Click here to skip to content

Chinese globe

Image of Chinese Terrestrial Globe

Chinese Terrestrial Globe
British Library Maps C.6.a.2.
Copyright © The British Library Board
A high-quality version of this image can be purchased from British Library Images Online. For more information email

This beautiful Chinese globe dates from the early 17th century. Made by Dias and Longobardi, under their Chinese names, its existence clearly illustrates the extent to which western ideas concerning geography had penetrated the East.

This is the earliest surviving terrestrial globe made in China. It is one of the most important relics of the penetration of western geographical ideas into China, which had its own rich cartographical traditions. That penetration was led by the Jesuits. Father Nicolo Longobardi (1559-1654) was Superior General of the China Mission and Manuel Dias (1574-1659) was also a Jesuit. This globe probably played a particularly important role in winning acceptance for European theories since it is said to have been in the Imperial Palace in Beijing before its arrival in England in the last century.

The globe, which is painted in lacquer on wood, is signed by Dias and Longobardi using their Chinese names. The map is drawn on a scale of 1:21 million. The world is depicted in some detail and is relatively up-to-date for its time, showing European discoveries in New Guinea dating from as recently as 1606. Some of the numerous inscriptions attempt to convey European astronomical and geographical concepts in terms that would have been familiar to well-educated Chinese.

The process of influence was, however, to some extent mutual and one of the inscriptions refers to terrestrial magnetism - a phenomenon that, 40 years before it came to Newton's attention, was already well-accepted in China.

Elsewhere on our websites


Latest events - register free online

Mobile app

For iPhone, iPad and Android

Report a Concern

What is the nature of your concern?

Report a Concern

What is the nature of your concern?

Email link to a friend

Write a brief note to accompany the email

Your friend's email address: