During the 17th century and into the 18th, Europe got most of its information on China from the Jesuits. As the first Westerners to study China's language and history, their writings, widely disseminated in Europe, presented the most accurate description of China up until that time. Marco Polo had already described China's imperial road system which spanned the entire country, had post houses at fixed intervals, and was often paved and lined with trees (this in contrast to Europe's fragmentary system of dirt roads). It was the Jesuits, however, that first mentioned the Road to Shu, singling it out for particular praise because of its planking. It was first described by Martino Martini (right top), and appeared in his atlas of China, Novus Atlas Sinensis, published in Amsterdam in 1655. He never actually traveled the road himself, but quoting from Chinese sources, describes how workmen built bridges from one mountain to the other using wood inserted into holes chiseled into the rocks. So dangerous was the road, he says, that "at intervals are such drops that one can scarcely dare to look down into the abyss.” It is called, he continues, the “Cientao [zhandao], that is, the Bridge of Supports.” His description was later picked up almost verbatim by four of the most famous Jesuit writers on China, Kircher (1667), LeComte (1696), DuHalde (1735), and Pauthier (1835). Pauthier's work contains an illustration of the plank road (right bottom) which turns out to look just like an ordinary bridge as the artist had no idea what a plank road actually looked like. On Martini's map of Shaanxi province (called Xensi, right middle) the Road to Shu appears for the first time on a European map. In the detail (below) I have added the names of Hanzhong and Xi'an and indicated the first of the six forts that line the road between these two cities. The road can be clearly seen to the left of the forts. This is the only road which appears on any of the 15 provincial maps contained in the atlas.