Selden Map of ChinaThe`Selden Map of China - origins and secrets of the 17th century, the oldest surviving merchant map in the world has been revealed by scientist who have utilised state-of-the-art imaging modus operandi. The study headed by Nottingham Trent University in association with the Science Section of the Victoria and Albert Museum for the first time were capable of classifying everything from the techniques and materials utilised, to the flaws and re-drawings made by the surveyor.
Writing in the Journal `Heritage Science’, the scientist had even offered a new location for the creation of the map depending on their proof. The map being 1.6 x 1m illustrates ancient maritime trade routes in Asia is presumed to have been made in the middle of 1607 – 1619 which is painted with watercolours and ink on Chinese paper.
It is said to be an exceptional illustration of Chinese merchant cartography portraying a network of shipping routes with compass directions beginning from the port of Quanzhou, Fujian province getting as far as Japan and India. Not much is known regarding the origin of the Chinese-style map that had reached the Bodleian Library in 1659, at the University of Oxford which had been donated by John Selden, a prominent London lawyer which is said to be there till it was rediscovered in 2008.
Matching Systematic Schemes UtilisedSelden in his willhave stated that it was a `map of Chinamade there fairly’ and it had been taken by an English commander. The map had been scrutinized in-situ and non-invasively with the use of remote `multispectral’ imaging technique established at Nottingham Trent University.
The technique provided the scientist to view locations of the map utilising various wavelengths of light exposing the composition as well as make-up of materials that were used together with concealed details that were hidden to the naked eye.
A variety of matchingsystematicschemes had been utilised in identifying the materials. The researchers discovered the binding medium utilised for the map had been gum Arabic which was made from the sap of the acacia tree used by European, south and west Asians.
It was not the animal glue which was always used during that time in Chinese paintings. On investigation of the pigment utilised, it was found that a combination of indigo with orpiment, which is a yellow mineral instead of gamboge, a yellow dye used in making green was also very unusualfor painting during this period in China.
Complete Map not PlannedThe discovery of a basic copper chloride in the green regions indicated the impact from south and west Asia where the manuscripts had been utilised very often. Green pigment had not been utilised in paper based paintings in China.
The researchers have informed that the pigments as well as binders utilised had been more consistent with those discovered in manuscripts from a Persian or Indo-Persian tradition as well as the Islamic sphere then the European or Chinese. With comprehensive investigation, illustrations were found where the cartographers had made alterations, some of which were stylistic while other were unintentional, some made as the cartographer’s information of a positive area settled.
They were capable of identifying that the trade routes had been laid down before the land had been drawn in. They were of the belief that the cartographer had not planned the complete map in the beginning which was the reason that they had to redraw some of the routes several times. They also ran out of space towards the southern as well as the western points of the map, compelling the trade routes to clear off the compass directions.
Two Trade Routes Without Corresponding Compass DirectionTwo trade routes had been drawn without their corresponding compass direction signifying that the map was incomplete. The researchers proposed another origin for the map with the evidence – Aceh towards the northwest end of Sumatra where it opened out to the Indian Ocean and is the most westerly port in south East Asia. It has been marked on the map and tends to have the longest history of the presence of Islam in the areas of south East Asia.
Moreover it also has a long history of Chinese contact. Beside this it is also one of the six ports on the map noticeable with a red circle probably signifying the main trading network of the owner of the map and is also the only port marked having a magnetic declination in the early 17th century nearest indicated by the tilt of the compass rose of the map. English ship which would have gone back to Europe from south East Asia would have to pass by Aceh either from the east or west coast of Sumatra, thus providing them with the opportunity of obtaining the map.
Chinese Map Evidence of Fusion of CulturesAccording to professor Haida Liang, Head of the Imaging & Sensing for Archaeology, Art History & Conservation research group at Nottingham Trent University, this study tends to explain the importance of not judging a book by its cover.
She further added that `a Chinese map had turned out to be the material evidence of a fusion of cultures. It is stylistically a Chinese painting which tends to follow some Chinese as well as non-Chinese cartographic elements though the painting materials together with their usage are more akin to those of Persian of Indo-Persian manuscripts.
Due to its geographic location, Aceh had been frequented by Indian, Arab, Chinese as well as European traders. They were of the belief that the map could have been made there by a Fujianese probably a Muslim in close connection with the Islamic world.
This had been the globalisation in the early years of the 17th century and on focusing on the material confirmation it was discovered that scientific analysis and art history was used. They thus arrived at new conclusion on where the map had been made following the earlier studies based on historical study.
This work portrayed the immense importance of interdisciplinary research and the new visions it could be bringing along.The map has attained an iconic status and has become the focus of international interest and the understanding of the map through its conservation tends to continue in contributing to the research of eminent scholars all over the world.