The first three and a third volumes comprise the first German edition of the encyclopedic study of China assembled by French Jesuit Jean-Baptiste Du Halde (1674-1743), first published in Paris in 1735. Drawn primarily from first-person Jesuit accounts, this was the most complete account of Chinese geography, history, religion, philosophy, technology and culture up to that time. It also includes the travels in Tartary of the Jesuit Gerbillion, the voyages to Korea and Tibet of the Jesuit Regis, and a summary of Bering's explorations in Siberia.
This German edition includes material that did not appear in the French edition: a summary of recent Christian church history in China by noted Göttingen theologian J.L. von Mosheim; articles on Chinese literature and timekeeping by philosopher Nicolas Freret; an account of a journey to Bukhara by an anonymous Swede that appeared in d'Anville's atlas of China (1737); and most importantly, the first German edition of German physician Engelbrecht Kämpfer's travels across Asia and lengthy sojourn in Japan, which takes up 552 pages of volume four.
Kämpfer (1651-1716) spent ten years, 1683-1693, traveling through Persia and Southeast Asia, including two years in Japan, 1690-92. Residing in Nagasaki, he made two three-month trips to Edo (Tokyo) and had audiences with Shogun Tokugawa Tsunayoshi. His accounts of his travels and observations are the most detailed Western descriptions of 17th century Japan, and his trips within Japan were the basis of the most accurate western maps of the interior for the next 150 years. He wrote this monumental work in his native German, but it was first published in an English translation from the author's manuscript in Sir Hans Sloane's collection ("The History of Japan," London, 1727). This edition is a translation of that edition back into German. Kämpfer's original German was not published until 1777.
The plates and maps offer a wide variety of style and content. The plates in the first volume are primarily plans of Chinese cities; the second and third volumes include botanicals, costumes, occupations, technology, music and currency; while Kaempfer's map of Japan and plan of Nagasaki appear in the last.