[ISHMap-List] Talks on Japanese Maps and Worldviews

Radu Leca lecaradu at gmail.com
Mon Dec 14 16:26:19 CET 2015

Dear members,

Apologies for cross-posting. I would like to invite you to a series of
three talks I am giving in the UK next year. I hope you will find the
topics interesting enough to attend at least one of them. The talks will be
building up towards a conference on Japanese cartography in June at SISJAC
in Norwich, the schedule of which will be announced soon. Here are the
talks' titles and abstracts:

6th Jan 2016   Japan’s Shifting Position on Maps of the World in the Late
Edo Period, Japan Research Centre Seminar Programme, SOAS, University of


After the fall of the Ming dynasty, the validity of the Sinocentric ‘Middle
Kingdom’ world view formed an enduring point of contention among
intellectuals in Japan. In the late Edo period, the proliferation of ‘Dutch
studies’ together with recent contact with foreign ships brought about a
renewed awareness of a ‘home territory’ in a wider international context.
This led to a variety of cartographic responses, which arguably reflected
an anxiety with the role of Japan in the world. On the one hand,
geographically accurate world maps were published by the polymath Shiba
Kokan and the Osaka-based physician Hashimoto Sokichi. On the other hand,
maps based on Matteo Ricci’s 1602 Kunyu wan guo quantu continued to be
reprinted with the inclusion of news-like updates, while also reproduced on
a variety of media such as folding screens and ceramic dishes.
The case of Nagakubo Sekisui is representative. After publishing the first
map of Japan using latitude and longitude, in 1788 Sekisui also published a
map of the world based on Ricci’s model. The map was nevertheless updated
with information on the presence of the Dutch in Java and the establishment
by the Dutch of a ‘New Holland’ in the Southern Continent corresponding to
Australia. This example, among others, indicates that maps originating in
Ricci’s model - usually considered ‘antiquated’ - emerged as newly relevant
through their proclamation of ‘Myriad Worlds’ of which Japan was but one.

8th Feb 2016  Material Culture and Synthetic Worldviews on Late
Eighteenth-century Japanese Maps, East Asian Studies Seminar, Department of
East Asian Studies, University of Cambridge.

The proliferation of Western knowledge in Japan has often been analysed as
a distinct field of ‘Dutch studies’ centred on Edo. However, until the
beginning of the nineteenth-century it was undertaken by an informal
network of scholars with varying skills, and occurred just as much in
Nagasaki and Osaka. Their preoccupation with updated information was
matched by their fascination with foreign material culture. For instance,
in 1786 Katsuragawa Hoshu was translating Blaeu’s 1648 world map by
affixing paper slips to the original, while his brother Morishima Churyo
was recording stories about foreign lands while pasting foreign papers in
his scrapbook. Such materials were fragmentary and their understanding
required collaborative knowledge. Nevertheless, attempts were made to
integrate them into a synthetic worldview. For example, whilst Nagakubo
Sekisui’s 1788 world map was based on Matteo Ricci’s ‘outdated’ model, it
was updated with recent political and scientific information. This was part
of a larger phenomenon visible at all levels of society: the impact of the
materiality of foreign objects on the geographical imaginary.

21st Apr 2016  ‘Myriad Countries’: The Outside World on Historical Maps of
Japan, Third Thursday Lecture, Sainsbury Institute for the Study of
Japanese Arts and Cultures.

Historical maps offer a vivid record of previous generations’ mental
landscapes. They can help us understand the nature and characteristics of
other cultures’ knowledge of the world. This talk draws examples from the
collection donated by Sir Hugh Cortazzi to SISJAC’s Robert and Lisa
Sainsbury Library in order to answer the question: How was the outside
world understood in early modern Japan? The focus is on two periods of
dynamic changes in early modern worldviews: the second half of the
seventeenth century, which witnessed the emergence of a playful urban print
culture; and the turn of the nineteenth century, in which a renewed
interest in foreign knowledge was coupled with threats of invasion. My
analysis shows that the urban audience’s perception of the outside world
was shaped by attempts to assemble a viable worldview through the maps’
visual persuasiveness. Maps thus emerged as contemporary tools for thinking
about a continually changing perception of the Japanese archipelago among
‘myriad countries’.

Best wishes,

Radu Leca

Robert and Lisa Sainsbury Fellow

Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Culture

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