China and Inner Asia
Organized Panel Session
In the eighteenth century, the Qing emperors had missionary mapmakers conduct on-site investigations across the empire and commissioned numerous maps adopting the longitude-latitude coordinate. It has been long believed that the impact of the Jesuit or Jesuit-style maps on Chinese cartographic practice was rather limited. However, this paper argues that since the eighteenth century, under the influence of these “alien” maps, the Qing cartographers began to use the longitude-latitude lines and to creatively integrate them with the indigenous grid coordinate. By dissecting how the Qing mapmakers “tamed” the foreign technology, my study showcases the dynamic in which cultural identity and knowledge-making got entangled in late imperial China.
This paper first surveys how the Jesuits introduced the longitude-latitude coordinate to the Qing court and how the Qing statesmen came to acknowledge its value. I then explore the distribution of the Jesuit maps beyond the Qing court, and the use of the longitude-latitude coordinate in scholarly maps in the first half of the nineteenth century. Although by the early nineteenth century, a few scholars had gained access to the Kangxi Atlas and its revision in the Qianlong reign, the imperial atlases were not easily available to private geographers until Li Zhaoluo published Dong Youcheng’s duplicate of the Qianlong Atlas in 1832. The final section discusses the nineteen-century scholars’ adaptation of the longitude-latitude coordinate. While imitating the Jesuit-style coordinate, many of them continued to use square grids to present distances.