Carte La Plus Generale et qui comprend La Chine, La Tartarie Chinoise, et le Thibet, Dressee sur les Cartes Particulieres des RR PP Jesuites . . . M DCC XXXIV
By:Jean-Baptiste Bourguignon d'Anville
Date:1737 (Published) Paris
Original Size:18.5 x 27 inches (47 x 687.6 cm)
This fine print reproduction of a map of China that is considered the finest printed map of the Middle Kingdom to be published in Europe in the 18th century.
The Chinese were in relative geographic isolation from the rest of the world until the 1800s. With the Himalayas to the southwest, the Gobi Desert to the north and the Pacific Ocean to the east, the Chinese themselves believed they were in the middle of the world, surrounded by natural barriers on all sides. This perception gave rise to the nomenclature ‘Zhong Guo’ – the Middle Kingdom.
This map of China is based in large part on the information contained in maps which had been commissioned by the Qing Emperor Kangxi in the early 18th century. Jesuit surveyors charted the kingdom, and the resulting maps were published as the Kangxi Atlas. The information depicted by these woodcut maps would not be superseded for more than a century.
As stated in the title, the map depicts China, Chinese Tartary, and Tibet and is based on maps of Jesuits. Renowned French cartographer Jean-Baptiste Bourguignon d’Anvillle acquired copies of the Jesuit maps and devised his own interpretations of them.
This particular map focuses on China and Korea, extending from the Caspian Sea to Sakhalin. It is executed in fine detail and depicts important settlements, towns and cities. All known provincial boundaries are noted and the Great Wall is rendered in detail. Geographical features including river systems, mountain ranges, deserts and steppes are delineated and named.
An elaborate allegorical cartouche embellishing the map in the lower left quadrant depicts Emperor Kangxi seated in his throne overseeing the undertaking of the survey. Two Jesuit priests with an armed mounted escort are depicted in a provincial village setting replete with farm animals.
What can be referred to as modern cartography has been around for over 550 years. Throughout that time an enormous amount of new land was discovered, cities were founded while others perished. International trade and travel became the norm, political borders were ever-changing, and numerous wars were waged. With all that being said, hundreds of thousands of maps were created that show such events and episodes in time.
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