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1857 Nagakubo Sekisui Map of East Asia; Japan, Korea, China

亞細亞小東洋圖 / [Map of Asia and Little Eastern Ocean]. - Main View

1857 Nagakubo Sekisui Map of East Asia; Japan, Korea, China


Disputed islands - resolved?


亞細亞小東洋圖 / [Map of Asia and Little Eastern Ocean].
  1857 (dated)     14.5 x 19 in (36.83 x 48.26 cm)


This is a rare and historically significant 1857 map of East Asia (Japan, Korea, China, Annam, etc.) by the 18th century Japanese cartographer, geographer, and Sinologist Nagakubo Sekisui (長久保玄珠). At the time of publication in Japan, this map was regarded as especially accurate and a gold standard of Japanese cartography for nearly a century after its initial publication. It is also important because it includes several currently disputed islets, including: Dokdo/Takeshima (竹シマ), the Kuril Islands (唐度), and the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands (高華).
Nagakubo and Edo Era Cartography
In the second half of the sixteenth century, Japan was undergoing a process of unification influenced by exchanges with the outside world, including by way of Japanese settlers in Southeast Asia. The Tokugawa briefly continued some of these practices (such as the 'red seal ships') but were concerned about the problems that these exchanges presented (namely Christianity and guns for wayward daimyo) and nominally closed off Japan from the outside world on pain of death (the Sakoku Policy). However, in reality, outside influences continued to spread in Japan, primarily through Nagasaki, where Dutch and Chinese traders were allowed to reside. Moreover, foreign vessels landed on Japan's shores (and were usually attacked) with increasing frequency in the eighteenth and early nineteenth century. Travelers also visited Nagasaki from non-treaty countries frequently enough that Japanese intellectuals became increasingly aware of changes taking place in maritime technology, cartography, hydrography, and other fields.

Working with limited materials and under strict censorship, Japanese cartographers were nonetheless able to produce highly accurate maps of Japan, East Asia, and the world by combining Chinese maps, European maps, and travelogues. Throughout the late Tokugawa, there was a growing market for such maps among the intelligencia. Considering the limitations on information, map of East Asia is remarkably accurate, incorporating longitude (the white vertical bar about two-thirds of the way up) and featuring heavy annotation and explanations about the distance of various places from the equator, the North Pole, and other important reference points.
Inaccuracies, Intentional and Otherwise
There are a number of oddities and inaccuracies, some which may have been deliberate. For example, next to Taiwan, Nagakubo writes 'Koxinga lives/lived here' (囯姓父爺居此) referring to the Ming loyalist who had fought the Qing from Taiwan until his death in 1662, more than a century before the original edition of this map. This was probably included because Koxinga, who was half-Japanese, had become something of a folk hero in Japan, and was the subject of the wildly popular 18th century play The Battles of Coxinga (国性爺合戦, with the second character mistakenly written as 性 instead of 姓) by Chikamatsu Monzaemon (近松 門左衛門). Within the context of the Sakoku policy, urbane Japanese audiences probably gravitated towards the play because of its depiction of China as an exotic foreign land full of adventure. Otherwise, unsurprisingly, Nagakubo's grasp of the exact geography of the Russian Far East, Indonesia, and the Americas was spotty.
Sovereignty and Island Disputes
This map would appear to have important implications for current-day territorial disputes in East Asia, particularly for Dokdo/Takeshima, which is shaded here in the same color as Japan, and for the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands, which are the same color as Taiwan and mainland China. It is important to note that other maps from this era show conflicting information, and that, while notions of sovereignty and territory existed in East Asia prior to this period, there was not the same concept of strict territorial sovereignty as today. However, there seems to have been an intellectual shift in Japan across the Tokugawa period towards a more 'Westphalian' notion of sovereignty, including comprehensive maps of national territory, due to Japan's (albeit limited) interaction with outside world. Moreover, Japan had been drifting away from adherence to the Chinese-centered regional system for several centuries, and Japanese Neo-Confucian intellectuals became especially disillusioned after the 1644 conquest of China by the Manchu Qing.
The Politics of Nomenclature
The views of Japanese Neo-Confucian scholars like Nagakubo towards the outside world can be evinced by the terminology used to refer to various other kingdoms and territories. To begin with, this map was originally published in a work titled Maps of Prefectures and Counties of China in Past Eras (唐土歴代州郡沿革図), which used the character for Tang (唐) to refer to China. This was standard practice in Japan at the time, a sign of both admiration for the cultural florescence of the Tang Dynasty and implicit disdain for subsequent Chinese dynasties. On the map itself, China is referred to as 'the Kingdom of Ming' (明國 or 大明囯), the dynasty which had been deposed over one hundred years earlier, as a slight to the Qing, who are only mentioned by name in Manchuria (大清本國). Similarly, Chang'an (長安, now Xi'an), capital of the Tang Dynasty, is displayed more prominently than Beijing. Nagakubo also indicates the locations of China's ancient warring states, likely because literate Japanese would have been familiar with them from literature.
Publication History and Census
The map was originally made by Nagakubo Sekisui in 1789 as part of a historical atlas of East Asia (Maps of Prefectures and Counties of China in Past Eras 唐土歴代州郡沿革図), and it was so well-regarded that it was republished in multiple collections of maps for nearly a century. A handful of institutions have the 1789 edition (the National Diet Library, the Saga Prefectural Library, the Chinese University of Hong Kong, the University of British Columbia, and the University of California Berkeley), while the others hold editions from 1835, 1855, 1857, 1881, and 1883, sometimes under the title Ancient and Recent Maps (古今沿革地圖) or Maps of China in Past Eras (支那歴代沿革圖). This map appears to be the 1857 edition of Maps of Prefectures and Counties of China in Past Eras published in 1857, held by Waseda University Library, the National Diet Library, and the Nichibunken (International Research Center for Japanese Studies).


