This impressive map showcases all China in a grand format, with its text in bilingual form (Chinese-French), with the title and explanation register on top given exclusively in Chinese. It was made by the brilliant Jesuit missionary Stanislas Chevalier, who is most famous for introducing modern meteorology to China. It was beautifully colour lithographed at the Imprimerie Hong-pao-tchai, the printing house that operated at the Zi-Ka-Wei missionary education-science centre in the Xuhui District, Shanghai. The map was made primarily for use in schools, with the present example having clearly been hung up on a wall for display and study, owing to the tack marks in its corners.
Stanislas Chevalier, building upon three centuries of Jesuit leadership in the cartography of China, showcases the country according to the latest information. The main map focuses upon ‘China Proper’, the core of the country that was the ancient homeland of the Han people. This consists of 18 Provinces, plus, the de facto province of ‘Shengjing’ (Shenyang, later Liaoning) Province, in southern Manchuria. While China controlled extensive territories beyond ‘China Proper’, including the bulk of Manchuria, Xinjiang, and Outer Mongolia and Tibet, these traditionally non-Han lands were classified as ‘Feudatory Regions’, being more akin to colonies, with military governments.
The outer areas are covered in two inset maps, with the one in the lower right corner detailing the Manchurian provinces of Heilongjiang, Jilin and Liaoning; and the one in the upper left depicting Sin Kiang or Xinjiang (today’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region), with another inset, in the lower left, featuring a circular map of Asia which contextualizes China.
Each of the Chinese provinces is coloured in its own bright hue, while all cities and towns of note are labeled in both Chinese and Latin transliterations, while rivers and coastal details are depicted and labeled, with mountains expressed by hachures. The ‘Legende’ identifies the symbols used throughout to denote the capitals of administrative jurisdictions, from the national capital Peking (Beijing), all the way down to second-class prefectures. The symbol employed to identify ancient walls (notably the Great Wall of China) is also given. The map is capped off by the beautiful Chinese-style blue silk endpapers, bearing a red title label, that adorn the verso.
Critically, the map shows that China was then undergoing a great railway boom, as it depicts the impressive and constantly growing network of lines, while also showing the lines that are currently under construction.
Stanislas Chevalier created the map at Zi-Ka-Wei education and scientific centre, which was founded by the Jesuits in 1842 in what was then the small village of Xujiahui, today the Xuhui District of inner-city Shanghai. While initially just a small mission station, it eventually grew to include one of the greatest libraires in China, a school teaching an amazingly advanced specialized curriculum, an observatory, and a printing press. Today, it survives as the Shanghai Library Bibliotheca Zi-Ka-Wei, and remains of great cultural importance to the city.
A Note on Rarity
The present map is rare. We can trace 7 institutional examples, held by the Bibliothèque nationale de France; David Rumsey Map Collection (Stanford University); Library of Congress; Harvard-Yenching Library; Cornell University; Biblioteca Nacional de España; and the University of Victoria (Canada). Beyond that we can trace only a single other example as appearing on the market in recent times.
Stanislas Chevalier: Modern Jesuit Cartographer and Meteorologist of China
Stanislas Chevalier (1852 – 1930) was a polymath Jesuit scientist, explorer and cartographer. A native of the Loire Valley, he studied medicine in France, and joined the Society of Jesus in 1871, before becoming a mathematics professor. In 1883, Chevalier was sent on mission to China where he would remain for the rest of his years.
Chevalier was posted to the Zi-Ka-Wei centre in Shanghai, whereupon he showed a particular interest in meteorology, introducing the modern scientific standards of the field to China. In 1887, he became the director of the mission’s observatory. He proceeded to publish a series of groundbreaking works on the metrology of China, including an Essay on the Winter Storms on the Coast of China (1893) and Essay on the Variations of the Atmospheric Pressure over Siberia and Eastern Asia, during the Month of January and February 1890 (1896).
Importantly, in 1897 and 1898, Chevalier explored the upper course of the Yangtze River, which was little known to science. Travelling in only a small junk with two assistants, he constructed 48 weather stations along the course of river and conducted studies of its navigability and geology. This resulted is his masterpiece, Le haut Yang-Tse de I-Tchang Fou a P’ing-Chan Hien en 1897-1898: voyage et description. Complement de l’atlas du haut Yang-Tse (1899), with text and an atlas.
In late life, Chevalier focused upon astronomy, opening an observatory at Zo-Sé (Sheshan), to the west of Shanghai, which became the most important in China. He notably published a photographic study of the moon, La Lune et ses paysages en 14 planches photografiees prises à l’observatoire de Zô-sé (1922). In 1918, Chevalier was awarded the prestigious Jules Janssen Prize by the Société astronomique de France.
References: Bibliothèque nationale de France: IFN-53170042; David Rumsey Map Collection (Stanford University): 10575.000; Library of Congress: G7821.F7 1904 .C5;
Harvard-Yenching Library: 990092086970203941; Cornell University library: Asia Rare G7820 1904 .H87; Biblioteca Nacional de España: MR/33-41/2689/1; University of Victoria (Canada): G7821 F7 1904 H82; OCLC: 80872673, 53157202, 1177042451, 494189071, 1107204452.