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HOANG SA TEAM

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HOANG SA TEAM: VIETNAM’S UNIQUE SOVEREIGNTY EXERCISE IN ARCHIPELAGIC AREAS IN EAST SEA (BIEN DONG) IN 17TH, 18TH AND EARLY 19TH CENTURIES

Fully aware of the special importance of the seas and the islands in national construction and defense, the Vietnamese feudal states had worked out sea and island strategies and policies to exploit groups of islands in the East Sea (South China Sea). To translate the policies into practice, the states organized separate units to undertake the inspection, control, defense and exploitation of the East Sea, an outstanding example of which was the Hoang Sa Team.

One of the ancient books providing full evidence on the Hoang Sa Team is the 1776 Phu bien tap luc (Miscellany on the Pacification at the Frontier) written by scholar Le Quy Don in 1776. He wrote “An Vinh commune, Binh Son district, Quang Ngai prefecture, has the Re island...; further off the island are the Dai Truong Sa Islands, which possess sea products and ship-wrecked cargoes. The Hoang Sa Team was founded to collect those products and goods, it took them three days and nights to reach there, near an area called Bac Hai;”(1) and “the Hoang Sa Team had 70 members, recruited people from An Vinh commune...”(2)

Domestic and foreign scholars agree that this is the most important, and reliable and valuable document to help study the Hoang Sa Team. We have issued some studies on this document(3). The article is based on the information in the book as well as other related sources inside and outside Vietnam. On the basis, we sketch out Vietnam’s possession and exploitation of the Hoang Sa (Paracel) and the Truong Sa (Spratly) Vietnam’s areas as well as exercise of sovereignty over these areas through the operations of the Hoang Sa Team over about two centuries, from the first decades of the 17th century to the first decades of the 19th century.

1. The establishment of the Hoang Sa Team

An official history work - the Dai Viet su ky tuc bien 1676-1789 (A Continuation of the Dai Viet History) completed shortly after the Phu Bien tap luc was compiled by the National Institute of History under the Le-Trinh Dynasty. The work, which continued Volume 19 of the Dai Viet su ky toan thu (Complete History of Dai Viet), provided descriptions on the Hoang Sa and Truong Sa which is almost similar to Le Quy Don’s writing. The Dai Nam thuc luc Tien bien (The First Part of The Chronicles of Dai Nam), the first part of the Nguyen Dynasty’s collection of official history works, was compiled in 1821 and completed and carved for woodblock printing in 1844. The book mentioned the event in July 1754 as saying that “due to storm, the Hoang Sa Team which was on the way from Quang Ngai to Hoang Sa Islands was drifted into Qiongzhou waters of The Qing Dynasty. The sailors with the help from a Quing governor were able to return home. [Lord Nguyen Phuc Khoat] sent a letter of thanks.” [Lord Nguyen Phuc Khoat] sent a letter of thanks. In the letter, he described of the Van Ly Truong Sa and the organization of the Hoang Sa and Bac Hai Teams from the early days of the Nguyen Dynasty, which were similar to the description in the Phu Bien tap luc and the Dai Viet su ky tuc bien recorded(5).

In the Toan tap An Nam lo (The Handbook of the An Nam history) compiled in the seventh year of Chinh Hoa (1686) by Do Ba Cong Dao from Bich Trieu commune, Thanh Chuong district, Nghe An province, the maps of Thang Hoa and Quang Ngai prefectures drew the Bai Cat Vang (Yellow Sand in the sea and clearly noted that “Every year, in the last month of winter, the Nguyen rulers send eighteen boats to the area [Bai Cat Vang] to collect jewelries(6). About a decade later, Chinese monk Shi Da Shan, who headed the Shang Shou pagoda in Guangdong province, on his return to China from the Dang Trong (Southern Vietnam) described in detail the sandbank Van Ly Truong Sa, saying that “Every year, the previous Lords [i.e. the Nguyen lords before Lord Nguyen Phuc Chu (1691-1725)] sent fishing boats to the sand beaches at sea to gather gold, silver and tools from wrecked ships(7). In 1701, only 15 years after the competition of the Do Ba map and four or five years after the publication of the Overseas trip writing by Shi Da Shan, the French missionaries on board of the Amphitrite ship affirmed: “Paracel is an archipelago which belong to the Kingdom of An Nam(8).

Thus, contemporary documents from all Vietnamese and Chinese and the Western writers recorded in a specific, clear and consistent manner the presence of the Hoang Sa Team at the early stage of the Nguyen Lords in the 17th century.

At the memorial house of the Vo family in An Vinh ward (Tay village, Ly Vinh commune, Ly Son district, Quang Ngai province), a letter of request on the Hoang Sa Team’s re-organization, dated on the 15th day of the first lunar month of the 36th year of Canh Hung (1775) emperor and signed by Ha Lieu, Corporal of the Re island ward, An Vinh commune, is still kept. It said that “Our commune originally had the Hoang Sa and Que Huong Teams. In Tan Mui year (1631), Commander Vo He requested to set up two more teams - Dai Mao Hai Ba and Que Huong Ham, with the strength of 30 members...”

