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Fine example of D'Anville's map of the region from Japan to the Gobi Desert, centered on Mongolia and Korea, from D'Anville's Atlas of China.

D'Anville's atlas of China is the principal cartographic authority on China during the 18th century. D'Anville used maps prepared by Jesuit missionaries and commissioned by Emporer-Kanyx, who in 1708-1716 ordered a surveying of the country. A copy of these surveys was sent back to Paris and the Royal cartographer D' Anville was commissioned to draw this map, which was the first reasonably accurate picture of that remote land.

The map is more than just a geographical document; it represents a historical intersection between East and West during a period of exploration, discovery, and attempted understanding.

Rendered in intricate detail, the map was born from the works of the Jesuit missionaries, who were on a divine mission in the remote corners of China. The Jesuit Order, a Roman Catholic religious congregation known for its educational, missionary, and charitable works, embarked on this mission intending to spread Christianity while fostering a cultural exchange that would bridge the gap between the East and West.

The map unfurls across an expansive geographical area, depicting the vast expanse of China and its adjoining territories known collectively as Tartary, a term used by Europeans until the 19th century to denote a vast region spanning from the Caspian Sea and the Ural Mountains to the Pacific Ocean, inhabited mostly by Turkic and Mongol people.

Its compilation was a result of painstaking fieldwork, indigenous sources, and astronomical observations, a testimony to the meticulousness and devotion of the Jesuits. With this map, the Jesuits laid a foundation for a more accurate understanding of China and its environs, correcting numerous inaccuracies from the maps of the previous era.

The "Carte Generale De La Tartarie Chinoise" provides an elaborate vision of China's topography, including mountains, rivers, and cities. But what's remarkable about this map is that it also includes intricate details about the socio-cultural aspects of the region, such as significant pilgrimage sites, indigenous tribes, and notable landmarks. The map effectively acted as an ambassador, carrying the cultural and societal nuances of China back to Europe, where such information was scant at best.

The Jesuit missionaries' work in early 18th century China went beyond mere cartographic endeavors. They immersed themselves in the Chinese culture, language, and customs, establishing a dialogue that was based on mutual respect and understanding. This philosophy was embodied in a policy known as "accommodation," where they attempted to find common ground between Christian and Confucian teachings to ease the propagation of Christianity. These missionaries worked in close quarters with Chinese scholars, contributing to advancements in various fields including science, mathematics, and astronomy.

The Jesuits' efforts to improve the maps of China reflected their broader scientific ambitions. They sought to reconcile their observations with indigenous geographical knowledge to create a more accurate representation of the territory. These endeavors required not only scientific rigor but also linguistic proficiency and cultural acuity, all of which were characteristics that the Jesuit missionaries possessed.

The "Carte Generale De La Tartarie Chinoise" is more than a mere geographical document. It is an embodiment of the cultural, intellectual, and religious journey undertaken by the Jesuits in the 18th century. The map represents the fruit of an unprecedented collaboration between East and West, bridging cultural divides and fostering understanding, a beacon of the Jesuit motto "Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam" - For the Greater Glory of God.

Jean-Baptiste Bourguignon d'Anville Biography

Jean-Baptiste Bourguignon d’Anville (1697-1782) was one of the foremost French geographers of the eighteenth century. He carried out rigorous research in order to create his maps, which greatly developed the technical proficiency of mapmaking during his lifetime. His style was also simpler and less ornate than that of many of his predecessors. It was widely adopted by his contemporaries and successors.

The son of a tailor, d’Anville showed cartographic prowess from a young age; his first map, of Ancient Greece, was published when he was only fifteen years old. By twenty-two, he was appointed as one of the King’s géographes ordinaire de roi. He tutored the young Louis XV while in the service to the Crown. However, royal appointment did not pay all the bills, so d’Anville also did some work for the Portuguese Crown from 1724. For example, he helped to fill out Dom João V’s library with geographical works and made maps showing Portugal’s African colonies.  

D’Anville disapproved of merely copying features from other maps, preferring instead to return to the texts upon which those maps were based to make his own depictions. This led him to embrace blank spaces for unknown areas and to reject names which were not supported by other sources. He also amassed a large personal map library and created a network of sources that included Jesuits in China and savants in Brazil. D’Anville’s historical approach to cartography resulted in magnificently detailed, yet modern and academic, maps. For example, his 1743 map of Italy improved upon all previous maps and included a memoir laying out his research and innovations. The geographer also specialized in ancient historical geography.

In 1773, d’Anville was named premier géographe de roi. In 1780, he ceded his considerable library to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to be used for as a reference library for diplomats. D’Anville is best known for several maps, including his map of China, first published in 1735, and then included with Du Halde’s history of that country (the Hague, 1737). His map of Africa (1749) was used well into the nineteenth century.