Kyoto. 文臺軒宇平 [Bundaiken Uhei]. 宝永7年 . Stock ID #159880
Hand coloured, black and white woodblock print map, 114 x 143cm. Folds into worn paper covered card covers 23.2 x 18.5cm presented in Japanese case, Some insect repaired damage in places, small chip upper right in blank section, some wear particularly on title. 南瞻部洲萬國掌菓之圖 Nansen bushu bankoku shoka no zu was the first Buddhist world map printed in Japan. Its popularity and influence was so great that for a period of nearly 200 years after its publication it formed the basis of all other Japanese Buddhist world maps.
To modern Western eyes this map appears at first glance as quite confusing. The world as we know it is not shown, the perspective is neither scientific nor even particularly inclusive of the West. It is an Asia-centric view of the world. Europe is included, but only as a group of islands at the top left of the map, Australia and Africa are not depicted and South America appears as a small island to the south of overly large Japan. At the top right of the map a land bridge connects the Asian continent with a not terribly large land of scattered mountain ranges which is now believed to be North America.
The purpose of creating this map was not for a scientific depiction of the latest knowledge. Although Japanese map makers would have been aware of European knowledge of the world at the time, having seen maps brought by Portuguese and Dutch traders to Japan, this map continues to follow in the tradition of Buddhist maps with only a glance in the direction of more contemporary knowledge. 'Nansen bushū bankoku shōka no zu' depicts the world as seen through Buddhist eyes, based on Buddhist sources, with the Himalayan region at its centre extending south to India, west to Europe and east to Japan and not to scale. At the lower corners and in a section to the left of the title along the upper margin is text written in Chinese characters with Japanese reading marks. Text along the upper edge lists 102 Buddhist works that the Buddhist Priest Hotan, sometimes known as Soshun, (1659? - 1738) the creator of this map, used in the compilation. Further the two blocks of text at the lower corners go into quite some detail about Hotan's purpose in making this map and the background to its creation. This Buddhist cosmological world map was enormously popular, very possibly in part because of the growing exposure to and rejection of European maps and ideas by the conservative Buddhist minds amongst the Japanese map buying public at the time. Before long the map was copied and these variant copies which included such changes as, presenting the text in kana, rather than Chinese characters, a script more widely read among the broad Japanese public at the time, began to appear on the market.
A copy of this handsome and significant map is one of the treasures from the collection of the National Library of Australia featured in 'Asian Treasures: Gems of the Written Word' by Andrew Gosling. Sources: NLA; The Buddhist World Map in Japan and its Contact with European Maps - Nobuo Muroga and Kazutaka Unno. 1962. (When referring to this item please quote stockid 159880).