In combination with Western contemporary documents, it is possible to have better understanding of the time when the Hoang Sa Team came into being. On March 6, 1636, Abraham Duicker, the manager of the Dutch trade store in Faifoo (Hoi An) was received by Lord Nguyen Phuc Lan (1635-1648). At the audience, “Duijcker submitted to the Lord a complaint, saying that those in the Dang Trong (Southern Vietnam) saved the crews on board of the ship Grootebroek sank off the coast of the Paracels, but took away an amount of 25,580 reaux. So, Duijcker asked for the return of that amount. He was told not to mention again these because they took place in the previous lords [meaning in the time of Lord Nguyen Phuc Nguyen (1613-1635)]. However from then on, the Dutch would be completely free to bring goods to trade and their goods would be exempted tax. If any Dutch ship sank off the coast, there would be no confiscation of goods”.

The documents on the sinking of the Grootebroek ship in the Hoang Sa on July 21, 1634 confirmed the role of the Vietnamese group from the Dang Trong southern area who traveled to the Hoang Sa by boats for waters control, and rescued and brought the victims to Quang Nam. These people often sailed to the Hoang Sa for sea patrol. There is sufficient evidence to believe that the Vietnamese people from the Dang Trong who rescued the Grootebroek ship on July 21, 1634 in Hoang Sa were members of the Hoang Sa Team from Ly Son island. The flotilla was established before Tan Mui year (1631) according to the letter of request for re-organization of the Hoang Sa Team, kept at the memorial house of the Vo family of An Vinh ward.

Lord Nguyen Hoang went to the south for development of his power amid the fierce and urgent requirement for the occupation of islands in the East Sea. Inheriting the infrastructure and experience from the Cham people and the kingdom of Champa, Nguyen Hoang soon built fleets of boats, opened door for trading with foreign countries to promote domestic strength and prepare the first steps for occupying islands in the East Sea. But there is no evidence on the presence of the Hoang Sa Team under Nguyen Hoang (1558-1613). In our opinion, the exercise of the sovereignty over the Hoang Sa and Truong Sa archipelagoes really began when Lord Nguyen Phuc Nguyen came to power. The operations of the Hoang Sa Team, which were carried out in 1634, 1631 or a few years ahead of 1631, were under Lord Nguyen Phuc Nguyen. It can be confirmed that the first appearance of the Hoang Sa Team came during the reign of Lord Nguyen Phuc. In fact, Lord Nguyen Phuc Nguyen was the founder of the Hoang Sa Team - an unique form of exploitation and possession of the archipelagic areas in the East Sea and establishment of and exercise sovereignty over this area.

2. The screws of the Hoang Sa Team

The Hoang Sa Team as scholar Le Quy Don and other official and reliable resources said, was established on the basis of recruiting 70 people from An Vinh commune, Binh Son district, Quang Ngai prefecture. An Vinh commune, to the south of the Sa Ky seaport, is now located in An Vinh hamlet, Tinh Ky commune, Son Tinh district, Quang Ngai province(10). At the time when Lord Nguyen selected the crew for the Hoang Sa Team, An Vinh commune included two separate areas: An Vinh coastal village at the Sa Ky seaport and An Vinh offshore hamlet in the Re island (now Ly Vinh commune, the island district of Ly Son, Quang Ngai province).

According to the application of An Vinh hamlet in the Re island for separating from Vinh An commune, the hamlet on the Re island was reclaimed by villagers from An Vinh commune, “it borders An Hai commune to the east, the sea to the west and the south, and is close to a small island to the north...”. It had been established for a long time and applied to become an independent administrative unit since Quy Ty year (1773). Then, villagers of An Vinh offshore hamlet did not visit pagodas, shrines and temples in the onshore village of An Vinh. They built their own communal house, pagoda and temple in the Re island. So by late 18th century, An Vinh hamlet on the Re island had separated itself from the original village to become an independent administrative unit thought not yet been recognized by the State. Due to refusal, the villagers of An Vinh hamlet in their letter to the authorities in 1804, had to ask for the exemption from duties such as building dykes land and others assigned to An Vinh commune. On February 17 of the third year of the Gia Long Dynasty (1804), An Vinh ward was officially split from An Vinh commune, becoming a independent administrative unit in Binh Son district, Quang Ngai prefecture.

Before the separation, the men who were recruited to the Hoang Sa Team included those from both An Vinh mainland and offshore villages. The people of the two villages were assigned to the mobilization of human resources, logistics and other preparations for the voyages to the Hoang Sa and Truong Sa in spite of the difficulty and dangers of the works. The close and synchronous coordination between the two villages was vital. In the first stage of its establishment, the Hoang Sa Team consisted of five boats, and 70 crewmembers from both villages. By late 16th century, the number of boats in the team rose to 18, there was work assignment.

