Asian Art Museum presents two rare masterpieces of 17th-century cartography, the
result of early collaborations between Jesuit priests and Chinese scholars
sharing knowledge and curiosity about the world. The 1602 Ricci map, developed
by Matteo Ricci while in China, is the earliest known Chinese map to depict the
Americas. The 1674 Verbiest world map, created by Ferdinand Verbiest for the
Chinese court, is being exhibited for the first time ever.
these large-scale woodblock-printed maps, discover how much of the world’s geography
and ethnography was known at this early date, including the longest river in
Africa, the peninsula of Florida, the fish-skin clothing of the far north and the
feathered garb of Amazonian peoples. Two interactive digital displays reveal
translations describing the peripheries of the “known world”: lands where
giants paint their faces, oceans with mermaids and flying fish, and a kingdom
inhabited by foot-tall humans who live in constant fear of being devoured by
access to GPS technology, the world is now literally at our fingertips. These
maps transport us to an age when tremendous effort was required to understand
the contours of the world and to record (and imagine) the marvels within it.