Multi-languages and Multi-cultures in Japanese “World Map” Folding Screens: the case of the Kanshin-ji Byōbu

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During a research mission in Japan funded by the Japan Foundation between 2014 and 2016, I was granted permission to reproduce and analyze a forgotten world map cartographic folding screen (byōbu) held at the Kanshin-ji temple in Kawachinagano (Osaka Prefecture). Designed on paper in the first half of the seventeenth century, the maps are mounted on 3 screens of 2 panels each. Each panel measures 139x54 cm (total size 354x139 cm).
The maps of Ming China and Joseon Korea (Panels 1–3) derive from Yang Ziqi’s Map of the Great Ming Nation, designed in China in the fifteenth century and later brought to Korea, where a map of the Korean peninsula was added. In the Chinese tradition, this map, accompanied by a celestial map, represented the entirety of the world ruled by the Chinese Emperor under the mandate of heaven. The map of America in panel 4 derives, through the intermediacy of Japanese nanban world map screens, from Matteo Ricci’s and Li Zizhao’s Kunyu Wanquo Quantu (A Map of the Myriad Countries of the World, 1602). The astronomical diagrams of panels 5 and 6 derive from European cosmographic sources, mediated by other world map screens. Finally, the images of the western ships derive from nanban folding screens that depict the arrival of Portuguese and Catholic missionaries in port cities in Japan. World Map screens, and the Kanshin-ji one, in particular, are a contact zone in which multi-languages and multi-cultures converge and overlap. Through the analysis of their contents, it is possible to point out articulated patterns of global circulation and transformation of visual culture in early modernity. In the contexts of Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s unsuccessful attempts at Japanese expansion in Korea during the Imjin War (1592-98) and subsequent diplomatic relationships promoted by the Tokugawas, these processes resulted from the combined agencies of the Iberian expansions in Asia, Jesuit missionary strategies, and the circulation of visual culture between Japan, China and Korea.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 2020
EventVisual Grammars of Globalization: Inaugural Workshop - Virtual Seminar, Florença, Italy
Duration: 6 May 2020 → …


ConferenceVisual Grammars of Globalization
Period6/05/20 → …
Internet address


  • Multi-languages
  • Multi-cultures
  • Japanese “World Map”
  • Folding Screens


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