An Old Map and its Story
The Gonyeo-Manguk-Jeondo

Included in the September 1918 issue of the short-lived monthly journal The Korea Magazine, is an article (pages 386-396) by Bishop Mark N. Trollope, the Anglican Bishop in Korea and for many years President of RAS Korea, about an ancient map of the world preserved at Pongseonsa temple to the north-east of Seoul, (which he consistently calls Mappa Mandi instead of Mappa Mundi.) The Korea Magazine had a limited distribution and was never reprinted or made available online until early in 2020, so that few have ever read this article.
The map in question, known in Korean pronunciation as the Gonyeo-Manguk-Jeondo (곤여만국전도), was a Korean hand-copied reproduction made by Painter Kim Jin-yeo in 1708, the 34th year of King Sukjong's reign, of the Chinese Kunyu Wanguo Quantu (坤輿萬國全圖 Complete Map of the World). This map was printed in China at the request of the Wanli Emperor in 1602 by the Italian Catholic missionary Matteo Ricci and Chinese collaborators, Mandarin Zhong Wentao and the technical translator, Li Zhizao. It is the earliest known Chinese world map with the style of European maps.

A copy of this map was brought to Korea by Lee Gwan-jeong and Gwon Hui, two envoys of Joseon to China and at least two copies were made. One is now displayed at Seoul National University Museum, and was designated National Treasure No.849 on August 9, 1985. The other known copy, that described by Bishop Trollope, was kept at Bongseonsa temple until it was destroyed when the temple buildings burned down during the Korean War, on March 6, 1951. Recently the Museum of Silhak in Namyangju City has created a virtual reconstruction of the Bongseonsa map, based on photographs taken in 1929 and by comparison with other copies in Japan and the United States. (This link gives access to an image which can be enlarged in order to see the details.)

The map was mounted on the seven leaves of a folding screen. The first panel contains texts by Ricci, the last a description of how the Korean copies were made. The central five panels show the five world continents and over 850 toponyms. The map contains descriptions of ethnic groups and the main products associated with each region. In the margins outside the ellipse, there are images of the northern and southern hemispheres, the Aristotelian geocentric world system, and the orbits of the sun and moon. It has an introduction by the then Prime Minister, Choe Seok-jeong providing information on the constitution of the map and its production process.

Bongseonsa temple was originally founded by National Preceptor Beobin in 969, with the name Unaksa, but after King Sejo (r. 1455–1468) was buried nearby, it was given a new name by Queen Jeonghui (aka Queen Dowager Jaseong, 1418 – 1483) who for many years acted as regent for her weak son, Yejong, and after his death for her grandson who became King Seongjong. The temple served as the funerary temple for Sejo and the continuing royal patronage of ensuing queens probably explains why the map was donated to it. The name can be interpreted as “temple for revering the sage.”

Korea as depicted in the Chinese original

Bongseonsa before the Korean War

Part of the Bongseonsa Map photographed in 1929

The version of the map preserved in the Museum of SNU (보물 제 849)


An Old Map and its Story

By Mark Napier Trollope, Bishop in Korea.




Some twenty miles or more N. E. of Seoul, on the beautifully wooded slopes of Bamboo-leaf Mountain 竹葉山 in the prefecture of Yang-ju 楊州 lies Kwang-neung 光隨 the last resting place of the great King Syei-jo 世祖大王, who reigned over Chosen from A. D. 1455 to A. D. 1469. True it is that the Neung, or royal mausolea, and the Buddhist temples surrounded as they usually are by acres of park or forest land have between them appropriated (or helped to create) most of the beauty spots of Korea. And certainly the Kwang Neung with its magnificent park of giant trees of every sort, is one of the most beautiful of the royal tombs which lie scattered so thickly over the country in the neighbourhood of Seoul. Probably for this reason it has been selected by the “Woods and Forests Department” of the Government-General as one of their “Auxiliary forestry stations.”

King Syei-jo was noted for two things. First, he was the only king of the Yi dynasty who was an enthusiastic devotee of Buddhism, and to him it was that Seoul owed the erection within its walls of Won-gak-sa 圓覺寺, the great Temple, of which the huge tablet and the beautiful Pagoda of “Pagoda Park” are the only remaining relics. His second claim to fame is a less enviable one. For he, like our English King Richard III, is credited with having played the part of the “wicked uncle,” who turns up sooner or later in most dynastic histories, paving his own way to the Throne by the murder of the legitimate heir, his infant nephew. The boy King Tan-jong 端宗大王, foully done to death at the age of 16 in the mountain fastnesses of Kang-won-do (A. D. 1457), is one of the most pathetic characters in Korean history. And king Syei-jo’s latter-day devotion to the Buddhist faith is said to have been not unconnected with remorse for his share in the tragedy which overshadowed his accession to the throne.

