An almost forgotten chapter of Moganshan’s history involves the foreign ornithologists and botanist explorers who first came to the region some 150 years ago– looking not for gold or hidden treasure, but shrubs and birds.
Armed with little more than an instinctive need to understand the natural world around them, these early visitors paved the way for other foreign travellers to discover and connect with Moganshan’s natural beauty. In a tribute to them, we display the drawings of French bird illustrator Francois-Nicolas Martinet in our rooms and common areas.
Among other works, Martinet illustrated the “Histoire Naturelle des Oiseaux,” by the prominent naturalist and fellow Frenchman Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon (1707–1788). In the late 18th century, Buffon began work on nine volumes of books about birds– a project that would influence the next two generations of naturalists. Buffon has been called “the father of all thought in natural history” for his academic contributions, and eventually became the director of the Jardin du Roi– France’s equivalent of England’s Kew Gardens.
Another important French naturalist and bird-lover was Jean Pierre Armand David (1826 – 1900), also known as Father David. A Vincentian priest and missionary, he travelled to China in 1862, visiting the region of Moganshan, and published “Les Oiseaux de la Chine” in 1887. Over the years, he gained a reputation for his gentle manner and innate respect for people and foreign cultures– attributes that allowed him access to remote parts of China where outsiders were rarely made to feel welcome.
Best known for his discovery of Père David’s Deer, and the first Westerner to learn about the giant panda, Father David was an intrepid traveller and made three major trips through Imperial China, Inner Mongolia and Tibet between 1862 and 1874. The quality and number of specimens in his collections was overwhelming, but it was his careful documentation that made his work so valuable in Europe. Father Armand David also became known for his ground-breaking scientific reports on birds, mammals and plants that are indigenous to China.