The departure points of the Hoang Sa Team were likely to be both the Re island and Sa Ky seaport, with the latter being the official departure under the State’s regulations. Mandarin Phu Nhuan at the early period under Emperor Gia Long was the manager of the Sa Ky seaport and he was also the commander of the Hoang Sa Team. At An Vinh village at the Sa Ky seaport, there is still the Vuon Don relic site in which the gathering and training soldiers and preparations for boats and logistics for voyages to the Hoang Sa and Truong Sa were carried out. About 200m from the Vuon Don relic, there was the Hoang Sa temple(11) worshiping a whale’s skull. It was said that it was brought from the Hoang Sa archipelago by the Hoang Sa crewmen. The temple was destroyed half of a century ago, but the legendary skull - the temple’s genie, is still kept and moved to the Lang Chanh monument, near to the old temple, for worshipping. The Hoang Sa temple was the place where members of the Hoang Sa Team did their rituals asking for blessing from the God Nam Hai (the sea God and the Whale).

Therefore, 70 crews for the Hoang Sa Team were not only selected from villagers of An Vinh on the Re island. In the first stage of the Hoang Sa Team operation, it can be arsued, An Vinh mainland village contributed more members as An Vinh village on the Re island was then small. When the number of An Vinh villagers in the Re island increased, responsibility was equally divided to both villages. According to the book Quang Thuan dao su tap (History of Quang Thuan) completed by Nguyen Huy Quynh during his term of office as a madarin in Quang Thuan area (1775-1785), there was the Hoang Sa Nhi Team on the Re island, whose duty was: “every year, eight boats sailed to the sea to pick up precious things to hand over at the Phu Xuan(12), the feudal capital. With this document, it can be predicted that after 1773, when An Vinh ward on the Re island became a separate village (with its own pagoda, temple and shrine), the Hoang Sa Team was divided into two relatively independent parts - the Hoang Sa Nhat (first) in the Sa Ky seaport comprising ten boats and the Hoang Sa Nhi (second) on the Re island consisting of eight boats. By 1804, when An Vinh hamlet was recognized as an administrative unit, the member of the Hoang Sa Team was mainly selected from Vinh An village on the Re island.

In the early 19th century, the Sa Ky seaport was the main departure point for boats to the Hoang Sa and Truong Sa and An Vinh village continued to contribute members to the Hoang Sa Team. A written contract on the sale of An Vinh commune, established in the 15th year of Gia Long (1816), said that An Vinh commune was ordered to send the Hoang Sa Team to go to the capital (Hue) to receive the assignment. This showed that people of An Vinh commune participated in the Hoang Sa Team until its final days. However, the main role had been transferred to An Vinh hamlet from early years of the 19th century.

Another question is whether participants to the Hoang Sa Team came from An Hai commune (now Binh Chau commune, Binh Son district, north of Sa Ky seaport) and An Hai comune on the Re island? The documents regarding the Hoang Sa Team never mentioned the people from these above-said localities. However, in the late 19th century, Nguyen Thong in his Viet su cuong giam khao luoc (the sketchy history of Vietnam frontier), volume 4, said that in the “early period”, our country “selected strong men from An Hai and An Vinh hamlets to the Hoang Sa Team to collect goods from the sea...”(14). In fact, surveys in the island district of Ly Son as well as in the villages of An Vinh (Tinh Ky, Son Tinh), An Hai (Binh Chau, Binh Son) confirmed Nguyen Thong’s records as grounded. Villagers of An Vinh and An Hai in the north and the south of the Sa Ky seaport nurtured close ties and jointly exploited and possessed the Ly Son island(15). Six family groupings of Pham Van, Pham Quang, Vo Xuan, Vo Van, Le and Nguyen of An Vinh village (Son Tinh district) set up An Vinh hamlet (now Ly Vinh commune, Ly Son). While seven family groupings of Nguyen, Truong, Duong, Nguyen, Nguyen, Tran and Vo of An Hai village (Binh Son district) established An Hai hamlet (now Ly Hai commune, Ly Son). Although they were separate hamlets, An Vinh and An Hai hamlets before 1804 depended on the mainland and shared common obligations with their original villages in the Sa Ky seaport. A legend says that all islanders in the Ly Son island would return onshore when hearing drum-beats from the onshore. The residents of An Vinh and An Hai hamlets had close relationship. The family grouping of Pham Van in An Hai hamlet and the family grouping of Pham Van in An Vinh hamlet come from the same ancestors. Family annals and oral stories said that ancestor Pham Van Nhien after serving the Hoang Sa Team moved to An Hai hamlet. His descendants followed the family’s tradition to go to the Hoang Sa. The family grouping of Mai in An Hai came from Gia Dinh area at the end of the Le Mat period. During the period of Emperor Gia Long (1802-1820), many Mai family members joined the Hoang Sa Team such as Mai Van Chang, Mai Van Lon... However, the participants to the Hoang Sa Team were mainly from An Vinh offshore and inland hamlets. They closely shouldered the sacred mission of defending sovereignty over seas and islands(16).