And so we findas not unfrequently in the parks attached to the royal tombsa grave old Buddhist monastery 奉先寺 Pong-syen-sa, embosomed in the woods surrounding Kwang­neung, Syei-jo’s tomb, founded presumably as a home for religious men who should pray for the soul of the dead king. The monastery, though its buildings are massive and fairly extensive, is not in itself especially remarkable, except for its great and glorious-toned bell, dating from l469 and covered with Chinese inscriptions and charms in the Sanskrit script. But the Poptang 法堂 or central shrine, is a spacious and striking building, with its heavy timbersits elaborately carved wood work and subdued colouring, and is further note-worthy for the fact that, in the place of the “gods many and lords many,” usually to be found (at least to the number of three) over Buddhist altars, it contains but a single figure of 藥師如來 Yak-sa-ye-rai, the healing Buddha, or good physician, seated in grave contemplation, with his casket of medicine in his hands.

The object of this paper however is not so much to draw attention to King Syei-jo’s tomb or the temple of Pong-syen-sa near by, as to that which must surely be counted the Temple’s most precious possession, its great Mappa Mandi, the hand-work of one of those wonderful Jesuit priests and scientists who flourished in Peking in the seventeenth century. How this marvellous creation found its way to Pong-syen-sa must remain uncertain, the monks retaining no tradition on the subject, though something of interest on the subject remains to be said before this paper ends.

Every Korean scholar of course is familiar with the name of 李瑪竇, Yi Ma-tou, and with the great work he did in China towards the end of the Ming Dynasty in teaching the truths of mathematics, astronomy and geography, and amending the many errors into which the Imperial Calendar had fallen. But not all of them by any means are aware that Yi Ma-tou is but the Chinese name adopted by Father Matteo Ricci, who was born at Ancona in 1552 (the very year in which S. Francis Xavier died on the coast of China), and who, after throwing in his lot with S. Ignatius Loyola’s young and flourishing Society of Jesus, found his way to the South of China as a missionary priest in 1580, passing thence in 1600 to Peking, where he died full of years and honour in 1610.

Long before Father Ricci died he had been joined in his missionary labours by many other priests of the Society of Jesus. And yet others flocked into the Chinese Empire after his death, carrying on the tradition which he established for close on two centuries, until in 1773 the suppression of the Society by the Pope brought disaster to its flourishing Chinese Missions as well as its work elsewhere [*The Society of Jesus was revived in 1814 by Pope Pius VII just forty-one years after it had been suppressed by his predecessor, pope Clement XIV in 1773. Their great establishment at Sicawei near Shanghai dates from their re-entry on Chinese Mission work in 1842.] Among Fr. Ricci’s Jesuit successors in Peking, far the most famous were Fr. John Adam Schall, a native of Cologne, who arrived in China in 1622 and died there in 1655, and Fr. Ferdinand Verbiest, a native of Flanders, who arrived in China in 1660 and died there in 1688. The former is known to Chinese and Koreans as 湯若望 Tang Yak-mang, and the latter as 南懷仁, Nam Hoi­in. Both were men of extraordinary scientific attainments and were held in the highest esteem in Peking, where they were actually raised to mandarin rank and successively appointed President of the Board of Mathematics and Astronomy by the last Emperors of the Ming and the earliest Emperors of the Ching, or Manchu, dynasty.

It is to Fr. Adam Schall, Tang Yak-mang (pronounced in Chinese Tang Jo-wang), that we owe the great map of the world still preserved in Pong-syen-sa. My own inspection of the map was too cursory, and the space of THE KOREA MAGAZINE too valuable, for me to attempt a minute description of this work of art in these columns. Suffice it to say that it is painted in colours on silk, with the geographical names and other details written in Chinese, and that the whole is mounted on an eight-leaved screen some six or seven feet high.

