Re-locating the ‘Middle Kingdom’: A Seventeenth-Century Chinese Adaptation of Matteo Ricci’s World Map

  • Gang SongEmail author
Conference paper
Part of the Lecture Notes in Geoinformation and Cartography book series (LNGC)


The present study centers on a largely unnoticed seventeenth century Chinese map entitled Tianxia jiubian fenye renji lucheng quantu 天下九邊分野人跡路程全圖 (Complete Map of the Allotted Fields, Human Traces, and Routes within and without the Nine Borders under Heaven, 1644). Printed by a lesser-known scholar Cao Junyi 曹君義, this map carried remarkable features that mixed a number of concepts and techniques from both Chinese and European cartographic traditions. It borrowed some information, including the oval layout, lines of longitude, and names of foreign places, from a few widely circulated Jesuit world maps, especially the one made by Matteo Ricci in 1602. Meanwhile, the map continued to represent a Sinocentric world order and the stereotyped concept of Chinese-Barbarian distinction. While the ‘Middle Kingdom’ remains at the center and occupies the largest area, regions such as Europe, Africa, and America are reduced disproportionally in size and put near the borders of China. By converging two very different cartographic traditions, Cao made a conscious effort to re-locate China in the newly known greater world. In-depth analysis of this particular map suggests that the seventeenth century encounter of Chinese and European cartographies should not be treated with a simplistic characterization of acceptance versus resistance, or, advancement versus backwardness. It was instead a complex process of negotiation and appropriation conditioned by various factors across scientific, ideological, cultural, and religious boundaries.


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© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Hong KongPokfulamHong Kong

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