- Seventeenth-Century European Images of China
Studies of the European interpretation of China that are based on early modern travelogues focus mainly on the written text. Relatively little attention has been paid to the study of illustrations. This focus has changed in recent years thanks to the publication of a wide variety of works that depict, reproduce, or study these illustrations.
The shift in focus is already visible in Lach and Van Kley's masterpiece, Asia in the Making of Europe, volume 3, A Century of Advance (1993), which includes about seventy pages of illustrations on China and the Chinese, taken mainly from seventeenth-century books.1 The more recent work by Sun Ying, Wandlungen des europäischen Chinabildes in illustrierten Reiseberichten des 17. und 18. Jahrhunderts (Variations in the European view of China in the illustrated travelogues of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries) includes a total of 69. illustrations (nearly [End Page 254] 450 pages) from all major European books on China from that period. It is therefore an excellent reference work that now facilitates research into books that one hitherto had to visit various libraries to read and that one often had to ask for special permission to consult.
There are also reprints of the travelogues themselves. That is the case with Ernst van den Boogaert's Dutch book Het verheven en verdorven Azië (Exalted and depraved Asia), which discusses the Itinerario (1596) and Icones (1604) of Jan Huygen van Linschoten, who traveled to Goa in the late sixteenth century. Van den Boogaert's study on "word and image" is followed by the reproduction of these images (including those of Chinese dress, a Chinese official, and a Chinese ship) and the Dutch translation of the Latin explanations. An eyewitness report recently published for the first time is the Travel into China by the Spanish Jesuit Adriano de Las Cortes (1578-1629). The transcript of the manuscript from the British Library was edited in Spanish by Beatriz Moncó2 and recently translated into French by Pascale Girard and Juliette Monbeig as Le voyage en Chine d'Adriano de Las Cortes s.j. (1625). De Las Cortes' ship was wrecked off the Chinese coast to the east of Canton in 1625. Chinese officials arrested the survivors and confiscated their possessions. Thus started a peregrination that lasted for eleven months. His report is unique because of its extensive description of the realities of everyday Chinese life: the vestments of the Chinese, ritual objects in the temples, and methods of corporal punishment. Fortunately, the editors reproduced the fifty pages of illustrations from the original manuscript.
The most important study of these illustrations, Johan Nieuhofs Blick auf China (1655-1657): Die Kupferstiche in seinem Chinabuch und ihre Wirkung auf den Verleger Jacob van Meurs (Johan Nieuhof's view on China (1655-1657): The copper engravings of his China book and their effect on the publisher Jacob van Meurs), was written by Frederike Ulrichs. Her in-depth analysis is devoted to the Amsterdam publisher Jacob van Meurs (1617/18-1679), who in the 1660s and 1670 edited two books that would influence the European image of China in the next century. The first was Johan Nieuhof's (1618-1672) account of the first Dutch embassy to China (1655-657), undertaken with the aim of improving...