The first leaf contains a long extract in Chinese from the writings of Yi Ma-tou (Matthew Ricci), and the eighth an historical account of the way in which the map came into being. The map is there said to have been drawn in the 1st Year of the Emperor 崇禎 i.e. A. D. 1628 by the 西洋人湯若望 the “western foreigner Tang Yak-mang, who affixed his seal to it and sent it to the eastern kingdom,” i.e. Chosen. It is further stated that in the 34th year of King Souk-jong 肅宗 of Chosen (i.e. A. D. 1708) several copies of the Map were made by royal authority. And the whole of this statement is signed by 崔錫鼎 Choi Syek-tyeng, who was (Dr. Gale informs me) Prime Minister of Korea at the last mentioned date. The six central leaves of the screen are occupied with the map of the world itself, surrounded by other drawings illustrating the principle of eclipses, the orbits of the planets, etc., and at the side is to be seen in red ink, the sacred monogram I. H. S. and the Jesuit emblem of the Cross and three nails. The map itself is drawn with the Equator, the Tropics and the North and South Poles clearly marked, and plainly represents the highest level of geographical accuracy attained by European scientists in the first half of the Seventeenth Century. The great continents of Europe, Asia, Africa, and North and South America are delineated with remarkable accuracy of outline, the least satisfactory part being that great District of Eastern Europe and Western Asia, which is now covered by Russia and about which, one may suppose, but little was really known in Europe at this time. Naturally Australia is practically non-existent and the southern parts of the globe generally are plainly those about which our map-makers were most hazy. They have filled the vacant spaces here with lively representation of the Elephant, the Rhinoceros, the Lion and other strange wild beasts, and after the manner of the seventeenth century geographers, have dotted over the vast surface of the ocean wonderful pictures of dolphins and whales and gallant ships employed in the commerce of the world. Useful and interesting pieces of information are conveyed by little Chinese inscriptions attached to the names of certain of the countries, as for instance to Judaea, of which we are told that “it is called the Holy Land because the Son of God was born there,’’ while attention is drawn to Rome as the residence of the Pope, and England is described as the land in which no poisonous snakes are to be found. (An early instance this of English perfidy in appropriating to herself what really belongs to Ireland!)



Now, how did this map ever find its way to Chosen, the hermit land? As I have already said, the monks of Pong-syen-sa have no tradition on the subject and the records of their monastery seem to have (as is alas! so often the case) entirely disappeared. They themselves had nothing to suggest, but that it must have been brought back by one of the tribute Embassies from Peking, which is likely enough. Can we get any nearer to the truth? I think we can. It must be remembered that the years during which Adam Schall played such a prominent part in Peking (1622-1665) were precisely the years during which the Chinese Empire was passing from the hands of the Ming dynasty to those of the rising Manchu power. Even before this great crisis however, in the year 1631, we read in the dynastic history of Chosen 國朝寶鑑 국됴보같 (as Dr. Gale has pointed out to me) that the Korean envoy 鄭斗源 had met a foreigner in Peking named 陸若漢 (probably Father Jean de la Roque) who had much impressed him by his hale and hearty old age (he was then 97 years old) and who had presented him with number of guns, telescopes, clocks and other articles’ of European manufacture. This however does not yet bring into direct contact with Adam Schall. And it is a little bit difficult to piece together the events of the next few years because they are all mixed up with the events of the 丙 子胡亂 i.e. the Manchu invasion of Korea in 1636-7, which the Koreans have always regarded as one of the most shameful episodes in their history, and to which therefore but scant reference is made in the dynastic records. Practically all we are told there is that the King of Korea moved his court from Seoul to Nam Han in l636 and returned to Seoul in 1637, and that in 1644 an envoy 金 堉 was sent from Seoul to Peking, where he is said to have met the foreigner Adam Schall, 湯若 望 (A piece of information for which I have again to thank Dr. Gale). What really took place was this. The Manchu Emperor at the head of his army swept down into Korea in 1636, to enforce the submission of the Koreans, who clung to the falling Ming dynasty, with a loyalty worthy of the Jacobites of Great Britain in 1715 and 1745. The king had just time to send off his two eldest sons (together with his ancestral tablets) and members of his family to Kang-wha, where they were shortly afterwards captured, while he himself had to flee with the rest of his court to Nam Han San Song, some twenty miles south of Seoul where he sustained a long siege. At length being starved out he surrendered to the Manchu Emperor, who treated him with surprising courtesy and clemency. Among the conditions of peace however he insisted on carrying off to Moukden as hostages the Crown Prince of Korea, and his younger brother the Prince Pong-nim, who remained there in a sort of gilded captivity until 1645, when they were allowed to return to Korea, the last of the Ming Emperors having died by his own hand in 1644, and thus cleared the road for the Manchu Emperor’s peaceful accession to the throne of China. It was probably in connection with these events in 1644-5 that 金堉 went as an envoy to China, where, as we have already said, he is recorded to have met Father Schall 湯若望. And even if we had nothing else to go upon, we should probably not be far wrong in concluding that this was the occasion on which Father Schall’s Mappa Mandi found its way from China to Chosen.

