UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

Emergent consciousness about the self depicted in the world map screens Gotō, Tomoko


A pair of eight-fold screens entitled "World-Map-and-Twenty-Eight-City" represents a colorful world map with the figures of peoples of the world on one screen. The painting is punctuated by numerous city markers, with the largest indicating the city of Rome. On the other screen, twenty-eight cities of the world and Christian and Muslim kings in ceremonial attire on horseback are depicted. This pair of screens was probably produced in the early seventeenth century. It was most likely painted by Jesuit-trained Japanese painters who had learned western themes and painting techniques: perspective and chiaroscuro. Until the sixteenth century, Japanese experience with and knowledge of the world was limited to its neighbouring lands, such as China, Korea, and India. Beyond the realm of Japan lay worlds formed through fascination and the imagination. In 1543, however, this changed with the appearance of the Portuguese, who journeyed to Japan in the pursuit of new lands to develop trade and to spread Christianity. The Portuguese and their culture had a strong impact on Japanese thoughts and activities, including the creation of many screens with European motifs and new views of the world at large. This pair of screens was drawn upon Dutch prototype made by Petrus Kaerius (1571-1646) in 1609. In my thesis I will examine how "World-Map-and-Twenty-Eight-City" screens performed a two-fold function. I will first examine how the screens marked Jesuit propagation of Christianity in Japan, and second I will examine how the screens articulated what might be called an emergent sense of Japanese collective identity. By this I do not mean identity based on nationalism, which emerged in Japan only in the nineteenth century. Rather, I mean an increasing awareness of the Self in relation to Other, and not only in relation to those outside the geographic confines of Japan but also within. What I intend to explore is how definitions of geography and culture in world map screens, and specifically "World-Map-and-Twenty-Eight-City" screens, prompted viewers to acknowledge a more distinctive Self. The end of the sixteenth and the beginning of the seventeenth centuries was a transitional moment for both the Jesuits and Portugal. Religiously, the Jesuits were in conflict with the Japanese government and, as well their authority was undermined by Mendicants from the Philippines. These conflicts were compounded further by the spread of Protestantism in Europe. Similarly, after a short prosperous trade in Asia, rising economic and political power of the Netherlands and England gradually pushed Portuguese trade out of Asia. By comparing "World-Map-and-Twenty-Eight-City" screens with "In-and-Around- Kyoto" screens, I argued that the Jesuit's hidden agenda of glorifying Christendom and God's order on earth emerged. Moreover, by comparing this pair with "Four-Continent-and- Forty-Eight-People" screens, I detect the emergence of sense of a Japanese Self, that was forged in relation to the Europeans. Although the screens give the impression of the orderly and peaceful world, they mask the unstable situation which the Jesuits and Portugal were experiencing at the time. In the end, I propose that "World-Map-and-Twenty-Eight-City" screens transformed and reworked the Dutch prototype from a geographical mode to one that is highly decorative. Rather than articulating a Japanese view of the world, the screens maintained the notion of a powerful Catholic world.

Item Media

Item Citations and Data


For non-commercial purposes only, such as research, private study and education. Additional conditions apply, see Terms of Use https://open.library.ubc.ca/terms_of_use.

Usage Statistics