3. Hoang Sa Team’s functions and operations

In his book, Phu Bien tap luc, volume 2, Le Quy Don described in detail Hoang Sa Team’s activities: “they were sent out on duty in the February of every year, taking along enough food for six months, sailing in five small fishing boats and reaching the islands after a three day-and-night voyage. Once arriving on the islands, they were free to collect things and caught as many birds and fish for food as they like. Goods collected from ship wrecks included sabers, jewelries, coins, silver rings, copperware, tin ingots, lead, guns, ivory, beewax, porcelain ware, and fur as well as Nguyen Quang Ngoc - Hoang Sa Team: Vietnam.s unique sovereignty... sea turtle shells, sea cucumbers and shells in large quantities. The team returned in the August of the year, entering the Eo estuary to go to Phu Xuan Citadel to hand over the things they had gathered. Having the things weighed and classified, they sold their share of conches, turtles and sea-cucumbers, got certificates and went home(17). Each year, as the Hoang Sa Team did not operate at sea for six months (from September of the previous year to February of the next year), they were also assigned to do other jobs. When talking about gold tax Le Quy Don said that the Hoang Sa Team had to dig gold in Nam Pho Ha commune, Phu Vang district: “the law allows local people to receive money from the state for daily meals to go digging for gold and they were exempted from tax. In the spring of the year of Binh Than (1776), Doan Quan Cong (Duke of Doan County) assigned his subaltern Co Trung marquis, to employ 65 coolies of the Hoang Sa Team to dig for gold....(18). Other documents wrote the Hoang Sa soldiers had to collect swallow bird nests in Cham island (Pulo Champelo) outside the Dai estuary in the Thu Bon river....

Regardless of their additional assigned tasks with the available document, it is easy to see that the Hoang Sa Team was established by the Nguyen Lord to collect merchandises and sea products in offshore islands in the East Sea. Pierre Poivre, a French merchant, said during his tour to the Cochinchina (Dang Trong) from 1749-1750, he heard the story that every year, Nguyen Lord sent several vessels to the Hoang Sa islands to look for natural products for his collections(19). However, merchandise things collected by the Hoang Sa Team were not many in terms of quantity and diversity.

Regarding the Hoang Sa Team’s operation during six months at sea, Le Quy Don said they “collected an uncertain amount of products, sometimes nothing”. “I have personally checked the book of the former team captain, Thuyen Duc marquis which recorded the amount of collected goods: in the year of Nham Ngo (1762), the team collected 80 scoops of silver; in the year of Giap Than (1764), 5,100 catties of tins; in the year of At Dau (1765), 126 scoops of silver; from the year of Ky Suu (1769) to the year of Quy Ty (1773), only a few of tortoise shells and turtle shell were collected each year in the five year period. There were also years when only a cubic tin, porcelain bowls and two copper guns were collected(20). The figures confirmed a reality that the Hoang Sa Team generated low economic benefits, so it is sure to say that Nguyen Lords’ decision to establish the team was not for economic purpose.

So what was the Lord Nguyen’s purpose when they established the Hoang Sa militia team?

The request to reorganize the Hoang Sa Team by An Vinh hamlet in the Re island on the 15th day of the first month of the 36th year of Canh Hung (1775)(21) clearly stated that “Now we set up the Hoang Sa and Que Huong Teams as they Southeast Asian studies were before and included outside residents. We cross the sea to the islands to collect bronze, tin, tortoise shell and will offer all what we collected. If the war happens, we will be determined to fight against the invaders, when the fight ends, we will ask for other assignment to collect precious things and offer them and taxes. We devote ourselves wholeheartedly to the task without any complaints...

The men who joined the Hoang Sa Team, under the state’s regulations, were “soldiers” who performed the duties assigned by the state strictly and exactly: every February, they received an order (it means that when they went sailing, they received a court order) and returned in the August, and had to come to the Eo estuary to go to the Phu Xuan Capital to hand over the things they had gathered and got certificates (it means that they were confirmed to have completed their assigned tasks for the whole year).

With this organization, it is clear that the Hoang Sa Team was organized as an army unit with strict discipline. Firstly, its scope of operation was the Hoang Sa and the Truong Sa archipelagoes. After a time of operation, realizing that however hard it had tried, the team could not cover all the islands in the East Sea, the Nguyen Lords decided to establish Bac Hai Team. According to Le Quy Don, “The Nguyen rulers also established Bac Hai Team without a fixed number of sailors, selected the members from Tu Chinh Village in Binh Thuan or from Canh Duong Commune. Sailors were selected on a voluntary basis. Those who volunteered to join the team would be exempted from poll tax, patrol and transportation fees. These sailors were allowed to travel in small fishing boats to Bac Hai, Con Lon Islands, and other islands in Ha Tien area, to collect goods from ships, and sea products such as turtles, abalones, and sea cucumbers. Bac Hai Team was under the command of Hoang Sa Team. The collected items were sea products and rarely include jewelries.(22) Its operation area was Spratly archipelago. Though working independently, Bac Hai Team was under the Hoang Sa Team’s control.

