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Chinese Literature
Kunyu tushuo 坤輿圖說


The Four Categories of Literature
Kunyu tushuo 坤輿圖說 "Illustrated explanation of the world" is a world geography compiled by the Jesuit missionary Ferdinand Verbiest (1623-1688, Chinese name Nan Huairen 南懷仁) who held the position of Director of astronomy (qintianjian jianzheng 欽天監監正) under the Kangxi Emperor 康熙 (r. 1661-1722). The 2 juan "scrolls" long book is divided into 15 chapters and describes routes to other countries, distances, geography, customs of the local population, and local products. Geography is arranged according to the Five Continents, which was a thoroughly new concept to Chinese geographers. This is also true for the explanation of thunder, mountains, the movement of rivers, high tide and low tide, or wind and rain. It ends with 23 illustrations showing strange animals like the unicorn, rhinoceros, chameleon, tritons, a Portuguese ship, the Seven Wonders of the World (qiqi 七奇), and the Colosseum in Rome (gonglechang 公樂場). The book is in some respect an extract of Guilio Aleni's (Chinese name Ai Rulüe 艾儒略) Zhifang waiji 職方外紀, but also includes information that can supplement Aleni's book. The Kunyu tushuo is not a very scientific book and served to some extent to beautify the world beyond China. The Kunyu tushuo is included in the collectanea Siku quanshu 四庫全書, Zhihai 指海 and Congshu jicheng 叢書集成.

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Sources: Li Xueqin 李學勤, Lü Wenyu 呂文鬰 (ed. 1996), Siku da cidian 四庫大辭典 (Changchun: Jilin daxue chubanshe), Vol. 1, p. 1117. ● Wang Zhaoming 王兆明, Fu Langyun 傅朗雲 (ed. 1991), Zhonghua gu wenxian da cidian 中華古文獻大辭典, Dili 地理 (Changchun: Jilin wenshi chubanshe), p. 424.

April 3, 2012 © Ulrich Theobald · Mail
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