In pursuing my investigation however as to Father Schall’s activities, in Peking, I happened to refer to that well-known traveller the Abbe Huc’s book on “Le Christianism en Chine, en Tartarie et au Thibet,” which was published in 1857. And there I stumbled upon a narrative which shewed that Father Schall had in l644-5 entered into the most friendly relations with a far more distinguished person than any mere envoy like (金堉) to wit with no less a person than the captive Korean Prince, who afterwards mounted his father’s throne as King Hyo-jong (孝 宗大王) and reigned in Chosen from A. D. 1649-1669.

The facts recorded by the Abbe Hue are of such surpassing interest that it seems worthwhile to insert the passage here at length, especially as none of the many writers in Korea seem to have noticed them [†Griffis in Korea, the Hermit Nation, Hulbert in his Passing of Korea and History of Korea, Dallet in the Histoire de l’Eglyre de Coree, Longford in his Story of Korea make no mention of the episode in question, though they all refer to instances of Korean envoys meeting some of the Jesuit Fathers in China. Ross in his History of Corea, Ancient and Modern has an oblique reference to the meeting of the Crown Prince and Father Schall, quoting from the Edinburgh Review, No. 278. but only mentions it to scout its probability.] I ought however to say by way of preface that the Abbé is wrong in referring to the “illustrious captive” as being then “King of the Koreans.” It was the Crown Prince and his younger brother Prince Pong Nim who were carried off to China as hostages. Of these the Crown Prince himself died in 1645, almost immediately after his return to his native land; and it was his younger brother, Prince Pong Nim, who afterwards actually became King of Korea and reigned as Hyo-jong Tai-wang from 1649 to 1659.

Referring to the years 1644-5, when the last of the Ming Emperors had passed away and the Manchu Emperor Syoun-chi 順治(순치) had at length mounted the throne of China, the Abbe Hue says:

“At about this date the King of the Koreans was in Peking. Having fallen into the hands of the Manchus as a prisoner of war, he had been taken to Moukden, the capital of Manchuria, where the Tartar chief had promised to set him free as soon as he had made himself master of the Chinese Empire. No sooner had Syoun-chi been proclaimed Emperor than he fulfilled the promise made to his illustrious captive, who before returning to his native land expressed a desire to visit Peking and return thanks in person to his liberator. And it was during his stay there that the King of Korea (i.e. the Crown Prince) made the acquaintance of Father Adam Schall. He used to take the greatest pleasure in visiting the Jesuit Father informally at his residence and himself entertained him with the greatest kindness in his own palace. He was particularly anxious that the distinguished Koreans who were attached to his suite should profit by the instructive conversation which took place on these occasions, and trusted that they might gather therefrom, and carry back to their own country, valuable information on matters astronomical and mathematical, in which his countrymen were not very well skilled. The missionary on his side did not fail to take the opportunity thus provided of instilling the truths of Christianity into the minds of his new friends, in the hope that the seeds of the true faith might thus be sown in the as yet heathen land of Korea. Little by little they became attached to one another by ties of the closest intimacy, and the inevitable parting, when the Prince and his suite took their departure for Korea, brought with it a pang of real regret to both parties. As the Korean Prince took a great interest in Chinese literature, Fr. Schall sent him, a few days before his departure from Peking, copies of all the works on science and religion composed by the Jesuit Fathers, together with a celestial globe and a beautiful image of our Saviour. The prince was so charmed with these gifts that he wrote personally to Father Schall a letter in Chinese to express his heartfelt gratitude. Subjoined is the translation of this precious document:

