Ancient map navigates Patten past 2017

PUBLISHED : Friday, 21 March, 2014, 4:28am
UPDATED : Friday, 21 March, 2014, 4:28am

While a 400-year-old map of China's trade routes offers no clues on Hong Kong's path to universal suffrage, the city's last colonial governor says it may offer an insight on the nation's future prosperity.

Chris Patten was in the city yesterday as chancellor of Oxford University to deliver the Selden Map of China, the earliest depiction of shipping routes between China and the rest of Asia, which will be on display at the Maritime Museum until June 23.

He was asked whether the map offered any insight on Hong Kong's hottest topic: the prospects for universal suffrage in the 2017 chief executive election.

"A map wouldn't tell you anything about universal suffrage," he replied. "What the map underlines is the interconnectedness of the world, and that's made greater by technology."

The map, bequeathed to Oxford by lawyer John Selden who died in 1654, and dating back to the 1368-1644 Ming era, also shows "globalisation...and China was at the heart of the network of trade and cultural routes".

"Openness in trade, culture and academic work is conducive to people's prosperity and stability," Patten said. Seemingly alluding to the mainland's years in relative isolation, he added: "It was more difficult for China to sustain its prosperity if it turns into itself."

Patten said the number of Oxford students from Hong Kong and mainland China had risen from less than 90 to over 900 in the last decade. The exhibition comes at the start of Oxford's first alumni weekend in Asia.

Patten was pleased to see the museum sector had thrived since he left in 1997. "There has always been plenty of cultural enthusiasm in Hong Kong," he added.