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THE ANCIENT MAP

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					                        THE ANCIENT


VERBIEST                                                MAP
              RAPPED IN SAFFRON                       One of the                                   giraffe in Antarctica and the Bird of
              cotton, in a box of sweet-                                                           Paradise placed on the Australian
              smelling sandalwood,                 National Library's                              mainland. For Australia is shown;
              lies a rare and ancient                                                              the coast, as mapped by the Dutch
              treasure, one of the little
                                                    treasures is the                               explorers appears in the bottom right
known legendary maps from a world                   Verbiest map.                                  hand corner of the Eastern
where a Boy Emperor sat on the                                                                     Hemisphere map.
Dragon Throne and a knowledgeable                     Tina Faulk                                         Australia is also shown on the
Jesuit priest would be coopted from                                                                lower left of the Western
his studies to cast a new kind of
                                                  recounts the story                               Hemisphere map, with the faint
cannon in Peking.                                     behind this                                  outline of islands off its eastern
      The Verbiest historical map—                                                                 coast—New Zealand perhaps? In
two maps, in fact—representing the                    remarkable                                   keeping with the beliefs of European
eastern and western hemispheres                                                                    cartographers of the time, Tasmania
respectively, each handpainted on
                                                        artefact                                   and New Guinea are attached to
silk about six feet square and dating                                                              Australia's mainland.
back to seventeenth century China,                                                                       Besporting itself in the
are named after their maker, the                                                                   southern oceans is a lively sperm
Belgian Jesuit, Ferdinand Verbiest.                                                                whale—twin spouts of water jetting
      Cartography had                                                                                           from its head—which
long been a Chinese                                                                                             appears above the
science, but with the                                                                                           billows of the waves, a
coming of the European                                                                                          reminder of the rich
Jesuits, that adventurous                                                                                       whaling grounds which
missionary order founded                                                                                        were once fished so
by a soldier, the Chinese                                                                                       relentlessly between
began to incorporate                                                                                            Australia and the South
western concepts of                                                                                             Pole. Other real or
cartography into their                                                                                          mythological animals
detailed knowledge of                                                                                           which appear include
the 'Nan Yang', the                                                                                             Himalayan monkeys, a
southern ocean, and the                                                                                         dragon, a unicorn and
islands therein. On the                                                                                         what looks like a plump,
Verbiest map, panels of                                                                                         blue-feathered dodo.
Chinese characters offer                                                                                                The Verbiest map
geographical information                                                                                        was a donation by
and even non-Chinese                                                                                            Sinologist William
place-names are written                                                                                         Hardy Wilson, an
                                     Shinkichi Endo, the Japanese expert who restored the Verbiest map,
in Chinese characters,                                                                                          Australian architect and
                                                  working on the map in his Tokyo studio
whether by phonetic                               Photograph by NLA Photographic Services                       artist, who had purchased
translations or by a                                                                                            the map in Peking in
translation of the meaning of the              Je Nieh Ya sounding somewhat like                   1921, during the turbulent years of
name. New Guinea, for example, is              Guinea.                                             the fragmentation of the last Chinese
written 'Hsin Je Nieh Ya', Hsin                       Exotic animals and birds                     Imperial dynasty, the end of the
being the Chinese word for New and             appear, some misplaced, like the blue               Manchu Ch'ing Emperors.

SEPTEMBER 1991	                                                                                                                       7
       Treasures of gold, silk and jade     was continued by a succession of
from imperial and aristocratic              missionary priests of the Jesuit order,
families were being traded for food;        which catered to the Chinese desire
many of the antiquities of the              to learn about European scientific
Forbidden Kingdom were being                and geographical discoveries,
smuggled into the eager hands of            particularly astronomy and
dealers by the Palace eunuchs.              mapmaking.
       Brought back to Australia, the             In 1970, while its
fragile map was cracked and grimy,          provenance was still
and the once elegant silk panels were       being debated, the
peeling from their paper backing.           map was sent to
With no hope of finding an expert in        Tokyo for
Australia to restore the map, Hardy         restoration
Wilson offered it to the National           by Mr
Library in 1949, appreciating that it
was significant, but not recognising
it for the treasure it was.
        Now part of what is known as
the Hardy Wilson Collection, the
map was confirmed, first by scholars
from the Australian National
University, and later by international
experts, as a rare Verbiest map;


    in a box
of sweet-smelling
sandalwood, lies a
rare and ancient
treasure

perhaps the original manuscript
version—though this has not been
confirmed—on which were based a
number of woodblock copies. Of
these prints, a few black and white
sets still exist in national libraries in
China, Japan, Britain (which holds
only one hemisphere), France, the
United States and the Vatican. In the
middle of the last century, new
prints were made from the original
woodblocks in China and Korea.
       The Verbiest map followed a          Shinkichi
distinguished historical precedent,         Endo, an
for the earliest of such Jesuit             expert who had
mapmakers had been Matteo Ricci,            worked for 60
the first Jesuit to enter China in          years	     on	    the
 1583. Ricci was later to produce           restoration and
world maps which showed China in            preservation of Japan's
the central position (as of course, the     national treasures.
Chinese believed it to be) flanked by              Mr Endo, by lifting
Europe to the west and the Americas         thousands of tiny fragments of the
to the east.                                map's silk individually from the
       The earliest remaining copy of       original paper backing and
the Ricci Map dates from 1602, and          remounting them on new, stiffened
 the cartographic tradition in Peking       silk, like a gigantic jig-saw puzzle,

