An old Chinese map published during the Qing dynasty in 1904 indicates that the most southernly point of China is Hainan Island and it does not include the Hoang Sa (Paracel) and Truong Sa (Spratly) Archipelagoes.
The aged Chinese map, an administrative boundary map of provinces, is historical evidence and a legal proof that confirms Vietnam’s sovereignty over Hoang Sa and Truong Sa.
It was in the possession of Dr. Mai Ngoc Hong, a former head of the Han-Nom Institute’s Library and Documentation Department and Director of the Vietnam Family Annals Scientific Application and Research Centre. He presented it to the Vietnam National Museum of History on the morning of July 25.
Hong, who had owned the map for 35 years, said that in 1904 it was the most modern map of China, after Emperors from the Qing Dynasty had directed clergymen, astronomers and surveyors to produce it. It was created across almost two centuries (1708-1904) from the Emperor Kangxi to the Emperor Guangxu.
More specifically, in 1708, the 47th Emperor Kangxi, recruited several western clergymen, including Joachim Bouvet, Petrus Pierre Jartoux, Jean Baptiste Regis and Xavier Ehrenbert Fridelli, who were initially charged with drawing a map of the Great Wall. However in 1711, the Emperor asked them to survey the 13 provinces he was ruler of.
From that date onwards, for almost 200 years, Chinese and western intellectuals have together collected and researched China’s administrative boundary maps to supplement the original ones made by clergymen. The prestigious western clergymen that helped China to produce the map included Matteo Ricci, Joannes Adam Schall Von Bell, and Ferdinandus Verbiest.
Hong said the map’s accuracy and scientific features are reflected in the fact that it in a serious manner by scientists under the close guidance of the emperors.
The map has coordinates, meridians, latitudes and longitudes, showing its legality. It indicates that the southernmost point of China is Hainan Island and it does not include Hoang Sa and Truong Sa.
According to the researcher of ancient Chinese script, Pham Hoang Quan, under the reign of the Qing dynasty, the majority of China’s administrative maps show the nation’s exact territorial boundaries to scale.
Apart from the above-mentioned map, there were other maps such as a national map of China completed in 1719. The project was initiated by Emperor Kangxi and carried out by western clergymen. The map clearly states the southernmost point of China’s territory as Ya Zhou, now Hainan, at latitude of 18 degree 21’36 north.
The map is of special significance and lays the foundation in terms of the longitude and latitude for most subsequent administrative maps, even the Qing dynasty’s map in 1904, stressed Quan.
Regarding the historical evidence confirming Vietnam’s sovereignty over the Truong Sa and Hoang Sa archipelagoes, historian Duong Trung Quoc said that ever since the Nguyen Dynasty, Vietnam has controlled and managed the Hoang Sa and Truong Sa archipelagos.
Bibliographies and maps of Vietnamese dynasties mention the Nguyen Lords, who sent the Bac Hai and Hoang Sa naval forces to the islands. In 1834, the Minh Mang dynasty had produced a map showing the Truong Sa strip clearly positioned in the East Sea , said the historian.
According to East Sea researcher Dinh Kim Phuc, the discovery of the 1904 map made by the Chinese themselves and published over 100 years ago is of great significance.
“This is even more ammunition for our dossier of evidence confirming Vietnam’s sovereignty over Hoang Sa and Truong Sa, which will be submitted to the United Nations in the future”, he said.