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Global Perspectives in Historical Maps

The western system of latitude and longitude, accompanied by Chinese translations of the legends, was introduced in the late Ming, and the Jesuit Matteo Ricci (1552-1610) was the first to apply the more modern approach to map-making. He had revised his world maps many times, such as the Yü-ti shan-hai ch'üan-t'u (Map of Europe), the Shan-hai yü-ti ch'üan-t'u (Complete Terrestrial Map), the K'un-yü wan-kuo ch'üan-t'u (Great Universal Geographic Map), and Liang-i hsüan-lan-t'u (Map of the Lands between the Poles). The geographical knowledge as well as the cartographical system shown on his maps all differed greatly from those of their Chinese counterparts.

In 1648, Father Francesco Sambiasi (1582-1649) made a map entitled K'un-yü ch'üan-t'u (Map of the World), which was a copy of Ricci's K'un-yü wan-kuo ch'üan-t'u. He put China in the center of the map and supplemented Ricci's original map with the latest geographical knowledge. In 1674, Father Ferdinand Verbiest (1623-1688) produced the K'un-yü ch'üan-t'u (Map of the World), showing the five continents and four oceans surrounded by an oval frame. Monstrous sea creatures, strange marine life forms, and ships were also added to the map. His K'un-yü t'u-shuo (Illustrated Explanation of the Entire World) is a conclusion of the achievements of Western missionaries and map-makers working in China from the late Ming to the mid-17th century.

K'un-yü ch'üan-t'u (Map of the World)
13th year of the K'ang-hsi reign (1674), Ch'ing dynasty, Ink on paper, 440×197 cmK'un-yü ch'üan-t'u (New window)

Ta-ti ch'üan-ch'iu yi-lan-t'u (General Map of the World)
Drawn by Liu Yen, Ch'ing dynasty, Imprint of the 1st year of the Hsien-feng reign (1851),
Ch'ing dynasty, 240×182 cm
Ta-ti ch'üan-ch'iu yi-lan-t'u (New window)