According to the Dai Nam thuc luc chinh bien (the Main Part of the Chronicles of Dai Nam), after several months of the establishment of the Nguyen Dynasty, in 1803, King Gia Long named “Captain Vo Van Phu, as chief of Sa Ky seaport and ordered the recruitment of residents unregistered there to form the Hoang Sa detachment.(23). In addition to the Hoang Sa Team, he restored the Bac Hai Team. The Hoang Sa Team, as a result, became a real military unit under the Nguyen Dynasty which was directly controlled by Phu Nhuan marquis Vo Van Phu, born in An Vinh commune. In 1805, he: “ordered the teams from Quang Binh to Nam Binh Thuan to report the number of boats, and the number of Truong Da Teams to the King. (The Truong Da Teams included public servant groups from Ky Hai, Ma Hai, and Hoang Sa, Bac Hai, Long Yen, Truong Tho, Dai Le, and add coastal people from 10 communes and Nguyen Quang Ngoc - Hoang Sa Team: Vietnams unique sovereignty... hamlets in Quang Binh namely Cu Ha, Ly Hoa, Thuan Co, Canh Duong, Loc Dien, Chi Giap, An Nau Nam Bien and An Nau Bac Bien, Noi Ha, De Vong, they had 183 boats, 1427 people; from Quang Tri to Binh Thuan they were 327 boats, 1604 people). Changing Truong Tho Team to Truong Thuan Team(24). It is clear that the Hoang Sa and Bac Hai Teams were under the reign of King Gia Long belonged to Truong Da military units and Hoang Sa Team’s personnel were called, in all documents, as .servicemen. (those who serve in the state army)(25).

In the two consecutive years of 1815 and 1816, King Gia Long ordered the Hoang Sa Team “to go for maritime survey in the Hoang Sa archipelago(26). We can say another function of the Hoang Sa Team (or another main task of the Hoang Sa Team) between 1815-1816 was to survey, measure and determine sea routes in the East Sea. King Gia Long’s deep concern about Hoang Sa archipelago’s location and sea routes in the transitional years showed the court’s determination to control and the protect these sea and island areas.

4. Hoang Sa Team’s integration into the Naval Force and Hoang Sa Team hometown’s cultural area

When it was established, the Hoang Sa Team was a semi military force. Over time, it was required to protect sea and island sovereignty, the team’s discipline and organization as well as its military function had been more and more strengthened. In the early Tay Son Dynasty, following the instruction by the court to the Chief of the Hoang Sa Team, Hoi Duc marquis, on February 14, 1786, the Hoang Sa Team had to carry a Naval Force signal. It means that the team operated as a military force of the existing state(27). In the early 19th century, on the one hand, the Hoang Sa Team’s functions continued to be strengthened, on the other hand, there was the involvement of the Naval Force in the Hoang Sa Team, and vice versa. In March 1816, according to the Dai Nam thuc luc, King Gia Long “ordered a Naval detachment and the Hoang Sa Team to sail to Hoang Sa islands for sea route survey.(28) This was the first time a historical book recorded the cooperation between a Naval Force and the Hoang Sa Team in a joint mission in Hoang Sa islands. A contract on the sale of a part of land in An Vinh hamlet dated March 12, 1816, under the 15th year of the Gia Long Dynasty which was kept at Nguyen Quang Ke’s house in Tay hamlet, Ly Hai commune, Ly Son district, Quang Ngai province which we had mentioned earlier, served as an evidence and provided specific information for further understanding of the event: “the commune, by order of the King, sent the Hoang Sa Team to the royal capital city to receive an order for task execution, we need presents, and asked for the integration of a Naval Force to the Hoang Sa Team, thus we also need donations for the soldiers in the commune ....

In Vietnam’s history of its sovereignty over the Hoang Sa and the Truong Sa archipelagoes, the year 1816 was a year of great significance(29). This was the time King Gia Long took very firm measures to assert and protect the Nguyen Dynasty’s sovereignty over the Hoang Sa and the Truong Sa archipelagoes, thus he couldn’t fail to send his powerful Naval Force to directly control and protect the sovereignty over the islands the East Sea. By then, the Hoang Sa Team’s duty of protecting sea and islands had shifted to the Naval court’s force.

Inheriting and further developing the traditional and experience of sea and island exploration and protection of the Nguyen Lords, especially the King Gia Long, King Minh Menh, who came to the throne in 1820, during his 20 years in power, stepped up Vietnam.s sovereignty activities over the Hoang Sa and the Truong Sa archipelagoes to the highest level compared to all the other kings before and after him.

