Transcultural exchange on a recently discovered, seventeenth-century Japanese cartographic folding screen

Angelo Cattaneo, Susumu Akune

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


During fieldwork in Japan with a 2014 Japan Foundation Fellowship, the authors were granted permission to reproduce in high resolution a cartographic folding screen held at Kanshinji in Kawachinagano (Osaka Prefecture). This artefact is omitted from previous surveys of cartographic screens and although already reproduced has never been studied. Designed on Japanese 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 354x139 cm). Panels 1 and 2 represent China; panel 3, Korea; panel 4, North and South America; panel 5 displays a western ship and a diagram of the Aristotelian sub-lunar world; Panel 6 another western ship and a diagram of the Ptolemaic geocentric system.
While the images in panels 4, 5 and 6 derive from European sources (probably indirectly), the cartographic shape and geographic contents of China and Korea derive from a Chinese-Korean map: Yang Ziqi's "Map of the Great Ming Nation," designed in fifteenth-century China and later brought to Korea, where a map of the Korean peninsula was added. Several copies were brought to Japan in the late sixteenth century and are still held in temples and archives connected with the Tokugawa family. Previous research showed that Yang Ziqi's maps were paired with a celestial map representing heavenly phenomena and the four seasons, in a symbolic depiction of time. Thus, the map represented the entirety of the world ruled by a King (the Chinese Emperor) given rule by the mandate of heaven.
The unknown author(s) of the Kanshinji screen put side by side two major cosmological and cosmographic visions as well as cartographic traditions, selecting the most appropriate for the parts of the world they were representing. This cartographic screen is of particular importance because it documents articulated patterns of circulation and transformation of cartographic knowledge to and from Japan in early modernity. This paper highlights the circumstances in which various systems of knowledge and belief were juxtaposed and integrated within a single depiction of the world.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2017
Event27th International Conference on the History of Cartography - Belo Horizonte, Brazil
Duration: 9 Jul 201714 Jul 2017
Conference number: 27


Conference27th International Conference on the History of Cartography
Abbreviated titleICHCs
CityBelo Horizonte
Internet address


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