Chinese Expedition to the Northwest Coast of America .
Rare map of North America, Northeast Asia and the contiguous parts of the Pacific Ocean, illustrating the route of a Chinese expedition to the Northwest Coast of America in 458 A.D., to the (mythical) region known to the Chinese as Fousang.
The map was intended to illustrate a presentation made by Buache to the French Royal Academy of Sciences.
The map depicts an expedition by sea from Northeastern China to Fousang, based upon the contemporary report of Joseph de Guignes, a member of the French Royal Academy of Sciences, presented in August 1752. The map attempts to reconcile this voyage with other contemporary geographical information and myth, including the Sea of the West and several very exotic proposals for the Northwest Passage, along with information concerning the Russian expeditions in 1723 and 1741.
Joseph de Guignes (1721 - 1800) was a French orientalist, Sinologist and Turkologist. He succeeded Étienne Fourmont at the Royal Library as secretary interpreter of the Eastern languages. His Mémoire historique sur l'origine des Huns et des Turcs, published in 1748, earned him admission to the Royal Society of London in 1752, and he became an associate of the French Academy of Inscriptions in 1754.
The present map illustrated a presentation which he made to the Royal Academy of Sciences and which would become the subject of his printed work, Recherches sur les Navigations des Chinois du Cote de l'Amerique, et sur quelques Peuples situés a l'extremite orientale de l"asie, published in 1761.
Guignes was part of a school of French orientalists who believed that the Chinese had visited America in the 5th Century A.D, prior to Columbus. Fusang or Fousang is a country described by the Buddhist missionary Hui Shen in 499 CE, as a place 20,000 Chinese li (about 7,000 to 10,000 kilometers) east of Da-han, and also east of China. Da-han is described as a place north-east of the country of Wo (southwestern Japan). Hui Shen went by ship to Fusang, and upon his return reported his findings to the Chinese Emperor. His descriptions are recorded in the 7th century Book of Liang (History of the Liang Dynasty) by Yao Silian. An earlier account, from the annals of the Han dynasty, also declares that in 219 BCE emperor Shi Huang sent "an expedition of young men and women to a wonderful country lying far off to the east, across the ocean, called Fu-Sang.
The map, with a slightly different title, as later published in the Considerations Geographiques, one of Buache's most important (if often erroneious) works.
According to some historians, beginning with Joseph de Guignes, the distances given by Hui Shen (20,000 Chinese li) would locate Fusang on the west coast of the American continent, when taking the ancient Han-period definition of the Chinese li. This is one of a small number of 18th century European maps which show Fusang along the Northwest Coat of America.
Philippe Buache (1700-1773) was one of the most famous French geographers of the eighteenth century. Buache was married to the daughter of the eminent Guillaume Delisle and worked with his father-in-law, carrying on the business after Guillaume died. Buache gained the title geographe du roi in 1729 and was elected to the Academie des Sciences in the same year. Buache was a pioneering theoretical geographer, especially as regards contour lines and watersheds. He is best known for his works such as Considérations géographiques et physiques sur les découvertes nouvelles dans la grande mer (Paris, 1754).