one of the first separate maps of Korea and the earliest printed Western maps of Tibet and Bhutan.

The development of the English East India Company's tea trade with Canton through the Portuguese colony of Macao from the late 17th Century contributed to the accurate mapping of the Pearl River Delta. The establishment of Hong Kong in 1841 and the series of conflicts between European powers and China from the late 1830's to the early 1860's led to the development of detailed charts and maps of focal points along the Pearl River Estuary and the environs of Canton in particular. Moreover the new treaty ports established along the China coasts at Amoy, Foochow, Ningpo and Shanghai in 1843-44 created interest in new charts of all the China coasts.

Through this historical and cartographic archive, we hope that students, present and future, will appreciate the long history of cross-cultural exchanges between China and the West represented in such a vivid visual fashion.


rev. 27 June, 1997
©HKUST Library