Minh Menh carried out various measures to exercise sovereignty over the Truong Sa and the Hoang Sa archipelagoes, including the systematic exploitation of the islands, and seafoods, the undertakings of measurements and surveys for better understanding, the inspection and control of the sea, building memorial temples, erecting sovereignty stone steles, planting trees as symbols of sovereignty over the islands, collecting tax, rescuing foreign vessels in danger. The forces that he dispatched to the Truong Sa and the Hoang Sa archipelagoes included Naval Teams, fortress guards patrolmen, regional troops and coolies. Each trip to the Truong Sa and the Hoang Sa archipelagoes got the Court’s permission and sometimes, it was the King who directly decided to send a trip depending on the weather. After the completion of their tasks, they had to return directly to Hue Capital to hand over the things collected. The King, with the help of the Construction Ministry, evaluated the products and based on the contributions or violation of law, commended or penalized the soldiers. Since King Minh Menh came to power, no record on the Hoang Sa Team was available. Its function was switched over to the Naval Force(30). However, in specific documents, especially those at the Hoang Sa Team’s hometown, we still see the shape of the Hoang Sa Team in the organization, functions and duties of the Naval Forces operating in the Hoang Sa and Truong Sa archipelagoes.

Although no more troops operated in the name of Hoang Sa or the Hoang Sa Team had been integrated into the Naval Force or in another capacity, those who were sent to exercise Vietnam’s sovereignty over Hoang Sa and Truong Sa archipelagoes under King Minh Menh reign and in the following decades were from Hoang Sa’s Team hometown.

After the Hoang Sa Team stopped working, Pham Quang Anh still worked as the commander of the Naval Force in the Hoang Sa and the Truong Sa archipelagoes. Naval Force royal commanders such as Pham Huu Nhat, Pham Van Nguyen, Pham Van Bien and famous marine guides such as Vo Van Hung, Pham Van Senh, Dang Van Siem who knew the Truong Sa and the Hoang Sa archipelagoes as their own hands were the outstanding son of An Vinh, An Hai communers.

The decree dated April 15, 1834 by King Minh Mang ordered Vo Van Hung to prepare three boats, eight sailors and 24 good swimmers to go to the Hoang Sa and the Truong Sa archipelagoes(31), to verify the information in Dai Nam thuc luc (the Chronicles of Dai Nam), the official documents of the Nguyen Dynasty and to affirm that the Hoang Sa Team.s hometown was the main place to provide staff for protecting the sovereignty over the Hoang Sa and the Truong Sa archipelagoes. Not only executing their tasks to the State, over time the Hoang Sa and Truong Sa have become key fishing grounds of the people at Sa Ky, Ly Son area. The Sa Ky sea area, as a result, has become a cultural home space of the Hoang Sa Team, nursing the characters of the Hoang Sa and the Truong Sa with typical and true values not existing in any area in the East Sea area.

This is the incomparable courage: “The loyalty is compared to the moon, and the sun/ The will covers the earth and sky(32). This is the complete sacrifice for the sacred national territorial sovereignty. Though fully aware that going to Truong Sa - Hoang Sa means to throw themselves to the death, they were still determined to go, considering it their sacred way for living(33). From top supernatural power gods of the land (Sir Nam Hai - Sir Whale) to a branch of coral or a handful of yellow sand... of Sa Ky - Ly Son, all in terms of material and spirit, economics and culture, in literal sense and figurative meaning all of these depict Truong Sa and Hoang Sa. Those who came for Sa Ky - Ly Son gave vitality to Hoang Sa and Truong Sa, with full of dangers. Hoang Sa and Truong Sa, for their parts, contributed to creating the characteristics of the Sa Ky - Ly Son sea-island cultural area./.

Nguyen Quang Ngoc*

Note:

* Prof. Dr. Nguyen Quang Ngoc, Institute of Vietnamese Studies and Development Sciences, Vietnam National University, Hanoi

1. Le Quy Don: Completed work (Phu bien tap luc). Volume 1, translated by the Social Science Publishing House, Hanoi, 1977, p.116.

2. Le Quy Don: Completed work (Phu bien tap luc), Volume 1, op cit, p.119.

3. Referring to Nguyen Quang Ngoc: Values of historical pages on Hoang Sa and Truong Sa in Phu bien tap luc book, History Study Magazine, volume 5 (318), September, October, 2001, page 30-38 and 20 years of Vietnam studies the inter ministerial orientation, the World Publisher, Hanoi, 2008, page 356-373.

4. Dai Viet su ky tuc bien (1676-1789), translated edition by the Social Science Publishing House, Hanoi, 1991, page 243-244.

5. Office of the Nguyen dynasty’s national history: Dai Nam thuc luc, Volume 1, translated edition by EPH, Hanoi, 2002, page 164.

6. Nom script notes Toan tap An Nam lo in Thien ha ban do (Cartography in Vietnam) archived in the Han-Nom Research Institute, code A.2628.

