National sovereignty and territorial integrity are always sacred matters for every single country around the word.
Although there are ups and downs, waxes and wanes in our struggle to construct and safeguard the country, it has helped to forge the traditional indomitable fighting spirit of Vietnamese people to preserve the sovereignty and territorial integrity in land, sea and air. This has been affirmed in the Declarations of Independence such as: Nam Quốc Sơn Hà (Early Lê and Lý dynasties), Bình Ngô đại cáo (Later Lê dynasty), Vietnam’s declaration of independence in 1945 and in the Constitutions of Vietnam in 1946, 1959, 1980, 1992…
Perhaps not many Vietnamese people fully understand the historical origins, geographical location as well as Vietnam’s establishment and possession of sovereignty over Hoang Sa and Truong sa archipelagos. However, when it comes to Hoang Sa and Truong Sa, not even one Vietnamese citizen, whether living in Vietnam or residing abroad, whether Kinh or ethnic minorities, from lowland or highland, does not know that they are inseparable part of Vietnamese territory. For a long time, Hoang Sa and Truong Sa have been possessed, protected, managed and exploited by the State and generations of Vietnamese people. This fact has not only been documented in Vietnamese ancient history but has also been internationally recognized in currently stored documents. For more than a century, domestic and international scientists have shown a lot of interest in conducting researches and have published many collections of work and scientific researches including bibliography, books, and ancient maps with great validity that proves and affirms Vietnam’s sovereignty over Hoang Sa and Truong Sa.
The book “Vietnam’s sovereignty over the Hoang Sa and Truong Sa archipelagos in domestic and international documents” by Truong Minh Duc, published by Information and Communication Publishing House in 2014. This book collects and systematizes a rich source of bibliographies and documentation including both ancient and modern as well as domestic and international documents. Especially there are documents newly collected from some localities in Vietnam which demonstrate the State, over the course of history, has managed, protected and exploited Hoang Sa and Truong Sa archipelagos.
The book will provide readers historical and legal basis of Vietnam’s Sovereignty over Hoang Sa and Truong Sa archipelagos. The book is outlined in 4 chapters.
Chapter 1: “Some geographical features of Hoang Sa and Truong Sa, and Vietnamese tribes’ access to these archipelagos before the 15th century”. This chapter introduces the geographic location, natural and soil features in Hoang Sa and Truong Sa archipelagos. This chapter also presents the strategic position of two archipelagos, and the relation between Vietnamese tribes and the East Sea in general, and Hoang Sa and Truong Sa archipelagos in particular before the 15th century.
Chapter 2: “Vietnam’s sovereignty over Hoàng Sa and Trường Sa archipelagos in domestic documentation (from Later Lê dynasty - the 15th century to 1975)”. The chapter provides readers a number of valuable historical documents that affirm Vietnam’s sovereignty over Hoang Sa and Truong Sa archipelagos including ancient books, maps, bibliographies throughout the Vietnamese feudal dynasties.
Beside the writings of contemporary scholars about history and geography of the country that depict natural geography of Hoang Sa and Truong Sa as well as the exploitation of those archipelagos by generations of Vietnamese people, official historical documents of feudal state has also described the continuous process of sovereignty enforcement (Including exploitation and management). Ancient bibliographies of Vietnamese feudal dynasties such as: Lê - Trịnh (1533-1788), Lord Nguyễn (1558-1774), Tây Sơn (1788-1802) and Nguyễn dynasties (1802-1945) provide a lot of documentation of Hoang Sa and Truong Sa and the establishment, enforcement, and protection of Vietnam’s sovereignty over Hoang Sa and Truong Sa in different historical periods.
