[SHIBUKAWA SHUNKAI (1639-1715).] Konten shinzu [A New map of the Heavens]. [Japan: last quarter of the 17th century].
A bronze and copper celestial globe, diameter 55cm, overall height including the bronze stand, 65cm, constructed from two beaten bronze alloy hemispheres, joined at the celestial equator. The plane of the ecliptic ('the yellow road') and the celestial equator ('the red road') are made up in a continuous copper strip graduated in degrees, the ecliptic inscribed with the 8 positions of the calendar: Shumbun (vernal equinox); Rikka (first day of summer); Geshi (summer solstice); Risshu (first day of autumn); Shubun (autumnal equinox); Ritto (first day of winter); Toji (winter solstice) and Risshan (first day of spring). The globe is profusely covered with 1460 stars, making up 248 constellations and 57 individual stars, the stars denoted by metal pins secured through the bronze sphere, with the raised pinheads silvered, gilded or blackened (eight star pins lacking). Those stars in the principal constellations have gilded starpins and are described in gilded characters, the other constellations have silvered or black star pins and are described in silver characters. Each constellation system has the stars joined together by silvered lines, slightly raised from the copper surface, created by engraving a soft line and filling the line with a silver alloy. The milky way with its division into two 'streams' is 'drawn' onto the globe by finely pitting the bronze surface, sections showing traces of old gilding. Two single-line latitudinal circles are drawn onto the sphere, the circle of perpetual visibility (in the north Polar region), and the circle of perpetual invisibility (at the south pole), the latter described on the globe as "The area [south of the] 36th degree always hidden and cannot be seen", the south pole lettered on the axis 'Nankyoku', and around the South in seal script is the title of the globe, Konten shinzu, "A new map of the heavens", together with the character 'Rojin', 'old man' [of the South Pole]. The globe is also divided longitudinally into 27 lunar lodges or mansions, each of varying degree widths, making up lunar lodges 1-19, 21-28. Each lunar lodge is defined by a principal constellation or star group, represented by gilded stars and characters. The globe set on an iron axis, the head and foot of the axis with traces of elaborate gilded decoration, the southern axis with the character 'Nankyoku' [South Pole]. The southern axis with a small indent forming the ball which inserts into the socket of the mounting of the 'dragon style' bronze stand. The stand comprising two dragon heads of unequal height, joined by a fashioned scaled body forming the cross stretcher between the two 'heads', the bronze stand mounted on a late 19th century yellow marble stand (lacking the original horizon circle).
A MAGNIFICENT UNRECORDED BRONZE CELESTIAL GLOBE, UNSIGNED BUT MODELLED ON THE CELESTIAL CARTOGRAPHY OF SHIBUKAWA SHUNKAI. ONE OF THREE SIMILAR BRONZE GLOBES MADE IN THE LAST QUARTER OF THE 17TH CENTURY BASED ON SHIBUKAWA'S NEW STAR MAPS. The other comparable examples are:
1. An almost identical globe in the Eisei-Bunko [National Museum of Science], Tokyo. This example described as an 'Important Cultural Object'. The Eisei-Bunko globe has an almost identical diameter described variously as 55 cm (Der Globusfreund 1990, vol 38/39, pp 173-177, List of old Globes in Japan), and 52.8 cm [Exhibition Berlin, Japan und Europa 1543-1929 No 7/21; Exhibition Tokyo, Bridge between Japan and the Netherlands, 1998]. This globe has a very similar construction, and comparable 'dragon' stand, but is mounted on a wooden base, on which is inscribed an historical account of Chinese and Japanese astronomical instruments and some comments on the celestial globe. The globe is ascribed to the maker Tsuda Tomimasa and dated Kambun 13 . The property of the Hosokawa family.
2. A second bronze globe in the Kushno-in Temple, Hirakata-shi, diameter variously described as 55cm [Der Globus freund 1990 opp cit.] and 52 cm [Harley and Woodward (eds). The History of Cartography, vol.2, pt.2 p.469. List of Terrestrial globes]. This globe is ascribed to the work of the priest Sokaku, after Shunkai's work, dated around Genroku 15 (1702).
