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FOREING RECORDS ABOUT HOANG SA AND TRUONG SA ARCHIPELAGOES

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SCSC - Viet Nam’s sovereignty over the Hoang Sa Archipelago (Paracels) and the Truong Sa Archipelago (Spratlys) is not only documented in the ancient documents and materials of Viet Nam but also in foreign records, including books, newspaper articles, maps, journals and maritime guidebooks of voyagers and Western missionaries.

These materials clearly described the Hoang Sa and Truong Sa as “a strip of sand off the coast of Central Viet Nam (…) ” as they were portrayed in the Vietnamese documents of the time.

The 1936 Bulletin de l’ Ecole Francaise d’ Extrême Orient recorded the Batavia journal of the Dutch - Indian Company on the wreck of East - India Company ships in the Paracels (then the Pracel) within the then Dang Trong (Southern Viet Nam) during the reign of Lord Nguyen Phuc Nguyen (1614 - 1635):

“On July 20th, the ships left Da Nang; on the 21st offshore they encountered a storm and were separated. The Vinhuzen reached Taiwan on August 2nd; the Schazen came on the 10th of the same month. The Grootebroek was wrecked near the Paracel at 17 degree North latitude. Merchant Jean de Sormeau and 8 crew members were down. 70,695 florins of the 153,690 florins - worth bulk of good on board went down with the ship. The rest was rescued and stored in a safe place on the island. Captain Huijich Jansen and 12 crew members sailed small boats to coastal Southern Viet Nam…

Captain Jansen reported on the wreck of Grootebroek in the Paracels and the confiscation of 23,580 réaux by the Southern Viet Nam authorities.

Two years later, under the reign of Lord Nguyen Phuoc Lan (1635 - 1648), on March 6th 1636, two other Dutch ships came to Da Nang. Merchant Abraham Duijeker made his way to Hoi An to see the Proconsul; then he went to Thuan Hoa to have an audience with the Lord to ask for permission to trade, open shops and reclaim the 23,580 réaux confiscated two years earlier.

To compensate for that, the Lord allowed the Dutch to freely trade with the Southern territory and granted them souvenirs and tax exemption on anchorage.

With that, since 1636, a Dutch shop was opened in Hoi An, then Faifo, and headed by Abraham Duijeker”.

The letter by Priest Tartre to Higher Father in 1701 included in the book “Collection of the amusing letters about Asia, Africa and America” (Episode III, republished in 1843) added geographical and historical notes about Hoang Sa: “The ship weighed anchor and with tail - wind reached the Paracel Shoal shortly. Paracel was an archipelago of the An Nam Kingdom. It was an awful submerged shoal ranging across hundreds of miles and witnessing several shipwrecks – It runs parallel to the coastline of Cochinchina (Dang Trong) …”

In 1701, the sea journal of ship Amphitrite confirmed the fact that “Paracel was an archipelago of the An Nam Kingdom. It was an awful submerged shoal ranging across hundreds of miles and witnessing several shipwrecks (…) ”

From 1719 until 1786, Pierre Poivre, a French priest and merchant, visited Hoang Sa several times and noted in his book titled Description of Dang Trong: “I heard that the King (Lord Nguyen) regularly sent ships offshore to Hoang Sa in search for natural valuables to add to his collection (…) ”

In his book titled A Journey to Southern Viet Nam in 1792 - 1793 published in London in 1806, John Barrow – a member of the British Mission to China – told about his journey to Viet Nam in 1793 and described in details the types of boats used by the Southerners to travel to Hoang Sa for collecting bird nets.

Jean Baptiste Chaigneau, whose Vietnamese name was Nguyen Van Thang, was married to a Vietnamese wife. He used to help King Gia Long drive away the Tay Son Movement. Before leaving Viet Nam for France, Chaigneau received a request from Duke Richelieu, the then French Foreign Minister, to write a detailed report on the situation in Viet Nam. Notice sur la Cochinchine, the first overview of Viet Nam during the early period of the Nguyen dynasty, was written by Jean Baptiste Chaigneau in May 1820 before he left Viet Nam for France after 25 years serving beside King Gia Long. The Note was published in the Bulletin des Amis du vieux Hue in 1923. The report started with a description of the shape of Viet Nam: “Southern Viet Nam, with a crowned Lord, includes Dang Trong and Dong Kinh, formerly Dang Ngoai, … and a few inhabited islands not far from the shore and the Paracels which comprises several small islands, waterfalls and deserted rocks. In 1816, the reigning King seized control of this archipelago”.

