The Selden Map of China

1620s

Watercolour

This remarkable watercolour map came to the Bodleian in 1659 from the executors of John Selden, the London lawyer and historical and linguistic scholar. It has recently benefited from extensive conservation work and new research. Dating from the late Ming period, it shows China, Korea, Japan, the Philippines, Indonesia, Southeast Asia and part of India. The map shows shipping routes with compass bearings from the port of Quanzhou across the entire region. A panel of text on the left of the map near Calicut, its western extremity, gives directions of the routes to Aden, Oman, and the Strait of Hormuz. This is the earliest Chinese map not only to show shipping routes, but also to depict China as part of a greater East and Southeast Asia, and not the centre of the known world.

Comments

What makes this a treasure?

rediscovery of the Selden map of China has given a greater impetus to my research into the development of world trade in the Pacific from the 15th century, and in particular the role played by the Manila Galleon. I would be most grateful for an opportunity to see the map and to be kept informed of new research in relation to it.

Posted by Ian Wilkinson

On 05/11/2013

The ‘Selden Map of China’ is a rare, late-Ming Dynasty map of China and South East Asia, which arrived at the Bodleian Library in 1659 as part of John Selden’s bequest. The significance of the map was highlighted in 2008 by visiting American scholar, Robert Batchelor of Georgia Southern University; the map is now recognised not only as a beautiful and colourful representation of China and South East Asia, but also as a unique historical record of China’s trading activities in the early 17th century, showing coastal trading routes linking the port of Quanzhou in Fujian Province with other parts of South East Asia.

Posted by Robert Minte

On 05/09/2011

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