“‘Yesterday,’ said the prince to Father Schall, ‘while examining the wholly unexpected gift which you have sent me—the image of the Divine Saviour, the celestial globe, the astronomical works, and the numerous other books on the sciences and doctrine of Europe—I was so overcome with joy that I am afraid I failed to give proper expression to my gratitude. In looking through some of these valuable works, I have observed that they contain doctrines well calculated to perfect man’s heart and to adorn it with all the virtues. Up to the present, this sublime teaching has been unknown in our country, where men’s understandings have been involved in the grossest obscurity. The sacred image which you have sent me is remarkably impressive. So much so that when it is hung on the wall, one has but to look at it to feel one’s soul at peace and cleansed from every sort of stain. The globe and the books on astronomy are works of such indispensable importance in any State, that I can hardly credit my good fortune in having become possessed of them. Similar works are doubtless to be found in my country, but I must sorrowfully admit that they are full of errors and in process of time have drifted further and further away from standards of scientific accuracy. You will readily understand how happy your generous present bas made me. As soon as I have returned to my native land, these works shall be placed in an honourable position in my palace and I propose to have reprints made for distribution among those who by their studious habits and devotion to science are most likely to profit by them. By this means my subjects will in the near future be able to appreciate the good fortune which had enabled them to pass from the wilderness of ignorance into the temple of erudition. And the Koreans will not fail to recognize that it is to the learned men of Europe that these benifits are due. How strange it is that you and I, sprung from different kingdoms and from countries so far apart and so widely separated by the waters of the ocean, should have met here in a strange land and that we should have formed such an intimate friendship that we might be supposed to be united by a “blood-contract.” It beats my comprehension to understand by what occult power of nature this has been brought about. And I can only surmise that the souls of men are drawn to one another by their devotion to Truth, however widely separated they may be from one another on the Earth’s surface. As it is I can but congratulate myself on my good fortune in being able to carry back home these books and this sacred image. When however I remember that my subjects have never heard of the worship due to God, and that they are likely enough to offend the Divine Majesty by failure to show Him the proper respect my heart is filled with disquiet and anxiety. And for this reason I have thought it best, if you will allow me to do so, to return you the sacred image, for I should be very much to blame, if I or my people failed to treat it with due veneration

“If I can find anything worthy of your acceptance in my native land, I shall ask your acceptance of it as a token of my gratitude. That will be but a slight return for the ten thousand favours which you have showered on me.’”

The good Abbe goes on to say that the young prince’s expressed desire to return the sacred image (presumably a Crucifix) was only due to his wish to conform lo the accepted standards of Chinese politeness, and that Fr. Schall not only prevailed on him to keep it, but asked whether he would not like to take back one of his catechists to preach the religion of the true God to the Koreans. The prince replied that he should much prefer to take back one of the European fathers with him, but that anyone whom Fr. Schall sent might count on receiving as warm a reception as would be accorded to the missionary himself. But, as the Abbe Hue points out, the dearth of workers in the Chinese mission made it impossible to carry out Fr. Schall’s scheme for starting Christian mission work in Korea.

I am endeavouring to find out whether the original of the Korean prince’s letter is still preserved among the archives of the Jesuit Missions in China. But even in the absence of the original, and after making all allowances for exaggerations possibly due to the Abbe Hue’s editorial imagination, the letter bears on its face the marks of truth and not improbably shews how the Mappa Mandi now in Pong-syen sa reached Korea. The prince’s embarrassment about the Crucifix and his desire to get rid of that, without hurting the donor’s feelings, and at the same to retain the books, etc., is a very characteristic touch.

 And the whole picture is rather a charming one. There is on the one hand the young prince, who cannot have been more than twenty-five years old. (And we all know how delightful well-born and well-bred young Koreans of twenty-five summers can be). Then there is the old German Jesuit, one of the most brilliant scientists of his time, who must have been about fifty-five years old at the time of his meeting with the Korean prince. The old man seems to have been of a singularly affectionate disposition, fond of the society of young men, and capable of eliciting from them the warmest feelings of friendship. The affectionate tone of the Korean prince’s letter is all of a piece with the terms of extraordinarily warm hearted intimacy on which the young Manchu Emperor Syoun-chi lived with his dear old “Mafia” (the Manchu word for “daddy”), as he called Fr. Adam Schall, The Abbe Huc has many an amusing tale to tell of the embarrassment caused by the Emperor’s frequent and very informal calls on the good Jesuit Fathers in Peking. [†The Emperor was only a child of six years old when he ascended the throne in 1644 and barely twenty-four when he died in 1661.] And it is interesting to think that in the great Map of the World preserved in Pong Syen-sa we in Korea have so solid a link with such an interesting episode, or series of episodes, in the past history of the Far East and its relations with the West.


For Reference


Wikipedia article on the original map


The Google page with the reconstructed map from Bongsonsa and a description. The map can be enlarged to make the texts legible.


A series of photos including the 1929 photos of the Map and of the temple before its destruction


A short history of the temple in Korean


A brief English Wikipedia entry for the temple