Perhaps there are some representative works, such as Toản tập Thiên Nam tứ chí lộ đồ thư which was collected, edited and compiled in 1686 under King Chính Hòa’s reign (1680-1705) by Đỗ Bá, alias Công Đạo under Lord Trịnh Căn’s guidance; Đại Việt sử ký tục biên (alias Hậu Lê thời sự kỷ lược) was compiled in 1775 under Lord Trịnh Sâm’s order; Đại Nam thực lục was a formal historical book of Nguyen Kings by historical writers in Quốc Sử quán (the national historical institute) under order from the court. This book, therefore, has official legitimacy and voice of Vietnamese feudal dynasties in modern time; Đại Nam nhất thống chí is an accredited geographical book of Nguyễn dynasty which was compiled from 1865 to 1910 by Quốc Sử quán and publised in the reign of King Duy Tan, so it was called Gesographie de Duy Tân by French contemporary researches. Especially, this book expressed all Nguyen dynasty’s border sovereignty (both in land and sea). Besides, there are a number of famous works such as: Khâm định Đại Nam hội điển sự lệ; Khải đồng thuyết ước, Quốc triều chính biên toát yếu and Vietnam’s map which was noted about Hoàng Sa archipelago and some researches and descriptions of Lê Quý Đôn, Lê Đản, Phan Huy Chú…
The process of sovereignty enforcement over Hoàng Sa and Trường Sa archipelagos from 1884 to 1975 continued to be showed clearly under King Bảo Đại’s reign: In 1938, King Bảo Đại issued the imperial decree number 10 on 29th February in the 13th year Bảo Đại (10/3/1938) to separate Hoàng Sa archipelago from Nam Ngãi province and then merge into Thừa Thiên province. Some other official documents of King Bảo Đại proceeded with the declaration in the San Francisco Conference 1951 affirmed the process of sovereignty enforcement over Hoàng Sa of Viet Nam… Beside state documents, system of historical and cultural relics in Lý Sơn island confirmed that Vietnam enforced its sovereignty over Hoàng Sa and Trường Sa archipelagos very early and consecutively until now.
Chapter 3: “International documentation both directly and indirectly affirms Vietnam’s sovereignty over Hoàng Sa and Trường Sa archipelagos”, including: Chinese documents and bibliographies which support either directly or indirectly that Hoàng Sa and Trường Sa belong to Vietnam; Western documents which recognize Vietnam’s sovereignty over Hoàng Sa and Trường Sa; and some reviews and comments.
According to Chinese official history, over the course of 22 century history, from Tần dynasty (221 B.C), when the Emperor Tần Thủy Hoàng unified China to 1949 when People’s Republic of China was established, there is absolutely no document or any wording implying that the East Sea (China calls South China Sea) including Hoàng Sa and Trường Sa archipelagos belong to China. Meanwhile, there are many Chinese ancient books and bibliographies recorded by Chinese people that acknowledge either directly or indirectly Vietnam’s sovereignty over these archipelagos. For example, Hải ngoại kỷ sự (1965) by Thích Đại Sán – a Chinese monk during Khang Hy’s reign; both Hải Lục in Hải Quốc đồ ký series by Vương Bỉnh Nam (1820-1842) and Đại Thanh nhất thống chí compiled in 1842 by Thanh dynasty’s National historiographer’s office with the foreword written by the Emperor Thanh Tuyên Tông don’t quote any statement that Trường Sa and Hoàng Sa archipelagos belong to China.
Whereas, a lot of Western documents prove that more than five centuries ago, Vietnam has established its sovereignty over Hoàng Sa and Trường Sa archipelagos. This was also acknowledged by Western navigators, geographical discoverers and cartographers and hence was noted on their geographical and marine maps. These are valuable documents contributing to confirm Vietnam’s undisputed sovereignty over Hoàng Sa and Trường Sa.
Chapter 4: “Struggle to assert and protect Vietnam’s sovereignty over Hoang Sa and Truong Sa archipelagos since reunification”. Chapter 4 briefly presents the process in which China and other countries violated Vietnam’s sovereignty over Hoàng Sa and Trường Sa archipelagos and how Vietnam struggled to assert and protect sovereignty over these archipelagos since 1975 until now.
Beside the main contents presented in the 4 above-mentioned chapters, the book also boasts a rich appendix with some ancient maps of Vietnam, China and Western countries, which contain evidence directly and indirectly asserting Vietnam’s sovereignty over Hoang Sa and Trường Sa from 1884 to 1975.
Western and Eastern history from the past to present has shown that sovereignty is a sacred matter for every single country. Thus, the development process of each nation has shaped the national awareness of country sovereignty and protection of its sacred sovereignty. The historical evidence which have been publicized are the historical and legal foundation affirming Vietnam’s sovereign over Hoàng Sa and Trường Sa archipelagos. Vietnamese State has definitely owned these archipelagos the latest since the early of 17th century when no other country declares their ownership. Vietnam’s possession and sovereignty enforcement over these archipelagos are actual, continuous and peaceful.
The maritime sovereignty in general and sovereignty over Hoàng Sa and Trường Sa archipelagos in particular is a huge and complicated issue. The documents that are systemized and published in this book are the foundation for further researches, thereby playing a part in completing legal record by administrative office and scientific research organizations in the struggle to protect and assert Vietnam’s sovereignty over Hoàng Sa and Trường Sa archipelagos./.
Translator: Hong Ha
Proofreader: Assoc. Prof,Dr. Truong Ho Hai