The Map That Opened Up Southeast Asia
Geography A Dutchman changes the course of history when he copies the Portugueseʼs carefully guarded sailing routes to the East Indies
The Portuguese Empire was one of the largest in world history, spanning nearly six centuries, between 1415 and 1999. From the 15th century, the Portuguese also colonised Asia and they would dominate trade in the region for nearly 100 years. Their monopoly depended on closely guarded knowledge about the best sailing routes to the region, known as the East Indies at the time.[
1] In the late 16th century, however, a Dutchman called Jan Huygen van Linschoten (1563–1611) changed the course of history for Singapore and Southeast Asia by deciphering the secrets of the Portuguese and sharing them with the world. Linschoten was the secretary to Don Frey Vicente de Fonseca, the Archbishop of Goa, which was then under Portuguese rule. During his employment, Linschoten painstakingly made copies of archives that spelt out the closely-guarded sailing directions.
Combining this information with his own travel experiences and observations in Goa, Linschoten created a maritime handbook that was published in 1595. The following year, he revealed even more of his hardearned knowledge in a second, more detailed work: Itinerario,voyageofteschipvaertvan Janhuygenvanlinschotennaeroostofte Portugaelsindien,1579–1592 (Travel Account of the Voyage of the Sailor Jan Huygen van Linschoten to the Portuguese East India).
The landmark Itinerario laid bare the Portuguese’s unrivalled information for navigating 16th-century Southeast Asia through the Malacca Straits. Aware that the Portuguese might not look favourably on outsiders who had gained access to their routes, Linschoten also included in it a recommendation to navigators to approach the region through the Sunda Straits in order to avoid Portuguese reprisal.[
The exposure of the Portuguese’s secrets ended their dominance in Southeast Asia. Two years later, in 1598, an English translation of the Itinerario was published in London. The release of the original work and the English edition launched a race between Dutch and English companies to claim the East Indies trade. This set the stage for Stamford Raffles’ arrival on Singapore’s shores more than two centuries later in 1819.
Published in the book, a map entitled Exacta & accurata delinatio cúm orarum maritimarum túm etjam locorum terrestrium quæ in regionibus China, Cauchinchina, Camboja, sive Champa, Syao, Malacca, Arracan & Pegu provides detailed sailing instructions for the route to India via the Cape of Good Hope, and for negotiating the eastern coastlines of Asia. About the size of three-and-a-half sheets of A4 paper, it was regarded as the standard reference map of the Far East until the 1630s, when Jan Jansson and William Blaeu, two Dutch map publishing houses, produced more maps of the region.
The map positions the islands from Sumatra in the west to Pupua, the early reference to Papua New Guinea, in the east with remarkable accuracy.[ Displaying a
3] marvellous blend of contemporary Portuguese knowledge and mythical cartographic detail, it also depicts Japan in the shape of a lobster or
The landmark Itinerario laid bare the Portuguese̓ s unrivalled information for navigating 16th-century Southeast Asia through the Malacca Straits
shrimp, and Korea as an odd-shaped island.
China takes the form of a land of elephants and rhinoceroses, and is displayed with four large lakes in its interior – an impression that seems to be based on Luiz Jorge de Barbuda’s conception of the country as having a river system comprising several large lakes. Barbuda was a Portuguese cartographer who served Philip II of Spain from 1582.[
4] Interestingly, the map also shows a place called “Sincapura” on the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula. While the name alludes to the modern city of Singapore, scholars believe that the name and its variants, such as “C. Cinca Pula”, were used in European maps from the 1500s to the 1800s to denote either the town of Singapore, one of several straits on which Singapore is located, or the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula.[
5] On the map, Java has an unknown south coast, and the shape of Celebes, or Sulawesi, is inaccurate.[
6] This article was first published in Biblioasia ( Vol 11, Issue 04, Jan–mar 2016), a quarterly journal of the National Library Board on the history, culture and heritage of Singapore. The online edition can be viewed at: www.nlb.gov.sg/biblioasia
then baked into a variety of shapes; others would create writing material crafted from materials such as plants and animal hides.
