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CHINA (EASTERN) / CHENGDU IMPRINT: 春秋列国历史地图 [Chūnqiū lièguó lìshǐ dìtú / Historical Map of the Countries in the Spring and Autumn Period].




Extremely rare – a beautifully lithographed and coloured grand historical map depicting China during the Spring and Autumn Period (770 to 476 BCE), when east-northern China, nominally ruled by the Eastern Zhou Dynasty, was riven by civil war instigated by rebellious regional noblemen, an era famously chronicled by Confucius; published in Chengdu by Fu Chongju (傅崇榘), the father of modern journalism in Sichuan and the first local mapmaker to adapt Western scientific cartographic methods to traditional Chinese styles, so creating novel and extraordinary works – the present example bearing a stellar provenance, being from the estate of Auguste François, the French diplomat who was perhaps the era’s greatest photographer and cinematographer of China.   


Lithograph with original hand colour, printed on 2 joined sheets of thin but high-quality rice paper, folding into original tan paper slipcase with red lettering (Very Good, remarkably clean, bright and crisp with resplendent colours, just some chipping to upper margins with very tiny loss to neatline, slipcase chipped in lower left corner), 135 x 135 cm (53 x 53 inches).



The present map depicts historical China during the Spring and Autumn Period (770 to 476 BCE), a fascinating and dramatic time in ancient Chinese history.  During this era, Chinese civilization was concentrated upon the Chinese Plain, in the what is today east-northern China.  The authority of the ruling Eastern Zhou Dynasty, based in their capital Luoyi (Luoyang), was being undermined by the regional dukes and marquesses, who had successfully gained de facto authority over their fiefdoms.  These potentates came to fight amongst themselves, plunging the entire region into civil conflict.  The name of the period is derived from the work of Confucius (551–479 BCE), the Spring and Autumn Annals, which is especially valuable as he was an eyewitness to many of the events that he chronicled.


The Spring and Autumn Period gave way to the Warring States Period (c. 475 – 221 BCE), which plunged China into a lengthily civil war, but which ended in the triumph of the Qin Dynasty and the consolidation of China into a unified empire for the first time.


This grand, resplendently coloured map was drafted and published in Chengdu, Sichuan, in the year Guangxu 30 [1904] by Fu Chongju (傅崇榘), a brilliant young polymath who was one of Sichuan’s first modern journalists, as well as a groundbreaking cartographer, historian and humanitarian.  He thrived during the period when Sichuan was opening to foreign trade and ideas, and Fu Chongju’s strength, as brilliantly illustrated by the present map, was taking the best elements of Western science and techniques, and gracefully integrating them with Chinese traditions.


The very large map (over 1.3 x 1.3 metres!) shows Eastern China in grand perspective, with the realm of the Eastern Zhou Dynasty shaded in Green, bounded by a bold red line, while the surrounding territories are shaded in pink.  The various (often rebellious) noble fiefdoms are labeled, while hundreds of cities are marked with their names in rondels, following Chinese tradition.  Numerous symbols, explained in the legend, in the lower right corner, identify many military details such as the locations of battles, forts, etc.  Detailed text, in the lower felt corner, describes the state of China during the Spring and Autumn Period.

The map is extremely rare, which is not surprising, as the map’s gargantuan size and its fragile nature would have given it a very low survival rate.  We cannot trace any institutional examples of the map but are aware of an example (in poor condition) that was offered at a Chinese auction in 2018.


Fu Chongju: Polymath of Chengu, Merging Eastern and Western Cultures in Journalism, Cartography, Academic Writing and Medicine


Fu Chongju [傅崇榘] (1875 – 1917) was a fascinating and brilliant figure who contributed greatly to the intellectual life and modernization of Sichuan during a time of transformational change.  He was dedicated to adopting the best aspects of Western science and culture and adapting them to Chinese traditions.  With this ethic in mind, he is considered to have been Chengdu’s first modern journalist and historian, as well as being responsible for creating the most valuable chronicle of the contemporary city.  He was also an accomplished cartographer, who made several extremely high-quality maps that merged European empiricism with domestic artistic styles.


Fu Chongju was born in the town of Jianyang, just to the southwest of Chengdu, but moved to the provincial capital as small boy, such that he always saw himself as native of that city.  Imbued with an immense intellectual curiosity, he was a stellar student, graduating from Chengdu’s Zunjing Academy in 1898.


In the immediate wake of his studies, Fu Chongju was employed as reporter, and later as an editor of Shu Xuebao, which founded in March 1898, was only the second newspaper in Sichuan and the first in Chengdu.  There Fu Chonju became the city’s first modern journalist, adopting Western methods of covering the news, including writing on crime, the arts and human-interest stories, as opposed to merely making dry announcements of official acts, which was traditionally the mainstay of the Chinese media.