7. Thich Dai San (Shi Da Shan): Hai ngoai ky su (The Overseas Chronicle), Hue University Institute, page 125.

8. Jean Yves Clayes: Journal de Voyage aux Paracels (Indochine No 45, 1945, p 7).

9. Ch. B. Maybon: Les marchants European are Cochinchine et au Tonkin (1660-1775), (Revue Indochinoise 1916).

10. Not only in Phu Bien tap luc, Dai Viet su ky tuc bien, Dai Nam thuc luc tien bien (as mentioned above), the Lich trieu hien chuong loai chi (The Classified Rules of Dynasties) by Phan Huy Chu (volume 1, the Hanoi History Publishing House, 1960, p 137), Dai Nam nhat thong chi (The Geography of the Unified Dai Nam) of the Nguyen dynasty’s national history office (Volume 2, Thuan Hoa Publishing House, 1992, p 423), Quang Ngai tinh chi by Nguyen Ba Trac (typing version of the Quang Ngai library, p 10).... all defined that the original of the Hoang Sa Team is An Vinh commune, Binh Son district, Quang Ngai.

11. At a place where the family of Nguyen Van Menh is living (according to the investigation document by Associate Professor, Dr. Vu Van Quan in 1994). Science Magazine (Social Science), No.3 (1998), p 12.

12. Quang Thuan dao su tap is a collection of records on geography and geographical map of Thuan Hoa and Quang Nam areas by Nguyen Huy Quynh (1734-1785). The Chinese version is kept at the Han-Nom Research Institute, code VHv. 1375.

13. The document is being kept at Nguyen Quang Ke’s, head of Nguyen Quang De Nhat Lang.s clan, in Trung Yen hamlet, Tay (west) small village, Ly Hai commune, Ly Son district, Quang Ngai province.

14. Nguyen Thong: Viet su cuong giam khao luoc, Chinese version, the Han-Nom Research Institute, coded Vhv. 1319.

15. Family record of Pham Van in Ly Vinh commune, Ly Son district said the specific time is the ninth year of Hoang Dinh (1609).

16 The Pham Quang family is a typical example. According to the family records made on June, 16, the 5th year of Gia Long reign (1806), the family’s creator was Pham Quang Minh and his two sons, Pham Quang Nhat and Pham Quang Nguyet from An Vinh village in Sa Ky estuary to move to Anh Vinh commune in Ly Son district. To Pham Quang Anh generation, Hoang Sa chief who was famous in the second decade of the 19th century, the Pham Quang family was a big one in the Re island. Not only at that time, from now Pham Quang family gathered in their original ancestral temple in An Vinh village, while the Pham Quang Anh worship hall in Ly Son was a small one of a family’s branch. In the alter of the Pham Quang family onshore, the ancestral tablet of Pham Quang Anh was still worshipped. However, the worship hall no longer existed but it was still in the mind of members of the family. Recently, in some other areas in Thua Thien- Hue and Quang Nam, they discovered some documents relating to the foreman and commander of Hoang Sa Team. They were Nguyen Huu Nien, who was born in An Nong commune, Su Lo canton, Phuc Vinh district (nowadays Loc Bon commune, Phu Loc district, Thua Thien-Hue province) to be the commander of the Hoang Sa Team; Vu Van Tay in Trung ward, Thanh Hoa commune, An Hoa canton, Ha Dong district, Thang Hoa prefect (Tam Thanh commune, Tam Ky city, Quang Nam province) in late the third decade of the 19th century. We are not clear about how the families relate to those in the original hometown of the Hoang Sa Team. But it is possible that they were the last Hoang Sa Team’s commanders, once some people from the Naval Force were sent to manage the Hoang Sa Team and vice versa, those who were in the Hoang Sa Team were assign to join the Naval Force. Regarding Le Van Uoc in Thuong ward, Thanh Hoa commune, An Hoa canton, Ha Dong district, Thang Hoa prefect (Ha Thanh hamlet, Tam Thanh commune, Tam Ky city, Quang Nam province) who was bestowed the title of a commander of the Naval Force left squad managing Hoang Sa in 1838 was called captain thanks to his long operation in Hoang Sa, but not the Hoang Sa we are mentioning.

17. Le Quy Don: Completed work (Phu bien tap luc), Volume 1, op cit, p.119-120. The second volume talks about the topography, strong hold, offices, and roads, ports, stations of Thuan Hoa and Quang Nam.

18. Le Quy Don: Completed work (Phu bien tap luc), op cit, p.224. The fourth volume records the tax system, patrol soldiers, markets, gold, silver, bronze and iron taxes, and transportation tax in Thuan Hoa and Quang Nam.

19. Southern Vietnam under the Nguyen (Document on the Economic History of Cochindochina (Dang Trong). 1602-1777 (Edited by Li Tana, Anthony Reid) ANU, Australia and ISEAS, Singapore, 1993, p 7.

20. Le Quy Don: Completed work (Phu bien tap luc), Volume 1, op cit, p.120.

21. The document are being kept at the Vo family worshipping temple in Tay hamlet, Ly Hai commune, Ly Son district, Quang Ngai province.

