The Portuguese contact did not last. Alarmed by the growth of Christianity, the military shogun rulers evicted the Jesuits and, in 1639, banned all Portuguese ships from entering Japan. Christians were persecuted and sometimes executed. To detect Christians, authorities ordered the creation of "fumi-e" -- brass plates with sacred scenes of Christianity such as the crucifixion of Christ. Suspects were ordered to step on the plates and thus dishonor the scenes. If they refused, they were deemed guilty of Christian belief. A half-dozen of the "fumi-e" are in the exhibition.
[Jay A. Levenson], the curator, believes that many Americans will be surprised by the exhibition because "Portuguese history is so little known here." The story of Portuguese exploration, he says, ends in American school textbooks with Vasco da Gama, who rounded the southern cape of Africa and reached India in 1498. Levenson attributes the lack of awareness to the fact that Portuguese exploration did not lead to any colonies in what is now the United States.
NEW IN TOWN: Europeans' arrival is seen in "Southern Barbarians in Japan," part of "Encompassing the Globe: Portugal and the World in the 16th and 17th Centuries" at Smithsonian's Sackler Gallery.; PHOTOGRAPHER:The Freer Gallery of Art; WORLD VIEW: Portuguese expeditions brought great strides in cartography, seen in this map, circa 1489. Previously, Europe charted courses based on maps derived from a 2nd century Greek text.; PHOTOGRAPHER:The British Library Board; CHINA'S TAKE: Ming Dynasty ivory could be the Madonna and child.; PHOTOGRAPHER:; OUT OF AFRICA: A native Benin statue sports a Portuguese-influenced cross.; PHOTOGRAPHER:Museum fr Vlkerkunde, Dresden