While Fu Chongju seldom left Chengdu, he befriended resident foreigners and acquired a knowledge of European languages and Western customs, literature, and scientific discoveries.  He was close to many of the European consuls in Chengdu, and quite likely met Auguste François while the latter was on one of his visits to the city.


In 1900, Fu Chongju founded the Journal of Mathematics which, while short-lived, was Sichuan’s first scientific journal, highly regarded in academic circles.  He also founded Chengdu’s first public reading room, the ‘Newspaper Reading Commune’.  In 1901, he established Chengdu’s second newspaper, the Enlightenment Popular News, a woodblock publication issued initially semi-monthly and then monthly.  In part sponsored by the European consulates, the paper pursued modern Western and liberal forms of journalism.  From 1909, Fu Chongju added an illustrated supplement to the paper, the ‘Popular Pictorial’, which was much beloved by readers.


From 1903, Fu Chongju became one of the principals of Sichuan’s first official newspaper and Chengdu’s first daily, The Chengdu Daily, which while overseen by the government, permitted is writers a surprisingly wide degree of editorial freedom.


Fu Chongju made his only known trip outside of China, when he travelled to a World’s Fair, the Fifth National Industrial Exhibition (1903), in Osaka.  There he encountered many amazing people and new technologies that greatly influenced his work going forward.


Fu Chongju made enormous contributions to cartography, developing his own distinct form, employing traditional Chinese styles with modern Western content.  In addition to the present work, he made a colossal map of Sichuan (measuring 1.5 x 3 metres!), a telegraph and transportation map of China and the Far East (1901); a set of twenty maps of historical China; a New Map of Land and Water for International Trade; the Civilization Progress Map of China, the Reform Map of Ancient and Modern Western Regions; a Map of the Yangtze River; and a city plan of Chengdu.


However, Fu Chongju’s greatest intellectual masterpiece is the 成都通览 [Chengdu tonglan / Overview of Chengdu] (1909), an encyclopedic account of the history and cotemporary state of Chengdu that features an unprecedented array of detail on its sites, institutions, residents, and their customs.  Unlike the dry traditional Chinese histories, which focused upon the public affairs of national and regional rulers, the Chengdu tonglan discussed many elements of the daily lives of regular citizens and the appearance and activities of the normal city streets.  It is today a seminal work on the modern history of Chengdu and is perhaps the finest contemporary work of its kind of any Chinese city.


Fu Chongju was also a great humanitarian, who spent a good deal of time and money to provide medical care to those in need.  He was for a time the President of the Sichuan Red Cross, whereupon he promoted vaccines and modern Western medical practices, in tandem with traditional Chinese medicine.


While Fu Chongju was a bright intellect and good Samaritan, he was a terrible businessman.  His attention to quality, detail and scientific rigour was often not cost effective.  Most of his journalistic, academic, and cartographic activities were money losing ventures, and he was forced to make up the shortfall by selling rickshaws and lottery tickets.  It seems that Fu Chongju succeeded in making and losing several fortunes this way, for he quickly spent all the money he ever received, while his good nature was often exploited by unscrupulous business associates.


Sadly, Fu Chongju died in 1917, while only in his early forties, although he had lived the experiences of many lifetimes.


An ‘Auguste’ Provenance


The present example of the map comes from the estate of Auguste François (1857 – 1935), a French diplomat who was perhaps the greatest photographer and cinematographer in late Qing Dynasty China.


François was based in China between 1896 and 1904, initially as the French Consul in Longzhou (Guanxi) and then in Kunming (Yunnan).  In the latter post, he was instrumental in setting the groundwork for the railway which was to run from French Cochinchina (Vietnam) to Kunming.  Completed in 1910, it proved to be one of Asia’s most important nexuses of trade and cultural exchange.


François was a tremendously intrepid and curious man, and having mastered the Chinese language, he found the time to travel widely through Yunnan, Guanxi, Sichuan, and Tibet, visiting many areas where few Europeans had ever ventured.  He also memorably followed the Yangtze River from Yunnan to Shanghai.  He was a highly talented photographer and always travelled with an entourage carrying the most modern camera equipment.  He took thousands of photographs, not only of landscapes and historical sites, but also of regular people and their daily activities, imbuing his work with tremendous documentary value.  He also made the first motion pictures in China, upon which today the Middle Kingdom of a bygone era comes alive in way that could never be imagined through other media.  Today, François’s images take pride of place in museum and gallery exhibitions worldwide.


The present example of map was likely acquired by François during one of his numerous visits to Chengdu (whereupon there is a good chance that he met Fu Chongju), and was clearly treated with great care, as it is found in surprisingly fine condition today.  The map was retained by François’s descendants until recently.


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