King Gia Long’s establishment of Viet Nam’s sovereignty over the Paracel Islands by a flag raising ceremony on the islands in 1816 was a testament of Nguyen Dynasty’s sovereignty over the East Sea, Hoang Sa and Truong Sa archipelagos. The event was recorded by Priest Jean - Louis Taberd, former vice priest of Southern Viet Nam and interpreter of King Gia Long in his “Notes on the geography of Southern Viet Nam” published in 1837 as follows: "Pracel or Hoang Sa islands is an area crisscrossed by small islands, reefs and sand, seems to be extended to 110 North latitude and around 1070 longitude Paris... Although this is an archipelago covered by nothing else but islands and reefs, and the depth of the sea promises inconveniences than advantages, King Gia Long still thought that he had the right to expand his territory by that pathetic merger. In 1816, the King held a solemn flag hoisting ceremony and formally took possession of the reefs, with a certain belief that no one would struggle with him... ".

King Gia Long’s occupation of the two archipelagos Hoang Sa and Truong Sa was also recorded in page 555 of the book entitled "The World, history and description of peoples, religions, customs and practices: Japan, Indochina, etc.”. published in 1850 by Dubois de Jancigny, as follows:

“We just want to comment that for 34 years (1816 - 1850), the Paracel Islands (the people of Annam called Golden Sandbank), is a maze crisscrossed by islets, reefs and sand and it really did terrified seafarers, the most deserted and barren place on earth and was occupied by the people of Southern Viet Nam. We do not know if they have a base in the islands or not (for example to protect fisheries) but it is clear that King Gia Long had deliberately appended a unique flower into his crown, because the King deemed that it was necessary he himself had to take over the islands, and in 1816 he therefore solemnly hoisted the Southern Viet Nam’s flag on this land”.

Another document archived in Santa Maria al Monet monastery in the northern Italian city of Turin also acknowledges that Paracel Islands belong to An Nam or Southern Viet Nam. The end part of the book entitled Compedio di Geografia (World Geography) by a renowned Italian geography researcher Adrianno Balbi reads ‘Properties belonging to this empire also include Hoang Sa (Paracel Islands), Hai Tac archipelago (Pirate - Ha Tien Islands) and Con Son Islands (Pulo Condor or Con Dao)”.

The Nguyen Dynasty's tax imposition on foreign ships passing through Hoang Sa area was also recorded by Gutzlaff, a member of the Royal Geographic Society of London in the “Journal of the Geographical Society of London” in 1849 as follows: “Katvang lies 15 - 20 nautical miles from Annam coast and spreads on 15 - 17 degrees north latitude, 111 - 113 longitude, then the King of Annam claims ownership of these islands, including rocks and reefs dangerous to marine navigation... Annam government benefits from setting up a patrol boat and a small garrison to collect taxes and protect fishermen operating in their water…

In the book entitled “An over View of the Southern Viet Nam” published in 1862, Cortambert, Vice President and Leon de Rosny, Permanent Secretary of the French Society of Ethnology listed Hoang Sa or Cat Vang in the groups of islands in Viet Nam. The first part of the book regarding the topology, ethnicity and the politics of Southern Viet Nam reads “Further to the coastline, facing Hue is the Hoang Sa or Cat Vang, full of reefs. The final end is a hideous sand bank, Macceles field is located in the Eastern part of the Hoang Sa”.

Noticeably, some ancient Chinese books also wrote that Hoang Sa and Truong Sa belong to Viet Nam. We have mentioned a famous book named overseas memoir by Shi Da San of the late seventeenth century.

In the mid 19th century, another book worth mentioning is the Ocean Affairs (Hai Luc) written during the Dao Guang period in which Yang Bing Nam of Jia Ying province wrote the foreword in Nham Dan year (1842). The book was records of what is seen and heard in a sea voyage by a Chinese sailor named Xia Qing Gao “The Van Ly Truong Sa (the thousand mile Sandbank) is located in the West. The inner flow and outer flow are separated by sandy banks. Van Ly Truong Sa is a floating sandbank on the sea and stretches a few thousand miles, making it a shield to safeguard Annam (…)”.

Both Western and Chinese writings on Hoang Sa, Truong Sa in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries are consistent with ancient contemporary documents of Viet Nam, which have clearly demonstrated that Hoang Sa and Truong Sa belong to Viet Nam where the kings and the feudal imperials of Viet Nam exercised their administration and exploitation./.

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