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

Asian Geographic - - Front Page - EX­PLO­RATIONS Text Irene Lim

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:­b­lioa­sia

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

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