Illustrated Account of the World, in Two Juan


The author of this work was Nan Huairen, Chinese name of Ferdinand Verbiest, 1623–88, courtesy name Dunbo, style name Xunqing. Verbiest was a Belgian Jesuit missionary who arrived in China in 1659 and took up his first post in Shaanxi. In 1660 he was called to Beijing to assist in making a calendar. In the eighth year (1669) of the Kangxi reign he was appointed an administrator of the calendar. He held a number of positions at the imperial court, including director of the Imperial Observatory, chamberlain of the Court of Imperial Sacrifice, and assistant minister of public works. After his death, he was referred to by the title Qin min (Diligent and Intelligent); he was the only missionary to be given a posthumous title. In the 13th year (1674) of the Qianlong reign, Verbiest, with Jiang Youren (Chinese name of the French Jesuit missionary Michel Benoist, 1715−74), published a world map, entitled Kun yu quan tu (Map of the terrestrial globe), in a folding-screen format, based on Matteo Ricci’s Kun yu wan guo quan tu (Complete map of all the countries of the world). Verbiest and Jiang Youren produced this work, Kun yu tu shuo (Illustrated account of the world), in two juan, to explain the map. Juan one has more than ten chapters and covers, among other things, natural geography, the circular motion of the earth, its relation to the moon, the North and South Poles, earthquakes, mountains, ocean movement, tides, rivers, weather, wind, clouds and rain, the four elements, technology, and people. Juan two covers foreign countries and their cities, hills and rivers, local customs, and products. The world was divided into five continents: Asia, Europe, Liweiya (Africa), and North Amolijia and South Amolijia (the Americas). Also included are 25 illustrations of strange and fantastic birds and animals. The book ends with illustrations of the seven wonders of the West and their relationship to human geography. For the Chinese scholars of the time, these “strange stories” definitely expanded the scope of their knowledge. This is a manuscript edition, with the text copied from volume 12 of Zhi hai series published during Daoguang period (1821−50). The inscription at the end of the first juan indicates that it was edited and printed in the 21st year (1841) of the Daoguang reign, by Qian Xizuo of Jinshan. This work was formerly in the collection of Li Wentian, an academician of the Grand Secretariat and vice minister of the Ministry of Rites during the Daoguang era. On the top margins are numerous commentaries written in red ink by Li, a renowned calligrapher.

Last updated: June 25, 2015