Author: SL Lee
Date: 08-25-10 08:38
The Many Facets of Matteo Ricci
1602 World Map Created in Six Stages
By DONNA URSCHEL
[May 2010. Jonathan Spence of Yale university gavea lecture about the map, how it was drawn in 6 stages.]
The first stage took place from 1583 to 1584, known as the southeast China pioneering days. Ricci wrote that he had brought with him to China a one-sheet Western map, which he called the “universal map of the world.” The map was written “in our Westerner’s writing,” with Western projections and with China to one side.
Ricci displayed this Western map in a small house rented by the Jesuits. The map was an object of curiosity with the Chinese who came by the Jesuit house. Some of the visiting Chinese said the map didn’t seem to fit any of their ideas of how the world should look. They wanted to know if Ricci could place the titles of the countries into Chinese characters so they could get a better sense of the names. Ricci agreed.
The second stage was Ricci’s attempt to make a Chinese rendering of the Western names. Spence said, “Ricci did not have good Chinese at this time. He certainly wasn’t doing a fluid rewrite. He must have had help.”
Ricci also needed help with astronomy, claiming he was mediocre with math. He was reliant on the books he brought with him from Italy.
In his journal, Ricci said the map was larger than the one he brought with him, but still one sheet and small in size. The map remained simple, with 30 or 40 place names that were translated into Chinese. Also, China was placed a little more to the center of the map.
Quoting Ricci’s journal, Spence said, “The main importance of this map is that it helped the Chinese see how very far away we were, how far we traveled to come and work with them. When they saw the huge expanse, the Chinese were much less nervous of the scale and nearness of the Western states.”
More and more visitors came to see the map, and friends started making copies that were circulated widely.
The third stage occurred when Ricci was in Nanjing, where scholars asked him to make a map twice the size of his previous one. Spence said, “The place names begin to increase in number, and now everything on it is in Chinese characters.”
The fourth stage was the production of the 1602 Beijing edition, which is the famous map that was on display at the Library. Spence said Ricci doubled the size of the previous map, creating a six-panel version. The 30 to 40 place names increased to more than 1,000, and China is displayed at the center of the map.
Also, Ricci wrote descriptions on the map of the various areas, as well as reflections on religious life, studying cartography and on the contact between China and the West. About Europe, Ricci wrote, “This area of Europe has 30 or more countries and all follow the ways of kings … .” The one European product he talks about is the “excellent wine from grapes” from Italy (not France). At this stage, the map was so large (5.5 feet high by 12.5 feet long) and detailed that it took an entire year for the wood blocks to be carved.
During stage five, from 1602 to 1605, the map was pirated, with printers and others making unofficial copies and selling them widely. At one point, an eight-panel version of the map was developed and distributed.
Spence said stage five was also known for a color-tinted version. In his journal, Ricci said a court eunuch made a color-tinted edition of the map and gave it to Emperor Wanli in 1605. “The tinted version so pleased the emperor that he wanted another one. Then being emperor, he asked for 12 more. And then he asked for 12 on silk,” Spence said.
Stage six was when the tinted version became common in China. Many of the wood blocks, however, had been damaged in the great floods of 1607 and others were lost or damaged during the clean-up operations. A smaller version of the map was made that could be displayed more easily.
In the audience question-and-answer segment, Jay I. Kislak, who donated his collection of books, manuscripts, historic documents, artifacts, maps and art of the Americas to the Library, asked Spence what happened to the thousands of copies of the Ricci map that circulated in China. Spence speculated that self-censorship or anti-Catholic sentiment caused them to be discarded. But all in all, Spence said, “We don’t know. No one has found any copies.”
My comment -
There is no explanation on :
* why the map has so little information on Europe;
* why there is no Papal State, Florence, Tuscany.... :
* why China is so detailed in place names related to Yongle/Xuande
* the statement "some 70 years after the first relationship between China and Europe", which clearly put the completion of the map in 1410s-1420s.
The map is essentially a map drawn by Chinese in Yongle/Xuande era, not by European contemporaries of Ricci. Ricci might have brought an Ortelius atlas to China and added a few names to it. However, this geography of the 1602 map is mostly not based on Ortelius map. It has to come from Chinese source, which means the Chinese knew about the three big oceans, the Americas and part of Australia. Ming Chinese in Yongle/Xuande time had circumnavigated the world. They surveyed the coastline of western Americas, particularly California peninsula.