8	                                                                                    NATIONAL Library of Australia News
                                         was estimated to have extended the          since the natural acidity of the human
                                         map's life by about 400 years.              skin may damage its ancient fragility.
                                              The map was returned to                      But who was its maker, Father
                                         Canberra in 1976, and despite some          Ferdinand Verbiest? Verbiest (1623-
                                            criticism that it had lost part of its   1688) was born near Courtrai in
                                                 original colour and detail, it      Belgium. Entering the Society of
                                                     was in a stable condition,      Jesus at 18, he studied theology at
                                                        its	      deterioration      the University of Seville.
                                                             arrested. It is now
                                                               only handled by
                                                                  librarians
                                                                                     ...  lifting thousands of
                                                                    wearing           tiny fragments of the
                                                                      white
                                                                        gloves,       map's silk individually
                                                                                     from the original
                                                                                     paper backing
                                                                                            In 1658 he sailed for China, to
                                                                                     spend his first ten months in Shensi,
                                                                                     after which he was summoned to
                                                                                     Peking by his Superior, Adam Schaal.
                                                                                     Verbiest had been in Peking for three
                                                                                     years when anti-Christian
                                                                                     persecutions broke out and both
                                                                                     priests were imprisoned for their
                                                                                     missionary work. Brought to trial,
                                                                                     Schaal, elderly and paralysed, could
                                                                                     not speak in his own defence, but
                                                                                     Verbiest eloquently defended them
                                                                                     both before the Chinese judges—to
                                                                                     no avail. The old missionary was
                                                                                     condemned to death by
                                                                                     strangulation, while Verbiest and his
                                                                                     fellow priests were sentenced to be
                                                                                     flogged and then exiled from China.
                                                                                           Worse, if possible, was to follow.
                                                                                     The Chinese Board of Punishments
                                                                                     changed Schaal's method of execution
                                                                                     to the agonising 'ling ch'ih' where the
                                                                                     condemned is slowly diced apart.
                                                                                           On April 16, 1665, the day the
                                                                                     four Regents confirmed their approval
                                                                                     of the sentence a great earthquake hit
                                                                                     Peking. The Chinese, awed by the
                                                                                     event, released all the priests, though
                                                                                     one of the Regents took up the matter
                                                                                     of the still to be carried out execution
                                                                                     with the Dowager Empress herself.
                                                                                     The Empress, uncharacteristically,
                                                                                     sided with the foreigners and
                                                                                     indignantly crushed Schaal's
                                                                                     execution order.
                                                                                           Released from prison, but
                                                                                     broken in health, Schaal died soon
                                                                                     afterwards.
                        Eastern hemishere of the restored Verbiest map, with a
                                                                                           Under the new young Emperor
               detail (inset) showing the map before restoration in 1969             K'ang Hsi, Verbiest, using his
      Photographed for reproduction by NLA Photographics                             Chinese name, Nan Huai Jen, was

SEPTEMBER 1991	                                                                                                           9
appointed Director of the                                                                           to be put on the shoulders of his
Astronomical Board, under the                                                                       Jesuit gun-maker.
protection of the Emperor.                                                                                 Ennobled by the Emperor,
       In 1674 he made six large                                                                    and appointed Chief Adviser of the
astronomical pieces from white                                                                      Academy of Astronomy in Peking
brass, including a sextant, celestial                                                               in about 1671—perhaps the Map
globe and armillary spheres. And,                                                                   was started at around this time, or
noticing the state of disrepair of                                                                  shortly after—Verbiest, ironically,
the old cannon, he devised a small                                                                  was attacked in both Spain and
field gun, which fired a shot of                                                                    Italy for not sticking
about four pounds in weight.                                                                        singlemindedly to missionary work
       The new gun was                                                                              in China. He was, however,
successfully tested eight times, to                                                                 staunchly defended by Pope
the Emperor's delight, in the                                                                       Innocent XI, to whom he had
Fragrant Hills. It was promptly                                                                     dedicated his Chinese translation of
despatched to the Imperial Army,                                                                    the Missal.
in the process of fighting a rebel                                                                         In his Astronomia Europaea
movement in Shensi. So successful                                                                   Verbiest wrote of his friendship
was the new gun that requests for                                                                   with the Emperor K'ang Hsi: 'At
more came from all corners of the                                                                   break of day I went to the Palace
Empire. Verbiest, despite the                 A portrait of the Chinese Emperor, K'ang Hsi,         and was immediately admitted to
jealousies and hindrances of the            reproduced from Ch'ing-tai ti hou hsiang, 1935          the Emperor's apartments, and
                                           Photographed for reproduction by NLA Photographics
palace eunuchs, who resented his                                                                    often did not leave until three or
influence with the Emperor, not only                                                            four after mid-day. Alone with the
managed to have 150 new guns cast,                                                              Emperor I read and expounded. Often
but he also invented a new kind of
                                              Verbiest ... was                                  he kept me to lunch and served
guncarriage.                                 appointed Director                                 exquisite meats on a plate of gold'.
       Before testing the new cannon,                                                                  Verbiest also introduced K'ang
Verbiest publicly blessed them, from an      of the Astronomical                                Hsi to Western philosophy and music.
altar made of one gun, sprinkling holy                                                          He died on 26 January 1688, a year
water on each and baptising them in
                                             Board, under the                                   after he had been appointed Superior
the name of the saints. So precise was       protection of the                                  of all Jesuit Missions in China. His
their aim that the delighted K'ang Hsi                                                          map remains a lasting testament to his
sent his own silk jacket, embroidered        Emperor                                            considerable knowledge and skill.
with the Imperial five-clawed Dragon




                  The two men who first concluded that the rare Manchu dynasty map was a Verbiest original—Tom Knight,
                             left and Sidney Wang—examine the restored map with Gillian Martin in 1977
                                                    Photograph by NLA Photographics

     	
10                                                                                            NATIONAL Library of Australia News

				
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