22. Le Quy Don: Completed work (Phu bien tap luc), Volume 1, op cit, p.120.

23. The Nguyen dynasty office of National History: Dai Nam thuc luc, Volume 1, op cit, p 556.

24. The Nguyen dynasty office of National History: Dai Nam thuc luc, Volume 1, op cit, p 634.

25. Professor Tran Kinh Hoa in his re-study on the history of the Sisha and Nansha (in Japanese language) showed that the Dai Nam thuc luc noted incorrectly turn “Hoang Sa” to “Sa Hoang”. The Truong Da Teams, according to Tran Kinh Hoa, “is the same as other ship fleets implementing a special task on the sea

26. The Nguyen dynasty office of National History: Dai Nam thuc luc, Volume 1, op cit, p. 898.

27. The instruction wrote: “It is ordered that Commander Ho Duc Marquis of Hoang Sa Team lead four boats and other islands to gather gold, silver and copper articles, artillery pieces, big and small, turtle, oysters and special fish and that all catches be submitted to the Court as required by existing rules. If being arrogant, deceitful, embezzling precious things or picking a quarrel with fishermen and salt workers, they will be punished. The document was kept at the Vo family worshipping temple in Tay hamlet, Ly Hai commune, Ly Son district, Quang Ngai province.

28. The Nguyen Dynasty office of National History: Dai Nam thuc luc, Volume 1, op cit, p 922.

29. Many western authors spoke highly of King Gia Long’s sovereignty exercises over Hoang Sa and Truong Sa archipelagos in 1816. Bishop Jean-Louis Taberd noted: “In 1816, he (King Gia Long) went with solemnity to plant his flag and take formal possession of these rocks, which it is not likely any body will dispute with him”. M.A. Dubois de Jancigny wrote in his book in 1850 that: “We observe that for thirty four years now, the Paracel archipelago (referred to as C¸t Vµng by the Annamese), a real labyrinth of small islands, rocks and sand banks, full of distrust to navigators which can be counted among the most deserted and useless parts of the globe, has been occupied by the Cochinchina. We do not know if they have built any construction there (in order, perhaps, to protect fisheries); but it is certain that King Gia Long will have this jewel added to his crown when he himself came there to take the possession, this event took place in 1816 when the King solemnly planted Cochinchinas flag there.

30. Professor Tran Kinh Hoa in Re-study on the history of the Sisha and Nansha (in Japanese language) confirmed that: .... next, in the eleventh month of the eighteen year (1819), they gathered 50 unregistered residents to Thai Sam to collect wild ginseng in mountains in Sa Ky area (Volume 60). The detachments did such activities as gathering, hunting precious things or manufacturing tools or arms and different from those who did specific jobs as going out to the sea like the Hoang Sa or Bac Hai Teams under the Truong Da. The subordinate agencies of the detachments were not clear, and most of their members were residents, as a result, they may face some problems. Thus in the early Minh Menh reign, they were dissolved and their tasks were transferred to the Naval Force and commanding officers..

31. The Dang family in Don Ho hamlet, An Hai commune, Ly Son island district still keeps the origin of the edict.

32. A pair of worshipping parallel sentences at Pham Quang Anh worshiping temple in Ly Vinh commune, Ly Son island district.

33. Ancient six-eight foot distich in locality: “There are a lot of islands and dunes in Hoang Sa archipelago, The mat bounds rattan rods”. Due to the danger of the job, before going to Hoang Sa archipelago, each soldier had to prepare a pair of mats and seven rattan rods as well as seven bamboo levers. If unfortunate thing happened, the mats were used to bound their bodies, the bamboo levers were used as the splint, and rattan rods were used to tie tightly. Their death bodies were released to the sea with a small hope that someone would fish them for burry. Their names, numbers and units were written in a small bamboo tag. They were considered a sign for their comrades and relatives to recognize them. Though learning that this is a dangerous and difficult job, the soldiers did not mind to go as this is the King’s order, the rule of the court. Before going to the sea, every year, on the 20th day of the second month, local people held a ritual to wish for safe and sound. They made effigies in clay or hays and offered them at the village.s communal house. After the offering, the effigies were burnt or released to the sea. The ceremony was called the troop banquet ceremony of the Hoang Sa Team. The offering was a great sympathy to those who went to the sea and those who stayed. Those who went forever were remembered at the communal house. The funeral oration is named “Farewell to Hoang Sa soldiers”. Besides, they made clay humans and held a memorial service to the soldiers who were sent to Hoang Sa. After the ceremony, the clay bodies were put into coffins and buried following the customs. The soldiers believed that the fake graves would be their eternal house when they went to the eternity. They went in peace in their mind and left behind the expectation and worry of their wives and mothers: “Every afternoon going to the sea to wait for people from Truong Sa archipelago...”. (Noticeably, when changing the operation into the form of the Naval Force, all soldiers from Sa Ky, Ly Son going to Hoang Sa and Truong Sa were those operating in the official armed forces of the Nguyen dynasty and their operation scope included Hoang Sa-Truong Sa archipelagos, they were called Truong Sa soldiers).

 

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