West Meets East: Images of China and Japan, 1570 to 1920.  Special Collections Exhibition, University of Otago Library, New Zealand



By revealing Chinese civilisation to Europe through his writings, Marco Polo created the impetus for the Age of Discovery. The West's convergence with the East was gradual. Both China and nearby Japan were not new lands; they were known by report and reputation. Missionary efforts by the Jesuits and trading networks promoted further contact. During early visits, European travellers found there were many things to observe and learn. Initially, few Westerners dared claim that they had grasped the complexities of Chinese and Japanese life, yet by the nineteenth century, treaties helped cement political and economic ties. Such relations also facilitated closer cultural understanding.

West meets East

is an exhibition that presents a selected number of written and photographic accounts by European travellers to China and Japan. Notable items include John Ogilby's 1670 translation of Atlas Japanensis by Arnoldus Montanus, the earliest major work written on Japan, a coloured facsimile of Ortelius's Theatrum Orbis Terrarum (1570), which contains one of the earliest maps of China and Japan, Thomas Allom's multi-volumed illustrated work on China, John Barrow's China, the first book with aquatints of that country, Jesuit-based works such as Trigault's letters (1639) and Kircher's important China Monumentis (1667), and John Thomson's superb photographic volumes (1873). There are also two rare volumes containing numerous highly colourful illustrations of the tea industry and the Royal Court in China. The exhibition is based on books held at Special Collections and the Hocken Collections, University of Otago.