[Tavola / Table 9]* Iesus Maria

The riviera or coastline of this province and of the entirety of the kingdom of China on this southern part of an island called Ainan, at 171/2 degrees towards the east, and goes up to 23 and a half degrees in the port of the city, by the locals called Quamceu and by ourselves Canton. By sea, from the tip of this island up to the above-mentioned city, there are 400 miles, almost always eastwards following the gregale rhumb-line. This island has no ports known to be big enough for large ships, except for the mainland area on the coast where the main city is located, which city is called Liceu fu with another three cities called ceu, and that is Jenceu, Uanceu and Jaiceu, and other lands called hhien as can be seen in the first table of our description. In the mid section of this island there is a mountain, called Pouscian, inhabited by many persons who up to this point in time refuse obeisance to the King of China; despite this they are in peaceful relations with the other inhabitants below and they trade together.

This island is abundant in victuals, grains, rice, vegetables, and particularly in the fruits that the Portuguese call 'cocchij' {sic} [i. e., 'coconuts'], the trees of which fruit are similar to our palm trees, with which fruits both natives and foreigners load up various boats in the ports in large abundance. This tree produces a fruit at its summit similar to a nut, but of the size of a large human head, called by the Portuguese 'cocco' {sic}, and of the palm tree and these fruits there are enormous forests even in all of India, and they are very similar to the date trees. Nor is there in the entire world a tree as bountiful as this, and which can be put to as many good uses. Nor is there in this tree anything to be burnt, but it is all useful. Firstly from its wood alone, without the admixture of any other substance, boats are made, from the leaves sails are made and with its fruit boats are laden, which are nuts similar in taste to our almonds, from which wine and vinegar wine are made. The wine is made at the beginning of spring from the flower at the summit of the tree which, hashed, continually throws out a white liquid similar to water. Holding a jar beneath, each morning and evening it is removed filled to the brim; cooked over the fire it becomes a very powerful liquor in the barrel, in the which, with the addition of a certain amount of Levantine sultanas, in a very short period of time it becomes the perfectest wine and the colour of gold, and a great amount is made of this wine. When the nuts are fresh and tender and are not yet ripe, as we can see with the almond, fresh water can be extracted, without any evil flavour or taste and each fruit contains a large enough swig to quench the thirst of any man. Thousands of this fruit are loaded ballast in ships, to refresh the passengers with its water, and to be used to add to the provisions of the water of ships. When they are this young, as they are extremely sweet, milk is extracted to pour over foodstuffs, and junket is made from it, and sugar is added which then gives the flavour of our blancmange. When they are hard, however, oil is extracted, which is useful not only for lighting and pouring over foodstuffs and frying as we do with our own oil, but is also very useful for dressing wounds. The trees are made into tables and beams for buildings and sailing vessels, as we have said, and inside the trunk of the tree there are some parts of extremely hard wood which is made into nails for ships and they hold much better than if they were made of iron. From the skin of the fruit, which is hirsute, cords and strings of all sorts are made [Tavola/ Table 10] for ships and ropes for anchors, better and longer lasting than those made of hemp. The branches are used to make beds for sleeping; the first skin of the nut, chopped up, is made into tow which is used to make the ships water-proof, and the hard shell is used to make drinking cups and bowls, the colour of our ebony. Thus, as you can see, this tree is extremely useful and nothing is wasted or thrown away.


On this island, as can be seen from the descriptive table, there is a great number of pearls that must be especially guarded by order of the King, and this cannot be done without his licence or without the licence of those who are superior or govern the island. Diving takes place usually in the months of March or April, in different places of said sea. When the time is nigh for the diving, they send good swimmers underwater to discover where the largest number of oysters is to be found and along the coast they put up a row of houses made of wood and straw, which houses are kept for as long as the diving takes place, and they are fitted out with all that is necessary. The divers are inhabitants of that island. The diving takes place as follows: groups of two or three boats are formed all together. These boats are like our feluccas with seven or eight men per boat and they stop their boats in fifteen or eighteen feet of water, which is the depth of the area they dive in. Once they are out, they throw a rope into the sea at the end of which is tied a large stone and one of the men, having greased his body with oil or butter, and having tightly stopped up his nose and ears, with a basket tied to his neck or left arm he goes down along the rope, and as quickly as he can he fills the basket with oysters found on the sea bed, and he makes a sign to his friends by pulling on the rope, and they immediately pull the rope and along with it the man himself. And they thus go down one at a time in turns to collect the oysters and then in the evening they go back to their houses. And each company makes a mound of their oysters on the beach, each distinct, so that you can see a very long row of oyster mounds; they remain untouched until the diving has finished, and then each in turn is busied with opening the oysters of the mound, which is done very easily as the oysters are all dead and drenched. If each oyster had a pearl it would be a wonderful booty, but there are quite a few without pearls, and some with only a few and others with many.


