Historian claims islands for Vietnam

Published: 04/05/2009 05:00



VNS talked with Historian Nguyen Nha, who has dedicated his life to historical research proving Vietnam’s sovereignty over the Hoang Sa (Paracel) and Truong Sa (Spratly) archipelagos in the East Sea.

VNS talked with Historian Nguyen Nha, who has dedicated his life to historical research proving Vietnam’s sovereignty over the Hoang Sa (Paracel) and Truong Sa (Spratly) archipelagos in the East Sea.

Dr Nguyen Nha was born on January 3, 1940 in the northern province of Ninh Binh’s Yen Mo District. He graduated from the Sai Gon Teacher Training University in 1965 with a degree in History and Geography, and from the Literature University in 1966. He successfully defended his doctoral thesis to earn a PhD in History from the HCM City National University in 2003. He now lives in HCM City’s Phu Nhuan District and has been a lecturer in the city since 1966.

You have used the pseudonyms Han Nguyen or Hoang Viet Tu for your articles about the sovereignty of the islands. What is the significance of these names?

I greatly admire the scholar Hoang Xuan Han, so I added Han to my surname Nguyen, to become author Han Nguyen. Hoang Viet Tu means “man of Viet country.” When using this name, I want to express my love for the country.

What motivated you to spend much of your lifetime proving Viet Nam’s sovereignty over the Hoang Sa (Paracel) and Truong Sa (Spratly) archipelagos?

I have followed issues related to the Hoang Sa and Truong Sa archipelagos since the 1960s.

I was particularly focused on the issue between January 18 to 20, 1974 when China occupied Hoang Sa. At that time, I was the editor-in-chief of the 29th edition of the Su Dia (History and Geography) Journal, which featured the Hoang Sa and Truong Sa archipelagos. The edition was published on January 20, 1975 to mark one year of the occupation.

I also organised a three-day exhibition that highlighted evidence of Viet Nam’s sovereignty over the islands. The exhibition attracted great attention from the mass media and the people. Five elders over the age of 80 participated in the event, including patriotic poet A Nam Tran Tuan Khai.

I was further intrigued by the territorial sovereignty issue in 1988 when China occupied some of the rocky banks of Truong Sa.

With more than 30 years spent studying the issue, I have gathered proof of the historical truth that Viet Nam established sovereignty over the two archipelagos.

I spent time in Quang Nam and Quang Ngai central provinces to search for historical relics and documentation related to Hoang Sa. I’ve also been to Ly Son Island off the shores of Quang Ngai, from where sailors to Hoang Sa during the Nguyen Dynasty departed, and where descendants of the sailors who made sacrifices to protect Viet Nam’s sovereignty over the East Sea still live. The sailors’ names were used to name some of the islands in the Hoang Sa Archipelago, including Quang Anh (Pham Quang Anh was the head of a Hoang Sa militia team) and Huu Nhat (Pham Huu Nhat, was the head of a team of sailors that patrolled Hoang Sa during the Nguyen Dynasty).

Since then, I have continually studied the Hoang Sa -Truong Sa issue.

I began to work on my doctoral thesis “Viet Nam’s process to establish sovereignty over Hoang Sa and Truong Sa archipelagos” in 1996, and successfully defended it at the HCM City National University in 2003.

In my thesis, I challenge researchers from other countries, including China, to develop a thesis on the establishment of sovereignty by their respective countries over the two archipelagos before 1909 which is as chronologically scientific as mine.

Can you describe some of the important and convincing evidence you have found that proves Viet Nam’s sovereignty over the islands?

Viet Nam’s sovereignty over the two archipelagos was established long before China began the dispute in 1909 by saying that Hoang Sa had no owners.

Viet Nam has maps from the 17th century, including Toan tap Thien Nam Tu Chi Lo Do of Do Ba, that mention “Bai Cat Vang” (Yellow Sand or Hoang Sa).

In the middle of the 18th century, Phu Bien Tap Luc of Le Quy Don specifically described the operations of two teams of sailors, named Hoang Sa and Bac Hai, which proves the establishment and protection of Viet Nam’s sovereignty over the archipelagos.

During the Nguyen Dynasty (1802-1945), a system of chronicles, geographic books and maps by the National Historian, and official documents and orders issued by the authorities recorded the detailed operations of Hoang Sa sailors. All were Government documents recorded by historians of the court.

Each of the documents was published before 1909. They are extremely valuable, because no other country with territorial disputes over these islands have such documents. All maps of China before 1909 identified Hainan Island as China’s southernmost border point.

In further proof, the Chinese found a temple built by the Vietnamese called Hoang Sa Temple on Phu Lam Island in the Hoang Sa Archipelago.

The An Nam Dai Quoc Hoa Do (The Map of the Great An Nam Country) drawn by Bishop Jean Louis Taberd in 1838, shows the location of the Paracel (which means Yellow Sand in Latin) Islands as an exact match to the location of Hoang Sa today. It is forceful and persuasive evidence against China’s argument that Hoang Sa is a different coastal island.

China’s documents such as Hai Ngoai Ky Su (My Overseas Chronicle) by monk Thich Dai San (Shi Dacan), and documents and maps by Western authors such as Taberd, Gutzlaff and Jean Baptiste Chaigneau, prove that Westerners and even the Chinese affirmed Hoang Sa and Truong Sa as “the fences of Viet Nam on the East Sea.”

What should Vietnamese citizens do today to protect our sovereignty as some countries try to impose their sovereignty over some of Viet Nam’s territorial waters, including Hoang Sa and Truong Sa islands?

Every Vietnamese citizen should know the story of how our ancestors established the country’s sovereignty over Hoang Sa and Truong Sa islands. We should all be aware of the strategic importance of the islands and the natural resources that can be found there.

We should let the young people know the truth and significance of the islands. With the enthusiasm and heart that can be found among the youth, I believe we will have power to protect Viet Nam’s sovereignty over the archipelagos.

Every Vietnamese in the country and abroad should care about the country’s sovereignty over these islands in the East Sea. We should realise that if we lose an inch of our land to other countries, we will be guilty in the eyes of the Motherland and our ancestors whose sweat and blood built our territory.

Do you believe our struggle to protect Viet Nam’s sovereignty over the islands will be successful?

Taking into account the evidence I mentioned previously, I have successfully protected my doctoral thesis. The peer-review council could not reject my research, and in the future, perhaps nobody will be able to deny it as well. Since my research is solid, our goal for Hoang Sa should be reached.

We should always reiterate to the world that China used force on Hoang Sa in 1974 and portions of Truong Sa in 1988 in illegal occupations that went against the United Nations Charter and Sea Law.

We should stand united to protect Truong Sa and someday re-establish sovereignty over Hoang Sa Archipelago as well.

The struggle to reclaim Hoang Sa for Viet Nam and protect the Truong Sa islands will be long and hard, but we will surely succeed. Our country was ruled by the northern feudal dynasties for a thousand years, but we seized independence when we had the opportunity.

What is your most important goal?

My aspiration is to raise awareness of my Hoang Sa - Truong Sa research among everyone, especially young people, so that all will know more about the protection of territorial sovereignty that generations of our ancestors fought for.

I established the Hoang Sa – Truong Sa Library at my home to give people who want to study the issue access to documents. I am ready to help students and researchers who wish to study this issue.


Provide by Vietnam Travel

Historian claims islands for Vietnam - Interviews - In depth |  vietnam travel company

You can see more

enews & updates

Sign up to receive breaking news as well as receive other site updates!

Ads by Adonline