1904 China map admits Paracel, Spratly not Chinese territory

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Chinese language expert Mai Hong points at Hai Nan Island in a 1904 Chinese map, which noted the island as China's southernmost tip.

A Chinese language expert in Vietnam has an official map of China from 1904 that does not show Hoang Sa (Paracel) and Truong Sa (Spratly) islands as belonging to that country.

The map possessed by Mai Hong, former head of the archive at the Han Nom Institute that studies ancient Vietnamese language and its influence by Chinese, for more than 30 years shows Hainan Island as China's southernmost tip.

The two archipelagoes off Vietnam's central coast are not shown in the map.

But now China claims the islands despite lots of historical evidence showing Vietnam's existence on the islands before anyone else.

A Vietnamese map from 1834 includes the two islands.

Hong said the colored-paper map was made during the Qing Dynasty era and published by the Shanghai Publishing House.

Hong said the Chinese descriptions on the map indicate it took from 1708 to 1904, from the time of Emperor Guangxi to that of Guangxu, to complete it.

The kings sent scholars and experts, including Westerners such as Johann Adam Schall von Bell and Ferdinand Verbiest, to all of China's then 13 provinces for the task, he said.

The foreword was written by the then director of an observatory.

Hong had bought the map from a familiar book seller for his institute. "He showed me the map and suggested that I should buy it. It cost more than my one month salary."

On July 4 he handed over the well-preserved, 115 cm x 140 cm map to the Vietnam National History Museum in Hanoi. A handover ceremony is being held Tuesday with several historians attending.

"I think this map can provide some very good information for Vietnam's defense at international negotiations. A proof from China themselves will save us from (verbal) attacks."

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