Early Chinese World Maps

 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 […]

A Pirate Surgeon in Panama

  It was in the evening when we came to an anchor, and the next morning we fired two guns for the Indians that lived on the Main to come aboard; for by this time we concluded we should hear from our five men that we left in the heart of the country among the […]

Pseudo-Kufic: Renaissance Imitations of Arabic Script

Kufic script is a lovely and ancient variant of the Arabic alphabet that developed out of the Nabatean alphabet of Classical-era Petra. This example from a c. 8th century Koran highlights the characteristic angular style of the script, which made it uniquely well-suited for use in stone inscriptions, pottery and in rugs and other woven […]

Europeans as ‘Other,’ Redux [February 2011 update]

A post today inspired by last week’s post on early modern Japanese and Chinese depictions of Europeans. Thinking about that led me to look more closely at an image I’ve had filed away for awhile — a remarkable example of sixteenth century Japanese Nanban (‘Southern Barbarian’) art depicting a group of Portuguese merchants at a […]

Giolo, the Painted Prince

Prince Giolo, Son of ye King of Moangis or Gilolo: lying under the Equator in the Long[itude] of 152 Deg[rees] 30 Min[utes], a fruitful Island abounding with rich spices and other valuable Commodities. This famous Painted Prince is the just Wonder of ye Age. His whole Body (except Face, Hands and Feet) is curiously and […]

Europeans as ‘Other’

They eat with their fingers instead of with chopsticks such as we use. They show their feelings without any self-control. They cannot understand the meaning of written characters. – From Charles R. Boxer, The Christian Century in Japan, 1549-1650 (London, 1951). Chinese and Japanese representations of sixteenth century Europeans have always fascinated me. We’re used […]