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“The World on Paper: From Square to Sphericity” Exhibition

18 Dec 2019 to 24 Feb 2020

Qian and kun are the trigramsin the Yijing (Book of Changes) representing the traditional concepts of tian and di (heaven and earth). The Chinese reception of the world was gradually changed during the exploration of heaven and earth. In the Ming and Qing dynasties, Western missionaries brought new knowledge in fields such as science and cartography, greatly impacting on China’s worldview as well as the scientific development in China. At the same time, Chinese maps and books were spread to places such as Japan and Europe which enriched the world’s understanding of China and promoted the cultural and knowledge exchange between China and the beyond.

Not only do maps and ancient books record the real history, they reflect on the philosophies and cultural transmissions of people at the time. Through this maps and rare books exhibition, the Hong Kong Maritime Museum hopes to demonstrate the evolution of China’s navigation and cartography, explore the changes of China’s worldview and science, as well as cultural exchanges between China and foreign countries in the early modernization period (19th to 20th centuries).

This exhibition is co-organized with the University Library of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology Library and the Library of the Macau University of Science and Technology, and supported by guest curators Mr. Tam Kwong Lim, and Prof. Fung Kam Wing, our Museum Board Directors. The exhibition has four sections: (1) the development of Chinese and Western navigation and cartography, (2) traditional Chinese cartography, (3) the encounter of Chinese and Western maps during the Ming and Qing dynasties, and (4)mapmaking of China, particularly in the region of the Pearl River Delta and Hong Kong. The exhibits include more than eighty rare maps and charts, approximately fifty books from the late Qing and early Republican era, as well as different cartographic tools and instruments. In addition to the items generously loaned from Mr Tam’s private collection and pieces from the organizers’ collections, the exhibition also showcases objects borrowed from various overseas, Chinese and local institutions, some of which are on display for the first time. Through these valuable exhibits, visitors can not only gain a comprehensive understanding of the culture and history of Chinese cartography, but also experience the unique artistic flavour of these maps.