chapter  13
5 Pages

Li Zhizao (1565/1571–1630)

Nicolas TrigaulT has BroughT wiTh him more ThaN seveN ThousaNd Books from his couNTry, for PreseNTaTioN as gifTs To The imPerial liBrary so ThaT The achievemeNTs of easTerN aNd wesTerN sages caN Be comPared81

From “Ke zhifang waiji xu” 刻職方外紀序 (Preface to the Woodblock Edition of Records of Places beyond the Tribute States),82 collected in Ming Qing jian Yesu huishi yizhu tiyao 明清間耶穌會士譯著提要 (Summary of the Publications by the Jesuits during the Ming and the Qing), Volume 7


Matteo Ricci 利瑪竇 arrived [in the capital, now Beijing] in the twenty-ninth year of the Wanli reign [1601]. I paid him a visit with several of my friends and colleagues. On his wall was a map of the world with finely drawn lines of degree [of longitude and latitude].83 Ricci said, “This was my route from the west.” We also learned that a copious volume detailing the mountains, rivers, terrains, famous scenic spots and the customs and habits of the different places on the map had been sent to the Imperial Court.84 Mr Ricci explained to us that the Earth was a small spherical body situated within the large sphere of the universe, and

both were divided into 360 corresponding degrees; moreover, the sundial varied one degree for a distance of every 250 li [83.4 miles] along a north-south track, and an eclipse was to be measured along an east-west track, with a difference of one shichen 時辰 [a two-hour period] for every 30 degrees. Based on what he said, I did my own calculations and my findings confirmed his claims. It then dawned on me that the survey methods and cartographic methods used by Chinese people were still quite crude. So I translated this world map into Chinese and mounted this map of the nations of the world on a screen.85 A few years later, some eunuch ventured to present the screen for imperial viewing, and a procurement order arrived from the court. Since the woodblocks for printing had already been taken away to the South, I entrusted some influential persons to cut new blocks. Still later, the eunuch in charge of taxation in Fujian presented to the court two panels of a map sent by mounted courier. Both were in a European language and were obtained from seafaring ships. Ricci was already deceased by then, but Diego de Pantoja 龐迪我 [1571-1618] and Sabatino de Ursis 熊三拔 [1575-1620] were still in the capital and they received imperial orders to do the translation.