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Biblioteca Nacional de Portugal

Serviço de Actividades Culturais

Campo Grande, 83

1749-081 Lisboa



Informações e marcação de visitas:

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Tel. 217982167 e 217982434

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China as seen from Europe, 16th-19th centuries

EXHIBITION | 29 Nov. '23 - 2 Mar. '24 | Opening: 29 nov. 6.00 pm | Galeria - Piso 2 | Free entrance



China has been part of the European imagination since ancient times, where myths, dreams, expectations and fears are projected.


Europe got to know China better, especially towards the end of the Middle Ages, through the relations of some Christian merchants and missionaries. But at the beginning of the 16th century, in the context of the Portuguese maritime expansion, a more constant presence of Europeans on the Chinese coast allowed for a gradually more complete knowledge of the Kingdom of China. Portuguese cartography and travel literature were critical in spreading a new image of China in different parts of Europe.


From around 1557, Macau was a strategic stage for the Portuguese-Asian presence in China as a centre of knowledge, trade and the Christian religion that prepared Europeans, particularly the Jesuits, to enter this vast space.


From around 1580 onwards, cartographers such as Fernão Vaz Dourado, Michele Ruggieri SJ, Matteo Ricci SJ, Luís Jorge de Barbuda, Abraham Ortelius, Jan Huygen van Linschoten, Joan Blaeu, Martino Martini SJ, to name but a few, integrated more detailed information about inland territories of China into their works, gathered from Portuguese, European and missionary voyages and integrated with Chinese cartographic and literary sources, not only of the coasts but also of the interior of the Chinese empire.


Through this exhibition, which includes maps and itineraries, literary works, objets d'art and digital images, we can follow some of the most critical moments in constructing China's image from Europe between the 16th and 19th centuries.




Organized by the China Observatory and the National Library of Portugal, with the support of research centres and universities in Portugal, Italy and China.

Curators: Angelo Cattaneo [Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche (CNR) and Istituto di Storia dell'Europa Mediterranea (ISEM)]; Alexandra Curvelo [Instituto de História da Arte (IHA) and Department of Art History at NOVA FCSH]; Rui Lourido, Historian [President of the China Observatory, member of the board of the World Association of Chinese Studies (WACS) of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS)].



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