Modified on November 26, 2020 before another sale
From the reign of the Wanli Emperor, the Ming cartography incorporates the view of the world by the Jesuits including the discovery of new continents and in a later phase the grid of latitudes and longitudes. This progress is however not spectacular : China occupies most of the available surface and the foreign countries, symbolized by mere islands, are relegated to the edges without an intent for full accuracy.
These maps are detailed with regard to the rivers, the Great Wall and the travel routes, and include informations on the human presence.
For the Ming, the final catastrophe happens during the 17th year of the Chongzhen Emperor, 1644 CE. Beijing is captured by the Manchus. In the north, a rebel creates the Shun dynasty that will last one year. In the south, the loyalists hope to establish a new capital in Nanjing. Their resistance against the Qing will last 18 years.
The map by Cao Junyi is the last Ming map. Printed in xylography in two joined sheets 125 x 125 cm overall in the early summer of the final year of Chongzhen, its edition at Nanjing is certainly subsequent to the suicide of the emperor.
Three copies of Cao's map are known. One of them is in private hands. It passed at Christie's on December 1, 2015, lot 181. The tweet below was issued before that sale. It is estimated $ 350K for sale by Arader Galleries in New York on December 5, lot 131. Here is the link to the landing page of the 2020 sale.