This celestial globe was purchased in Japan during the period 1869-73, by Oscar Heeren (1840-1906), whilst on diplomatic service to that country. Heeren, a German citizen who had previously lived in Peru, came to Japan as both a diplomat and a businessman in 1869 soon after the so called Meiji restauration of 1868, a time when the influence of German culture on Japan was growing. Lutz Walter, in Japan: a Cartographic Vision, describes Heeren attending early meetings of the OAG (Deutsche Gesellschaft fr Natur- und Völkerkunde Ostasiens) in Yokohama and Tokyo. This globe was moved to Europe soon after 1873 and has passed by descent through the family, unknown and unrecorded until its recent discovery.
Shibukawa Shunkai, also called Shibukawa Harumi, was one of the greatest Japanese astronomers. He was born in Kyoto, the son of Yasui Santetsu (1590-1652), who was master of the game of go and a controller of one of the four schools of go. As an infant his name was Yasui Rokuzo, changing his given name to Santetsu after his father's death in 1652. In 1702 he changed his name again to Shibukawa Shunkai. Up to the age of 11 he lived in Kyoto travelling to Edo for the autumn and winter, but from 1650 to 1667 he travelled Japan studying Chinese and Japanese classics, and soon became interested in astronomy and science. Between the ages of 14 and 15 he studied Shinto and Confucianism with Yamazaki Ansai, and at 18, worked on calendar science with Okanoi Gentei, the physician of the Emperor and under Tsuchimakado Taifuku, the master of the Chinese Yin-yang (onyô - dô) Science at the Imperial Court. We know that in 1667 he stayed for a short time with Hoshuna Masayuki in Aizu Province, Hoshina was the uncle of the 4th Shogun Ietsuna, and a pupil of Yamazaki Ansai. From 1786 Shibukawa settled in Edo as the official astronomer of the shogunate. Here he concentrated on his astronomical work, publishing several celestial maps and books in particular in 1698 his Tenmon Kaitô (Book of Knowledge of heaven and the constellations).
His earliest surviving celestial work is the bronze celestial globe, the base dated 1673, now in the Eisei Bunko, Toykyo. In 1677 he published his first important star map the Tenmon Bun'ya no su (Map showing divisions of the heaven and regions they govern), a circular star map based on the ancient Korean star map of 1395 the Ch'onsang yolch'a punyajido. In this new star map Shibukawa added a Japanese adaption of Chinese field allocation astrology in which the terrestrial regions were associated with 9 celestial divisions based on various groupings of lunar lodges. Shibukawa also put forward a new calendrical system to replace the Senmyo (Chinese Xuamning) calendar. This new calendar the Jokyo calendar was compiled from Shibukawa's own astronomical observations rather that Chinese theory. This, the first Japanese calendar, was adopted in 1684, and earned Shibukawa his apppointment as official astronomer. In this high ranking position Shibukawa became a dominant influence on Japanese astronomy. Later in his life he reworked his 1677 star chart, the Tenmon seisho zu (Map of the arrangement of stars and constellations), making various amendments to star positions. This chart was published by his son Hisatada. Shibukawa's influence was considerable; the celestial maps of Iguchi Tsunenori 1689 and 1698 and Namara Johaku, 1692 are all copies of the Tensho retsuji no zu, and even as late as 1779, Shibukawa's work formed the basis of celestial mapping. For globes, as noted before, only two bronze globes relate directly to Shibukawa's own lifetime, a further plaster globe, diameter 23cm, owned by Kayahara Hiroshi at Tsu ?18th century is also based on Shunkai's work (see History of Cartography, vol 2, book 2, p. 469), and a paper globe, dating from 1701 is at Doshisha University, also based on the Tenmon Bun'ya no zu. For terrestrial globes, two small paper globes, 24cm and 33cm diameter, survive dated 1690 and 1697, and two later globes in the mid 18th century are based on his geographical work.
