Jesuit Cartography and the Translation of Knowledge in Early Modern Global Asia

Conference: AAS-in-Asia2020 (AAS-in-Asia2020)
Title: Jesuit Cartography and the Translation of Knowledge in Early Modern Global Asia
Stream: History
Presentation Type: Panel Presentation
Florin-Stefan Morar, City University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong (organizer, discussant, presenter)
Sophie Ling-chia Wei, Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong (chair, presenter)
Richard A. Pegg, MacLean Collection, United States (presenter)
Elke Papelitzky, New York University Shanghai, China (presenter)


The concept of translation has emerged recently as a way to understand the cross-cultural and trans-national movements of knowledge. The study of translation in this sense is the study of a practice that involves power struggles and different interests and is also social, collaborative, and multidirectional. Translation is moreover, not only the vehicle by which knowledge travels but also a site for the creation of new knowledge. How does this concept apply to East Asia? This panel presents four studies focused on the role of European Jesuits and of cartography in connecting East Asia to the rest of the world through the translation. There are several questions the panel explores. First, the collaboration between Jesuits and Chinese scholars in the making of a translated material object such as a globe from 1623 (Richard Pegg’s paper). This globe was meant for a Chinese audience, but the Jesuits were also active in their role as translators of Chinese knowledge in Europe. This is the topic of Sophie Ling-chia Wei’s contribution, which shows how Jesuit Figurists attempted to create a hybrid religious geography. How was Jesuit knowledge used by actors beyond the Jesuit’s direct control? This question is explored in two papers. Florin-Stefan Morar shows that Chinese cartographic practitioners learned used mathematical map-making techniques already starting with the Qianlong
period of the Qing. Elke Papelitzky focuses on how both Ricci’s famous world map Kun Yu Wan Guo Quan Tu and Chinese maps of China were adapted in Japanese encyclopedias and changed from their original Chinese context to the new Japanese context.