Theses Doctoral

When Worlds Collide--Art, Cartography, and Japanese Nanban World Map Screens

Loh, Joseph Faii

A number of Momoyama (1573-1615) and Edo (1615-1868) period folding screens feature Western maps of the world as their subject. These map screens are among the earliest examples of Japanese visual culture to feature pictorial imagery shaped by European cartographic science, geographic knowledge, and overseas trade and exploration. In these works, anonymous Japanese artists adapted Western European maps and book illustrations, often making substantial changes of form and content. This dissertation confronts many current assumptions concerning the nature of the map screens. The study argues that Japanese artists who produced the screens grappled with a complex tension between European pictorial cartographic representations of a newly introduced world and the world views that prevailed in Japan. It proposes that European map imagery and pictorial forms, through the process of reinvention for the Japanese format of the folding screen and for Japanese tastes and sensibilities, became vulnerable to alternative, and often unintended, interpretations by the Japanese political and social elite. The present study considers various dimensions of the world map screens: the manner of their production; their meaning in relation to maps of Japan and other subjects; their implications in regard to an established world view and cosmological order; their circulation in a changing political and cultural sphere; and their position within the modern history of Japanese maps and art.

Geographic Areas



  • thumnail for Loh_columbia_0054D_11096.pdf Loh_columbia_0054D_11096.pdf application/pdf 25.6 MB Download File

More About This Work

Academic Units
Art History and Archaeology
Thesis Advisors
Harrist, Robert E.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
January 15, 2013