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The World on Paper: From Square to Sphericity Special Exhibition

18 December 2019 to 15 March 2020

The Qian Kun, one of the trigrams in the Yijing (Book of Changes), traditionally represents the concept of tiandi (heaven and earth) for the Chinese. Chinese understanding of the outside world was changed gradually by expeditions and exploration. During the Ming and the Qing dynasties, Western missionaries introduced new concepts and discoveries in fields such as science and cartography to China, thereby greatly influencing scientific development and China’s perception of the world. At the same time, Chinese maps and books also reached Japan and Europe, enriching the whole world’s understanding of China, and promoting the exchange of culture and knowledge.

These maps and ancient books do not only record history; they also reflect the philosophies and cultures of the time. In this exhibition of maps and rare books, The Hong Kong Maritime Museum hopes to demonstrate the evolution of Chinese navigation and cartography, explore the changes in China’s world view and scientific knowledge, and explain cultural exchanges between China and foreign countries during the early modernisation period (19th to 20th centuries).

The exhibition is organised by the Hong Kong Maritime Museum, co-organised with HKUST Lee Shau Kee Library andthe Library of Macau University of Science and Technology; China Resources Group as major sponsor and supported by the Home Affairs Bureau, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.  Mr Tam Kwong Lim, and Prof Fung Kam Wing, Board Directors of the Hong Kong Maritime Museum also serve as the guest curatorsof the exhibition.

The exhibition has four main sections: (1) The development of Chinese and Western navigation and cartography, (2) Traditional Chinese cartography, (3) The encounter of Chinese and Western cartography during the Ming and the Qing dynasties and (4) Mapmaking of China, particularly in the region of the Pearl River Delta and Hong Kong.  Exhibits include around 80 rare maps and charts, and 50 books from the late Qing and early Republican eras, as well as many cartographic tools and instruments. In addition to the items of the organiser’s and co-organisers’collections, the exhibition also includesobjects borrowed from the Hong Kong Science Museum,Fung Ping Shan Library, The University of Hong Kong Libraries, the Chinese University of Hong Kong Library, the and other private collections. Some of the exhibitsare on display for the first time. Various institutions such asthe Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Vatican City, the Library of Congress, the Hunan Museum, the Gansu Antique Archaeology Institute,the Tokiwa Museum of Historical Materials,the UK Hydrographic Office Collection andthe Hong Kong Marine Department had kindly provided their important electronic maps.  Through these valuable pieces, visitors could not only gain a comprehensive understanding of the culture and history of Chinese cartography, but also admire the unique artistic flavour of these maps.