USF Brings Masterpiece Maps to Asian Art Museum


USF is partnering with San Francisco’s world-renowned Asian Art Museum to display two masterpieces of 17th century Jesuit cartography. The March 4 – May 8 exhibit is one in a series of on- and off-campus events celebrating cultural exchange between the East and West through mapmaking. 

The rare maps, notable for being the first known maps to feature China and the Pacific Ocean at the center of the world, were created by Jesuit priests Matteo Ricci and Ferdinand Verbiest in collaboration with Chinese scholars.

“These historic maps represent the first Chinese depiction of the centrality of China with respect to the West and the globe more generally,” says Thomas Cavanaugh, a USF philosophy professor who’s planning a field trip to the Asian Art Museum with students. “One looking at these rare maps sees both our present intimated in the past and, perhaps, hints of our future.”

First time together

The 1602 Ricci map, of which there are only six known copies, is the earliest known Chinese map to show Asia in relationship to the Americas. Several institutions have copies of the 1674 Verbiest map, but the U.S. Library of Congress’ copy — which will be displayed at the Asian Art Museum — has never been exhibited publicly. USF’s Ricci Institute for Chinese-Western Cultural History was instrumental in securing the two maps for the exhibit.

It’s the first time the rare woodblock-printed maps will be displayed together.

There will also be several related on-campus opportunities to delve into Asian cartography, including a Thacher Gallery exhibit, a Manresa Gallery exhibit, a concert at St. Ignatius Church, and a three-day cartography symposium.

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