Footmarks of the Ancient Chinese in the South China Sea in International Documentations
2016-06-06 08:48

Standing at the southern tip of the motherland, our ancestors used to trace the tortuous coastline with my eyes into the distant south, where a vast body of blue waters shines under the sun, casting unfathomable tranquility. However, this blue expanse of peace has been disturbed because some countries deliberately play up the South China Sea issue. If our ancestors, who established the earliest settlement on the islands in the South China Sea, found their homeland was under unlawful claims, illegal occupation, even the intensifying unilateral dispute, how agonized they would be!  

Facts speak louder than words; numerous historical documents can attest that the South China Sea islands have been part of China since ancient times. If the Chinese textual sources are viewed a one-way conversation, we might as well examine the documentation in foreign literature to seek the footmarks of the Chinese people in the South China Sea.

Let's start with the European literature. China Sea Directory published in 1868 by the Hydrographic Office of the British Admiralty, mentions the Zhenghe Reefs and states that "fishermen from China's Hainan Island collected sea cucumbers and shells of sea turtles to earn a living and some of the fishermen lived on the islands and reefs for a couple of years." China Sea Pilot, the revised edition of 1912, also contains many accounts of the Chinese people's frequent activities on the South China Sea Islands. French magazine Le Monde Colonial Illustre in its issue published in 1933 mentioned "when a French gunboat named Malicieuse surveys the Nanwei Dao of the Nansha Islands in 1930, they found three Chinese on the island." In April 1933 when France invaded the Nansha Islands, they found all the people on the islands were Chinese of Hainan origin. They stayed and worked on the islands all year round; there were small ships that brought them food and supply to exchange for sea produce, such as turtle meat and dried sea cucumbers.

Let's look at the Asian literature. Mr. Okura Unosuke of Japan, who arrived Nansha to survey phosphate rock in December 1918, wrote in his book Stormy Islands, published 1940, "three Chinese fishermen lived on the Beizi Dao, who used compass and charted a map of Nansha with clearly labeled locations of and routes to the islands."  In 1933, Miyoshi and Matuo of Japan took a field trip to Nansha and saw two Chinese people on the Beizi Dao and three Chinese people on the Nanzi Dao. It is also recorded in a Japanese publication Shinnan Gunto Overview that "fishermen planted sweet potato on Zhongye Dao and that fishermen from the Republic of China resided on the islands and grew coconuts, papaya, sweet potato and vegetables there." The Da Nan Yi Tong Zhi, an official geographical record of Vietnam's, contains a detailed territorial record of the South China Sea, in which the description of the Cham Island reads, "Previously named Wolong Island, it was a service stop for domestic or international voyages".

Finally, let's review the international navigators' accounts about the South China Sea. An Arabian sailor who travelled eastwards during the Song Dynasty wrote, "Near the border of the Shamo Ocean (now the waters of Nansha) is China's Nansha Islands." Fryke in his book entitled Voyages into the East Indies mentioned that in the 17th century when the Dutch ship arrived at the Palawan Island of Philippines, "upon arrival, China appears on the left."

Foreign literature has detailed documentation like this, not to mention the Chinese literature. Facing these irrefutable evidence, some countries not only shamelessly claim to have sovereignty over the South China Sea Islands but also confuse the truth with the falsehood, frequently staging "the wicked tattle first" and "dramatized self-justification". They ignore the historical facts established by their own ancestors, tirelessly mess with the contemporary law of the sea, and wishfully negate China's sovereignty over the South China Sea. They are so oblivious to believe that they will benefit by troubling the waters and have big gain from the troubled waters, not knowing that their act is apparently self-deceiving, self-accusing by unwittingly self-excusing, and lifting a rock only to drop it on their own feet.

The Chinese people, long influenced by the Confucian cultural tradition, behold the ethics of "benevolence, righteousness, propriety, wisdom, integrity, gentleness, kindness, humility, prudence, and courtesy", and uphold the golden rule of harmony and peace. Therefore, in the face of malicious provocation, we prefer to take the challenge in honest and peaceful manners, because the facts and the truth are never mottled but renewed and polished over the course of time. No matter how rhetorical and sharp-tongued the attacks are, history stands, on its own right.

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