45 x 54 cms
The 1657 first embassy of the Dutch East India Company to the emperor in Beijings. From the first western book on China that was not written by Jesuits.
Between 1655 and 1685, the Dutch East India Company sent four embassies to the Shunzhi and Kangxi emperors in Beijing. Each journey took more than a 5000km round-way voyage along the rivers from Canton to Beijing. The purpose of these embassies was to establish trade and diplomatic relations, and to break the Portuguese trade monopoly with China.
Because China was largely unknown to the west, artists were added to the embassies with special instructions to observe very carefully and to produce a travel journal describing in “text and figures” all farms, towns, castles, palaces, pagodas, mountains and rivers that they might pass by, but also people, costumes, habits, handcrafts, language, script, architecture, science, arts, animals, botany, government, history, as well as important events during the journey.
The first embassy 1655-1657 to Beijing and the Shunzi Emperor was documented by Joan Nieuhof who spent almost three years in China. Nieuhof’s seminal book was the first to show true impressions of China to a wide European public. Earlier illustrated publications on China contained fantasy illustrations based on hearsay descriptions. The magnificent Nieuhof images inspired the chinoiserie business, and many chinoiserie designs were directly based on these images. The work made Nieuhof the most authoritative Western writer on China, and his book was a great inspiration for other travel books.