1680 China West

China and the West: 1680 Edition

Via Arts & Letters Daily, a remarkable piece on how East and West met in earlier times.

The particular meeting of the minds that I am exploring this evening occurred in the 1680s. That was just a century after the pioneering Italian Jesuit missionary Matteo Ricci (whom the Chinese still refer to by his Chinese name of “Li Madou”) had crossed the border between Macao and China and rented a small house in Guangdong province. As a conversation piece, he placed on the wall a print of a world map made in the West, with the names of the main continents and countries spelled out in the Western alphabet. Some of the Chinese who came to visit were vexed, other were intrigued. It was those Chinese with the greatest interest in getting at the truth who persuaded Ricci to make an enlarged version of the world map with the names identified by Chinese characters, and with the cartography somewhat adjusted so that China was closer to the center of the map, rather than being stuck on the periphery (as had been the case with the original map). In following these Chinese requests, Ricci further revised and enlarged the map with descriptive passages (in Chinese) which gave commercial and political details of many countries in both Europe and East Asia, along with descriptive references to some aspect of the Catholic states, the role of the papacy, and the nature of Chinese relations with its neighbors.

Over the following years, a small but steady stream of missionaries followed Ricci, and even served in Chinese official positions in the bureau of astronomy. A smaller number of Chinese also traveled to Europe during this period, though none left detailed accounts of their experiences. But travelers moving in either direction during the 1680s were aware....
Aware of what? You'll have to read the rest.

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