Newly-found maps questions China’s claim on disputed islands anew

  • A Vietnamese historian discovered maps that further raised doubts on China’s claim on disputed islands in the West Philippine Sea
  • The collection of maps, found being kept in Harvard library in the US, never showed Spratly’s and Paracels as part of Chinese territory
  • This allegedly supports the theory that China’s sudden claim of absolute sovereignty over groups of island in WPS are ‘historically false’

A Vietnamese historian claimed he has discovered two sets of maps that further raise questions on China’s claim of sovereignty over disputed islands in the West Philippine Sea/South China Sea.

Dr. Tran Duc Anh Son, a deputy director at the Da Nang Institute for Socio-Economic Development, said he discovered the map collections which were kept at Harvard-Yenching Library in Cambridge, Massachusetts in the United States.

Dr. Son has been travelling to Harvard for years in an attempt to find evidence that belies China’s claim of almost the entire South China Sea including the group of islands which are also claimed by Vietnam, Taiwan, Brunei, Malaysia and the Philippines.

His recent findings were explained in an article on Vietnamese publications Viet Bao and Tuoitre News.

The first collection

The first map collection Dr. Son uncovered showed China’s territory during the reign of the Qing dynasty in the 17th and 18thcenturies. The collection of 200 maps and dated 1760 was named ‘Qianlong’s Map in Thirteen Rows.

Apparently none of the maps showing the Chinese kingdom under the rule of Qianlong Emperor (1735-1796) included or mentioned the Spartly’s (Nansha) and Paracels (Xisha) as part of the mainland China’s territories composed of islands and surrounding waters.

More notably, Dr. Son said, is that one of the maps clearly specified the island of Hainan as its territorial boundary in the southernmost point.

The second collection

The second map collection was named ‘Atlas von China’ (The Atlas of China) which is made up of two parts and published by the German publishing house Dietrich Reimer in 1885 in Berlin.

It has “16 descriptive pages in German and 55 color-printed, full-page administrative and geographical maps of the Chinese capital Beijing, as well as 26 other prefectures under the rule of Guangxu Emperor (1875-1908).”

The first map in the part one collection also noted Hainan as the southernmost point of the whole Chinese territory.

The second part – which includes administrative and geographical maps of the province of Canton – however, did not include Hainan island, which is a conflict in itself.

This also contradicts ancient Chinese papers that often referred to Hainan island (or then called as the Qiong Prefecture) as “the end of the sea and the sky,” which, Dr. Son said, could be understood as China’s furthermost land.

Historically false

Dr. Son noted that maps released in official atlases during the Qing dynasty and the Republic of China period only acknowledged Hainan island as the limit of its territory.

This means, he further explained, China’s claim of the Spratly’s and Paracels were only raised in 1947 based on their so-called ‘nine-dash line’ theory which he described as a ‘product of imagination.’

The Vietnamese historian added that China suddenly expanding their claim to the surrounding waters and islands in recent years supposedly as part of their “long-standing sovereignty” is historically false.



  1. The maps also showing that spraty’s group of island is not belong to vietnam, it’s clear that spratly’s is within 200 miles exclusive economic zone of the Philippines

    • Actually, different parts of the Spratly Islands are within the EEZs of four different countries: the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Vietnam. Definitely NOT part of China.

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