Matteo Ricci, Li Zhizao, and Zhang Wentao: World Map of 1602

About The Ricci Map

Kunyu wanguo quantu, or Map of the Ten Thousand Countries of the Earth, is the oldest surviving map in Chinese to show the Americas. It is a xylograph (wood block print) on six panels of fine native paper (made with bamboo fiber), each panel measuring approximately 1820 x 3650 mm (2 feet by 5.75 feet). Li Zhizao (1565-1630), a Chinese mathematician, astronomer and geographer, was the Chinese cartographer who engraved the map. It was printed by Zhang Wentao of Hangzhou, possibly an official printer of the Ming court.

A Jesuit priest, Matteo Ricci arrived in China in 1583 and, with fellow Jesuit Michele Ruggieri, established the first Christian mission. In 1597, Ricci was named Superior or head of the entire Jesuit missionary effort in China. His world map is a true collaboration between the European scholars of the Jesuit mission and the Chinese scholars and artisans of the imperial court. Vivid descriptions of the continents, praise of the Chinese emperor, lunar charts, and scientific tables documenting the movement of the planets adorn the map, a unique representation of East-West relations in the early 17th-century.

This Example of the 1602 Ricci Map

This example of the 1602 Ricci Map was purchased by the James Ford Bell Trust and has been loaned to the University of Minnesota for the benefit of the James Ford Bell Library. This Ricci map is among six known complete examples of the 1602 printing; this is the only one in the Americas. The six examples: Vatican Apostolic Library Collection I; Japan Kyoto University Collection; collection of Japan Miyagi Prefecture Library; Collection of the Library of the Japanese Cabinet; Paris, France (in private hands); James Ford Bell Library at the University of Minnesota. The Bell Library's copy has been loaned to the University of Minnesota by the James Ford Bell Trust for the benefit of the Bell Library.

See also: Ming