Nagakubo Sekisui (長久保玄珠, December 8, 1717 – August 31, 1801) was a Japanese cartographer, Confucian scholar, and sinologist active in late 18th century Edo Japan. Sekisui is considered by some to be the 'Founder of Japanese Geography.' He was born in Akahama village, Hitachi Province, and studied medicine under Suzuki Matuse and Nagoe Nankei. In 1767, he accompanied a delegation from nearby Ishohara village to Nagasaki where, being recognized for his scholarship, was elevated to Samurai status. In Nagasaki he was particularly impressed with his experience of the Dutch and Chinese, for whom he developed great respect. Continuing his travels throughout japan, Sekisui encountered his first foreign maps in Osaka and began remaking Japanese maps using foreign technological advancements. His first map, for example, Kaisei Nihon Yochi Rotei Zenzu (Revised Japan World Distances Map), published in 1779, is the first Japanese map to incorporate a geographical coordinate system. He also issued a world map, Sankai yochi zenzu.(Revised Picture of the 10,000 Nations of the World) based upon the Chinese 1602 Matteo Ricci Map. In 1769 Sekisui became the tutor to the daimyô of Mito Han. He retired in 1791. Sekisui's mapmaking work predates the work of the other legendary Japanese cartographer, Ino Tadataka by some 45 years. Learn More...


Good. Minor wormholing. Wear on old folds.


OCLC 676856269. Donald Keene, The Battles of Coxinga: Chikamatsu's Puppet Play, Its Background and Importance (Cambridge Oriental Series, Series Number 4, 1951). Fumiko Sugimoto, 'Political Cartography in the Tokugawa Period,' Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Asian History (Oxford University Press, 2020). Kären Wigen, Sugimoto Fumiko, Cary Karacas (eds.), Cartographic Japan: A History in Maps (The University of Chicago Press, 2016). Marcia Yonemoto, 'The 'Spatial Vernacular' in Tokugawa Maps,' The Journal of Asian Studies, Vol. 59, No. 3 (Aug., 2000).