Part 5: The differences of history in China’s White Paper
The first fact: From the Song dynasty (960 – 1127), Chinese navy had patrolled the waters of the Xisha Islands. This assertion is based on an excerpt from Wujing Zongyao (General Programme of Military Affairs) with preface written by Emperor Renzong of the Northern Song. The citation from China’s official document reads:
“The court of the Northern Song orders that imperial troops be dispatched to build and defend the bases of naval patrol in Guangnan (i.e. present-day Guangdong) and ‘daoyu warship’ be built.” The aforesaid work also confirmed: “If from Tunmenshan one avails oneself with the east wind and take the southwest route, one will reach Jiuruluozhou in seven days. Jiuruluozhou is present-day Xisha. This proves that the Xisha Islands were under the governance of the Song Dynasty.”
However, in accordance with the 1981 White Book of Vietnam, the above excerpt from Wujing Zongyao is a combination of three different separate pieces in one paragraph after the preface:
“Orders that imperial troops be dispatched to build and defend bases of naval patrol in the Eastern and Western sea harbors, which are 280 trượng wide, and about 200 lí from Tunmenshan, and that daoyu warships be built. If from Tunmenshan one avails oneself of the east wind and takes the Southwest route, one will reach Jiuruluozhou in seven days; proceeding further, one will reach Bulaoshan in the Kingdom of Huanzhou within three days; and about 300 lí further southwards from that point is Lingshandong. To the southwest of that place are the Kingdoms of Dashifu, Sizi and Tianzhu, where no one had any idea of how long a voyage to these kingdoms would take.”
Clearly, in the above excerpt from Wujing Zongyao, some words refer to the Northern Song “orders imperial troops be dispatched to build and defend the bases of naval patrol in Guangnan (i.e. present-day Guangdong) and ‘daoyu warship’ be built”, some words describe the geographical location of the bases of naval patrol, and some other words describe the sea-routes from Guangnan port to the Indian Ocean. This was a voyage of geographical survey, rather than the patrol of China’s territories. There is not a single line that leads to confirmation that Jiuruluozhou is the Xisha archipelago. For us, this cannot serve as sufficient evidence to prove that from the Song Dynasty, the Hoàng Sa archipelago was under the management of China and “China’s navy had conducted patrols to the islands of Xisha.”
The second fact: The astronomical measurement in the South China Sea in the early Yuan Dynasty confirmed that the islands were part of China’s territory. The White Paper of China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1980 reads:
“In the first year of the reign of the Yuan, astronomical observations were carried out in 27 localities through the country. In the 16th year of the reign of the Yuan (1279), Kublai Khan, Emperor Shizu of the Yuan, himself ordered Guo Shoujing, a renowned astronomer and deputy director of the National Office of Astronomy, to carry out observations in the South China Sea. According to the history of the Yuan Dynasty, the astronomical observation point was at south Yazhou (under Hainan Island) and results of the observation shows that Hainan is at 15 degrees latitude North. The Nanhai observation point is the present-day Xisha Islands. This clearly shows that the Xisha Islands lie within Chinese territory under the Yuan.”
Nevertheless, in the Yuan history, the official history of the Yuan Dynasty, the astronomical measurements were recorded as follows:
“The measurements of the shadow of the sun in the four seas are carried out at 27 points. It is in Gaoli (Korea) to the east, in Tianchi to the west, in Zhuya to the south, and in Tiele (Siberia) to the north.”
The concept of “four seas”, in Chinese language, means that these territories lie beyond China’s territory. In fact, under the heading “four-sea measurements,” the history of the Yuan clearly indicated the names of 27 observation points, including territories of other countries, such as Gaoli (Korea), Tiele (Siberia ). It is written in the official history of the Yuan Dynasty itself that “the Chinese domain” under the Yuan Dynasty extended to Hainan Island in the south, and not beyond the Gobi desert in the north.
The astronomical observations were carried out both within and without Chinese territories. Therefore, it cannot create legitimate evidence to prove China’s sovereignty. Even if the astronomical observation point of Nanhai was in the Xisha Islands, such observation is not sufficient to show the will of “that government to exercise its sovereignty over these small rock isles”. Furthermore, a scientific research activity cannot create a sovereignty title.
By Dr. Nguyễn Hồng Thao
Source: Thanh Nien News
 Bulaoshan: Cù Lao Chàm; Huanzhou: Champa