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Author: Mario Cams

This article focuses on the role of spatial dynamics in effectuating the integration of two different sets of land surveying techniques. During the later stages of the Qing-Zunghar wars of the 1690s, the Kangxi emperor (r. 1661-1722) repeatedly asked French Jesuit missionaries, who had been sent to China in 1685 under the patronage of the French King Louis XIV, to join his imperial campaigns targeting the Khalkha-Mongolian borderlands. In the shadow of these imperial journeys, missionaries systematically determined latitudes with Paris-made instruments while Qing officials measured road distances all along the way with graduated ropes. A next step in the evolution of imperial cartographic practice came after the Qing- Zunghar wars had come to an end, when an all-out effort was launched by the emperor to integrate the newly conquered Khalkha Mongols and their lands into the Qing polity. As part of the effort, missionaries were asked to produce a map of the new frontier by integrating European and East Asian practices, which led to the discovery of a technical incompatibility. In 1702, the problem was solved by the precise measurement of the terrestrial degree and, immediately after, the restandardization of the Qing’s most basic unit of length, the chi 尺. Thus, I argue that the turn of the eighteenth century saw the crystallization of a new or hybrid Qing cartographic practice, driven by the need to explore the new Khalkha frontier. More concretely, I show how selected techniques as developed by the French Academy of Sciences were gradually absorbed into a pre-existing framework of Qing land surveying, a process that was shaped and facilitated by exchanges in via throughout the vast Mongolian frontier.

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In: East Asian Science, Technology, and Medicine
Author: Mario Cams

At the turn of the 18th century, the Kangxi emperor initiated a large project to map the vast territories of the Qing. The land surveys that ensued were executed by teams of Qing officials and European missionaries, most of them French Jesuits first sent to China in 1685 and actively supported by the French crown. Early 18th century Jesuit publications foster a much-heralded claim that these missionary-mapmakers drew on their status of imperial envoys during the surveys to locally advance the position of the Catholic church. This article strives to explore the formation of such local networks by these missionaries as they passed through the cities and towns of the Chinese provinces. On the basis of archival material, details emerge of contacts with local Qing administrators and Chinese Christians, and of attempts to purchase and recover local churches. This is then discussed against the background of the Rites Controversy, in an attempt to evaluate how such local networks relate to the rivalry between missionaries of different orders. The article emphasizes that there was (and perhaps is) no such thing as “pure science” by underscoring that important technical achievements such as the Qing mapping project are often shaped by complex networks and historical contingencies.

In: Frontiers of History in China
East-West Collaboration in the Mapping of Qing China (c. 1685-1735)
Author: Mario Cams
In Companions in Geography Mario Cams revisits the early 18th century mapping of Qing China, without doubt one of the largest cartographic endeavours of the early modern world. Commonly seen as a Jesuit initiative, the project appears here as the result of a convergence of interests among the French Academy of Sciences, the Jesuit order, and the Kangxi emperor (r. 1661-1722). These connections inspired the gradual integration of European and East Asian scientific practices and led to a period of intense land surveying, executed by large teams of Qing officials and European missionaries. The resulting maps and atlases, all widely circulated across Eurasia, remained the most authoritative cartographic representations of continental East Asia for over a century.

This book is based on Dr. Mario Cams' dissertation, which has been awarded the "2017 DHST Prize for Young Scholars" from the International Union of the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology, Division of History of Science and Technology (IUHPST/DHST).
In: Companions in Geography
In: Companions in Geography
In: Companions in Geography
In: Companions in Geography
In: Companions in Geography
In: Companions in Geography
In: Companions in Geography