Over the last century, industrial production has steadily replaced traditional handmade means of book making. What is interesting, however, is that while modern technology and the invention of the printing press have made it possible to produce books more efficiently and in large quantities, there are places in the world where books are still being made by hand, using natural resources and time-honoured techniques passed down from one generation to another.
In parts of India, there is a strong tradition of products made by traditional craftspeople using simple, indigenous tools. The range of Indian art and handicrafts is as rich and varied as the people who live in the subcontinent. Despite the march of time, the unique craft of handmade books is still very much alive in India today. Thenightlifeoftrees, Inthe Dark and Theveryhungrylion are some examples of handmade books from India, using paper made from a mixture of cotton cloth remnants, tree bark, rice husks or grass.
Thenightlifeoftrees, published in 2012, is a handmade book that reflects the art of three Gond (a Dravidian people who live in central India) artists: Ram Singh Urveti, Bhajju Shyam and Durga Bai. Painstakingly silkscreened by hand, each spread showcases RIGHT The uniqueness of Otogi-banashi lies in its accompanying miniature books and the book- within-a- book format. The miniature books contain only illustrations. The bigger book provides captions to the miniature books and an introductory essay to the history of toybooks and woodblock prints
Every copy of The Night Life of Trees is numbered by hand. This particular book is the 546th copy out of 2,000
The National Library Board’s Asian Children’s Literature (ACL) collection aims to raise awareness and promote deeper understanding of Asian children’s literature and Asian culture and heritage among researchers, teachers, parents and children. It includes rare publications dating back to the 1900s. Library members may approach library staff for assistance if they wish to see a particular title. The requested item may be viewed at Lee Kong Chian Reference Library, Woodlands Regional Library, Tampines Regional Library or Jurong Regional Library.
Japanese Woodblock Prints lllustrations of Japanese literature typically feature woodblock colour-printing called ukiyo-e, one of the most famous traditional Japanese art forms. The beauty of woodblock prints can be seen in Otogi-banashi, a bilingual title packaged as an old-style toybook, which combines concepts of learning with play and serves as educational toys for children as well. Relatively few specimens in good condition exist today as, in many cases, these toybooks were literally read to pieces.
Toybooks were originally created as playthings for Japanese children. Three Japanese folktales are featured in this volume: “The Old Man Who Makes the Flowers Bloom”, “Momotaro” and “Kachi-kachi Mountain”. The binding and outer slipcover for this volume is made of chiyogami, a traditional Japanese paper characterised by its handstencilled and block-printed patterns.
For more recent works featuring woodblock prints, award-winning artist Keizaburo Tejima comes to mind. Born in 1935, he was one of the few Japanese artists working with the woodblock technique used in children’s books in the 1980s. His books were published in 1986 in North America, where he gained recognition as a prominent author and illustrator. Owllake and Fox’sdream were on the American Library Association (ALA)’S list of Children’s Notable Books, and the New Yorktimes listed Fox’sdream as one of 1987’s 10 best illustrated books. His books are still popular today.
China, Bookbinding and Papercuts No one would dispute the importance of books and the written word in China. Few cultures in the world have enjoyed such a long and chequered tradition of literary production. Different kinds of Chinese bookbinding have been documented throughout history, many of them unique to China, including stitched, accordion and Chinese pothi binding.
Accordion bookbinding is where the book is bound only to the front and back case boards with one long sheet between them, folded to demarcate pages. Accordion books were traditionally used as a vehicle for Buddhist sutras. For this reason, it was named jingzhezhuang (“folded sutra binding”), said to have evolved from Chinese scrolls. By the late Tang Dynasty (AD 618–907), the accordion format of books had been widely adopted by Buddhists in China.
Pangtao(flatpeaches):eightfairies Festival(1900–1950) is one of the few titles in the ACL collection that is bound in an accordion format. Pang Tao is a Chinese folktale that portrays these legendary characters: Hsi Wang-mu, renowned for her famously sweet and delicious pangtao
(peaches), and the legendary Eight Immortals of Chinese mythology. This bilingual book (English and Chinese) tells of the origins of the immortals and how they embarked on their journeys towards deityhood.