The islands which are found in the mouth of a large river of the city of Canton are many and almost innumerable, as there are many rocks and little islands, which are sterile and uninhabitable; there are others which are large, fertile and inhabitable, which as they are surrounded by an abundance of flowing fresh water are so fertile that they give up two rice crops per annum as well as other victuals in large quantity.

Among all the islands of this archipelago there are, amongst others, three which are very large; one of these is the island they call Hhian Scian,1 thus called because of a large and noble land of this same name which is all walled, and situated at an extremity which lies northwards and eastwards, and this land in Spain would be a good city. At the other extremity of this island, which lies southwards and which is a headland connected to the island by a small strip of land, as can be seen in the relative table, is the city of the Portuguese, which they call Port of the Name of God or d'Amacao. It lies at 22 north and this is the last residence that the Portuguese made on this coast, after the residence they had previously made on the island of the city of Nimpo in the province of Ciechian which is opposite Japan towards the east. They also live in the port of Cianceo, called after the city of the province of Fochien, alias Cianceo; and also they stayed some time on the island called 'of Saint John', whence the blessed soul of our holy Francis Xavier flew heavenwards leaving his brothers with the burning desire to convert China. They also stayed in the port of the island called Lampacao in the already-mentioned archipelago of Canton, and finally as I have said they make their residence at the present in port d'Amacao.

There is another island which the inhabitants call Tamcuan out of respect for another noble town which lies towards the north and east in one of the mouths of the river of Canton at twenty-two and a half degrees towards the north, the which is inhabited by many and very rich merchants and is used as a riviera and a port for the armadas which has in this province the Major Superintendent, which the Chinese call Aitan. This is the most fertile and comfortable island for all things that can be found along this coast and it is very close to the city of Canton.

The other island, which is the third at the mouth of the city of Canton, has another noble town which the natives call Sun Tenn, which is so crisscrossed by the river and so swampy that from there to Canton there are twenty miles but you cannot go there except by land. However, for the selfsame reason it is very fertile and abundant.

All the islands mentioned have many and very good ports, as are also all of those on the island of Canton towards the south, and those of the island of Saint John and that of Lampacao, already mentioned, and other ports that can be found on the other islands up to the city of the port of Amacao. And all can be securely navigated with very large ships or with any vessel whatsoever because they have no shoals, nor any impediment at all, bar those that can be seen with the naked eye.

To enter the city of Canton which lies at twenty-three degrees and a half there are many entrances for rowing boats, but for large ships there are only two. One is between the mainland and the above-mentioned town called Tumcuon and the other along the island called Namtum, which the Portuguese correctly call Lantao, and it is here that the ships of Fernão Peres de Andrade enter (the captain of the King of Portugal), as there is depth enough for ships large as they be, and these ships can sidle up to the walls of the city a stone's throw away without any hindrance, or limit or danger.

This river of this city of Canton flows seawards from two parts; one is the arm that comes from the province of Quamsi, which lies to its west, and the other from the province of Canton itself, from the city of Sciauchino of the same province, which lies from the city of Canton to the west fifty-five miles at twenty-three degrees, where resides the Viceroy of the two provinces, Canton and Quamsi, called by the natives Tutan, where the Fathers of the Society of Jesus obtained their residence and church at the beginning of their mission to China in 1582, in the election of our general Father Claudio Acquaviva, who at the present has also been governing for many and happy years. The mission was founded by order of Father Alessandro Valignano, Visitor to those parts of the Society of Jesus, sending by this office Father Michele Ruggieri of the same Society, who via divine favour opened that door of Christianity heretofore closed and guarded by the universal enemy, as will be particularly related in the report of this mission directed by our reverend Father General. a

Translated from the Italian by: Salvatore Mele

For the original source of the English revised translation see: RUGGIERI, Michele, CAMPANINO, Vittorio, transcript., Trascrizioni delle tavole descrittive di Michele Ruggieri, in SARDO, Eugenio Lo, ed., "Atlante della Cina di Michelle Ruggieri, S. I.", Roma, Archivio di Stato di Roma - Istituto Poligrafico e Zecca dello Stato - Libreria dello Stato, 1993, pp.61-120, pp.68-69 and TT.9-10.

Tavola /Plate 11


SARDO, Eugenio Lo, ed., Atlante della Cina di Michele Ruggieri, S. I., Roma, Archivio di Stato di Roma-Istituto Poligrafico e Zecca dello Stato-Libreria dello Stato, 1993.

* RC editorial note: This text does not relate to a map in the list of reproductions of Michele Ruggieri's original manuscript in Eugenio Lo Sardo's edition of the Atlante della Cina di Michele Ruggieri, I. S..

** Translator's note: The romanisation of Chinese names and sites was left as in Michele Ruggieri's original manuscript according to Vittorio Campanino's transcription in Eugenio Lo Sardo's edition of the Atlante della Cina di Michele Ruggieri.


1 KAMMERER, Albert, La découverte de la Chine par les Portugais au XVème Siècle, Leiden, E. J. Brill, 1944 — For this and other geographical notes.

a Closing signature.

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