THE CELESTIAL CARTOGRAPHY
The characters are classical Chinese and the celestial cartography is based on Chinese and Korean models. This attractive celestial globe depicts the night sky in a typical East Asian style down to within 35 degrees of the South Pole, representing those stars visible during the course of the year from about latitude 36 deg N. (about the latitude of Kyoto or Tokyo). In the south polar region the sky is unmapped, which is not unusual as only globes showing Jesuit influence depict the far southern constellations in any detail. These stars are of course invisible from the mid northern latitudes. The globe represents the stars and constellations as viewed from outside the universe, a customary concept, and a direct reversal of the forms used on star maps which depict the stars as they would appear looking up into the night sky. Unlike European globes which give orders of brightness to stars by using different sized symbols, the East Asia globe denotes all stars as a standard circle. Traditionally, based in early Chinese work the standard number of constellations was 283, totalling 1464 stars (Ptolemy defined 48 constellations with 1022 stars) however the total number of stars visible to the unaided eye in the course of a year is perhaps some 4000. The circles shown on the globe are standard, the celestial equator, ecliptic, circle of perpetual visibility and invisibility. The longitudinal division of the globe into lunar lodges is standard, however on this globe 27 lodges are depicted rather than the normal 28, the missing lodge being no. 20 (Zuixi) which is left out because although in ancient times it had a width of 1 degree, by AD1300 the star on which it was based had disappeared. The situation was rectified in the famous star map by Schall von Bell in 1640 which reversed the adjacent lodges. All later Chinese globes and maps follow this pattern. But the maker of this globe was clearly unaware of Schall's work. A report on this globe by Professor F. Richard Stephenson, Professor of Physics at Durham Univeristy, indicates that although the relative positions of the equator, ecliptic and width of lunar lodges are tolerably accurate, some of the star positions are in error by as much as 10 degrees. For example the lunar lodge constellation Tei [Chinese di] is placed 10° further north than marked on this globe, and again the lunar lodge constellation Gyu [Chinese Niu] is shown south of the ecliptic; its true position is north of the ecliptic. The number of such errors is considerable, however many of these mistakes are to be seen in the depiction of the stars on the Eisei-Bunko globe dated 1673, and there is a close correlation of the star positions between the two globes although there is a variation of the position of the characters, namely the stars. With regard to the omission of the 20th lunar lodge it is interesting to compare the two star charts by Shibukawa. On the 1677 chart the 20th lodge is present but by 1699, this lodge has been removed altogether, a feature unrelated to any Chinese forms from this period or later, suggesting that this globe was made in the later decades of the 17th century. Interestingly Kazuhiko Miyajima, Professor of Astronomy at Doshisha University in his article, Japanese Celestial Cartography before the Meiji Period, History of Cartography, vol.2, pt.2, pp.579-603, discusses defects in Shibukawa's approach to star positioning, "To fix the positions of constellations, the position of one star was measured and entered on the map; the other stars were then added by the eye." Such an approach made by converting a flat star map onto a 3-dimensional surface would undoubtedly lead to some errors appearing.
This discussion of error is in fact an interesting aspect relating to these bronze globes. There is no tradition for the construction of globes, either terrestrial or celestial, in Japan. The first globes to be seen in Japan arrived with Europeans in the late 16th century and although early on in the 17th century attempts may have been made to copy them, the only globe to be attributed to this period is a paper celestial globe, 27 cm diameter, in Colombia University Library, New York, (E.L. Yonge, A Catalogue of Early Globes, New York, 1968), thought to be ca. 1630, but unconfirmed and not discussed in any Japanese literature on the subject. The earlist celestial globe after this is the Shibukawa Eisei-Bunko bronze globe dated 1673 on the wooden stand, and two terrestrial globes 1690 and 1697 by Shibukawa. Given this lack of expertise in constructing a globe of any type, despite the natural talents of the Japanese metalworker, it is not surprising that errors might appear. It is possible that the idea for a metal globe came from the news of Verbiest's cast bronze celestial globe (1.5 m diameter) made in 1673 for the Imperial Observatory at Beijing.
This magnificant Japanese bronze globe, dating from the last quarter of the 18th century, is based on the star formations of Shibukawa Shunkai, most probably constructed by a member of his circle, perhaps by a pupil or even his son, for presentation to a leading Japanese person. Its reappearance raises a number of questions about these three bronze globes, which up to now have not been fully examined in the context of Shibukawa's work. Could they have been used as grand objects onto which predictions, due to comets and other celestial sightings, passing through the sky could be discussed? HOWEVER AS A JAPANESE OBJECT AND AS AN EXPRESSION OF THE IMPORTANCE OF CELESTIAL INFORMATION TO JAPANESE CULTURE AT THAT TIME, THIS GLOBE IS OF CONSIDERABLE IMPORTANCE, AND MUST RANK AS ONE OF THE MOST INTERESTING DISCOVERIES IN THIS FIELD IN RECENT TIMES.
We would like to thank Professor F. Richard Stephenson, Joe Earle and
Dr Brigit Bernegger for their assistance in the preparation of this