The traditional style of papercutting is also typical of Chinese culture. The art of cutting paper designs in China developed during the Han and Wei periods before iron tools and paper were even invented. Papercutting is a technique of cutting an image out of paper. The final image is formed by the contrast of the solid parts that remain and the negative spaces that have been cut out. Legend has it that Emperor Wu of the Han Dynasty (156–87 BC) so missed Lady Li, his favourite concubine who had died, that he had a figure of her carved in hemp paper to summon her spirit back. This was perhaps the earliest mention of a papercut.
During the Ming and Qing dynasties, the art of papercutting reached its peak. The technique was applied for embellishing folk lanterns, fans and embroidered fabrics. Today, papercutting remains a very popular folk art. Papercutting is also used to illustrate Chinese literature. In Sixchinesebrothers, published in 1979, the author Cheng Hou-tien brings the ancient tale to life with red and black papercut illustrations using the scissor cutting technique.
In Chinese literature, papercut illustrations are used to depict famous scenes from popular legends that emphasise moral lessons and celebrate epic characters, providing a visual means to introduce Chinese art and culture to children during storytelling. As papercut illustrations combine folktales with art, they act as visual reminders of the beliefs and values of a people.
The books featured in this article offer just a tiny sampling of the treasures available in the ACL collection. The stories contained within these books will help the younger readers understand their own ancestral cultures, traditions and values as well as those of the larger Asian world we live in. ag
Accordion books were traditionally used as a vehicle for Buddhist sutras. For this reason, it was named [...] “folded sutra binding”
“The Kamasutra is not a book about sexual positions.” That this statement is potentially baffling underscores just how widely established the myth is, i.e., the ancient Hindu treatise is simply titillating, lasciviously illustrated erotica. The view is perpetuated to a large extent by the fact that the famous chapter on sexual union is often heavily emphasised, or even printed or distributed alone as a discrete publication. The 1980 English translation by Indra Sinha is a case in point: the chapter on sexual positions was reportedly so widely circulated on the Internet that it is often believed to be the entire Kamasutra. Also contributing to the mistaken impression is, of course, the almost invariable use of erotic imagery in many contemporary “Kama Sutra” publications. The original series contained no illustrations.
Several legends are associated with the origin and history of the Kamasutra. One involves the sacred bull Nandi, who, inspired after hearing Lord Shiva and his wife Parvati make love, put his experience down on record, which was later passed down to mankind. Another describes the supreme Hindu deity, Prajapati, composing the Hindu commandments in a huge epitome comprising 100,000 chapters. The aspects related to the three goals of life (Purusartha) – Dharma (religious merit), Artha (material wealth) and Kama (enjoyment of sensual pleasures) – were expounded by the heavenly beings Manu, Brihaspati and Nandi.
On the mortal plane, notable pioneering authors, among them Babhravya, Dattaka and Suvarnanabha, composed shorter volumes of the divine commandments. Many of the texts are now lost. Around the third or fourth century of the first millennium, Mallanaga Vatsyayana worked to reconcile the disparate parts of the writings that were still extant. ABOVE A sandstone statue depicting the Kamasutra
RIGHT Erotic kama sutra carvings on the roof of Jagannath Temple in Durbar Square, Kathmandu ( Nepal)
of 64 “arts and sciences”, which include music and drawing, languages and sports.
Unsurprisingly, it is Part II of the Kama Sutra, “On Sexual Union”, that has become most talked-about. The section discusses the art and practice of sexual intercourse, taking into consideration the differences in age, inclination, size of sexual organs, modes of caress, and various sexual positions. The traditional Hindu point of view is that sex is not only normal and necessary, but also almost sacramental, the human counterpart of creation. It is symbolised as the union of Lord Shiva and his queen, and the terms lingam (the male sexual organ) and yoni (the female sexual organ) have strong religious connotations.
Vatsyayana’s work has come to be accepted as authoritative and foundational, greatly inspiring writers, poets, artists, dramatists, sculptors, painters and other practitioners in their respective works of art. Today, it remains the oldest extant Hindu text of erotic love. ag The 1883 English translated edition by Sir Richard Francis Burton et al, The Kamasutra of Vatsyayana, was the first translation of the Indian text and one of the best known. Unfortunately, it is said to be inaccurate in many parts, particularly in the chapters that relate to the social history of India at the time. More recent translations include The Love Teachings of Kama Sutra by Indra Sinha (1980); The Complete Kama Sutra