I recently came across this fascinating world map while researching the history of the Jesuit missions in seventeenth century China. Apparently developed by the Italian Jesuit Giulio Aleni while he was working as a missionary in 1620s China, the map strikes me as being remarkably advanced for its time.
Witness, for instance, the fact that California is shown to be linked to the mainland of North America - portraying California as an island was a famous error of mapmakers of the seventeenth century and continued to be repeated by eminent cartographers up until the early years of the eighteenth century (for a few examples of these maps see here). Also interesting is the fairly accurate outline of the northern coastline of Australia embedded in an imagined southern landmass (the Terra Australis Incognita or 'Unknown Southern Land' of cartographic lore).
Perhaps the most telling difference between this map and its European counterparts is the Sino-centric nature of its orientation: here the Celestial Empire stands at the very center of the world map. If any of my readers happens to have any knowledge of Chinese characters, I'd be very curious to learn what the labels and captions say.
Luckily there is a slightly earlier Chinese world map, known as the Shanhai Yudi Quantu, that a Wikipedia user has generously gone to the trouble of translating.
Below is the original:
And here is the same map with translated captions:
[Edit, September 28]. I just came across an earlier Chinese world map, the Kunyu Wanguo Quantu or "Map of the Myriad Countries of the World," created by the famed Italian Jesuit Matteo Ricci in collaboration with Zhong Wentao and Li Zhizao in 1602. The Wikipedia page on it is quite good, and includes a remarkably detailed scan of this fascinating map. The full image seems to be too large to post here, but I've cropped a couple interesting details:
|According to Wikipedia: The brief description of North America mentions "humped oxen" or bison (駝峰牛 tuófēngníu), feral horses (野馬, yěmǎ), and a region named Jiānádá (加拿大, Canada). The map identifies Florida as Huādì (花地), the "Land of Flowers."|