Title: Here Comes the False History Again! Debunking the Fallacy That "China Discovered South China Sea Islands Two Thousand Years Ago"
Author: Ishiwi Nozomu  (Associate Professor of Nagasaki Junshin Catholic University)
Media: Taiwan People News  http://www.peoplenews.tw/news/e226b0f0-698c-48c7-b914-17da65230fe4
Time: 2015-12-22   12:25 p. m.
Japanese translation :  http://senkaku.blog.jp/2016040257697412.html

As the 2016 presidential election fast approaches, people have become more concerned about how Ms. Tsai Ing-Wen, once elected, will decide on the issue of the South China Sea. First, let's take a look at the claim made constantly by the chairman Xi Jinping that China has been ruling the South China Sea since the ancient time. How far back in the history should this "ancient time" be traced?

In June 2014, a general of the People's Liberation Army proclaimed at an international conference that China's sovereignty over the South China Sea could be traced back to two thousand years ago.  A journalist of the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper then asked me: what was the historical basis for such a wild claim?  I replied that I had not verified the claim, but I was confident that the claim was bogus—whenever China wants to promote itself as glorious culture and history, they make bogus claims. On August 6th this year when Wang Yi, the Foreign Minister of China, attended a conference of foreign ministers in Southeastern Asia, he once again claimed, "China discovered and named the South China Sea islands two thousand years ago. Even as China's right has been threatened in recent years, the country has exerted a lot of restraint."

Later on, the American aircraft carrier patrolled the South China Sea. When interviewed by the CNN, Cui Tiankai, the Chinese Ambassador to the United States, mocked the U.S. by showing off China's long history, "America didn't even exist back then." That statement rendered the CNN reporter speechless.

After Wang Yi's claim, I looked up the website of China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and found that the reference of "two thousand years" was originated from the mentioning of Chokai-Kitou (Mdr. Zhanghai-Qitou *)—that is, the reef in the South China Sea—in the Ibutsu-shi (Mdr. Yiwu-zhi —"Ibutsu" refers to foreign culture or foreigners) by Youfu (Mdr. Yangfu) in Eastern Kan (Mdr. Han) Empire. However, according to the research conducted by professors such as Jao Tsung-I, Chen Jia-Rong, and Wu Yong-Zhang, the quote was not originated from the Ibutsu-shi in Eastern Kan Empire, but rather in the lost Nanshu Ibutsushi (Mdr. Nanzhou Yiwuzhi—"Nanshu" refers to south area) by Banshin (Mdr. Wanzhen) in the Go (Mdr. Wu) Kingdom during Three Kingdoms period. The Three Kingdoms period occurred two hundred years later than the Eastern Kan Empire.
  * Mdr. : Chinese Mandarin pronounciation. The left one is based on Sino-Japanese one.

The Ibutsushi by Youfu in Eastern Kan Empire has been lost. Could it be possible that the quote in the Ibutsushi by Youfu is the same as the one in the Nanshu Ibutsushi (Mdr. Nanzhou Yiwuzhi)? So far, there has been no evidence to prove that the two quotes are the same. Thus, any prudent historian should not casually move up the timeframe by two hundred years.

Seitou-douzou (Mdr. Zhengtong-daozang), Book 582, Sutra Shintan-kei (Mdr. Shendan-jing), Page 8, a screen shot from the Chinese Text Project.

Yet, the timeframe is not critical. The key is that the context of the quote completely rejects China's claim that "Chinese discovered and named the South China Sea islands."

Even though the Nanshu Ibutsushi by Banshin also has been lost, the context of the quote has been recorded in the ancient sutra of Shintan-kei (Mdr. Shendan-jing) and Taihei-gyoran (Mdr. Taiping-yulan). Professor Jao and professor Chen have reconstructed roughly the original text to read as follows:


This paragraph can be summarized as follows. Cargo ships sailed from the two countries of Kuchi (Mdr. Juzhi) and Tenson (Mdr. Dianxun) west of the Malay Peninsula, passed the Malacca Strait, and reached Chokai (Mdr. Zhang Hai), roughly where today's South China Sea is. In Chokai (Mdr. Zhang Hai), the ocean was shallow and full of reefs. Because these foreign vessels were ironclad and they sank deep into the water, they could not pass through the area and had to dock on the west coast of the Malay Peninsula. Once the cargoes were traded, the ships returned westward. (Please see the thesis of professor Jao and professor Chen for specific verifications.)

The message from this paragraph points to the fact that foreign ironclad ships already tried to enter the South China Sea in the ancient time and encountered a lot of reefs. As ironclad ships were advanced inventions, they were most likely owned by large empires such as the Persian Empire, the Ancient Greece, or the Roman Empire. Two well-known ironclad vessels that belonged to the Roman tyrant, Caligula, were believed to have sunk to the bottom of the Lake Nemi at the outskirts of Rome. The efforts to recover the sunk vessels continued for five hundred years since the medieval times. In 1931, as ordered by Italy's prime minister Mussolini, the sunk vessels were finally lifted from the bottom of the lake and placed in the museum. These vessels were again embroiled in wars later and burned.

Taihei-gyoran (Mdr. Taiping-yulan), Volume 790, Entry on Kuchi (Mdr. Juzhi). Hou Sujou(Mdr. Bao Chong Cheng) edition, the 23rd year of the rein of the Kakei (Mdr. Jiaqing) Emperor, a screenshot from the web site of the Japanese National Diet Library.

As for China, there has been no record in ancient history of any large ironclad vessels. Since the Nanshu Ibutsushi (Mdr. Nanzhou Yiwuzhi) referenced "large foreign vessels were ironclad," the premise was that there were no domestic ironclad vessels in China at the time. This reference was originated from the geographical information about the South China Sea that was brought about by the foreigners from faraway places. Who first discovered the South China Sea? The credit should naturally be attributed to people in advanced western civilizations, contrary to the claim made by the Chinese government.

It is brazen for the Chinese government to claim this historical reference as iron proof that the Eastern Kan (Mdr. Han) Empire discovered the South China Sea islands, and to even blatantly tout their victimhood and the restraint they exerted in front of all the foreign dignitaries. Neither Japan nor the U.S. rebutted, possibly because they had not examined these fabricated historical details. Fortunately, even though the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of China has arbitrarily drawn the "11-dash line," it has not been so brazen as to boast of the claim. This historical reference to large ironclad vessels could provide the future president Tsai Ing-Wen with some wiggle room.

Scholars in Taiwan are well trained in Sinology, which is unmatched by us. Now is a perfect time for these professors to accomplish a great deal, debunk lies, and contribute to the peace of the East Asia. Yet, the president Ma Ying-Jeou proposed a slogan of "Joint Development" in the "South China Sea Initiative." Recently, he also met with the president Xi Jinping in person, which really treated China with undeserved respect and would only create an impression that Taiwan echoes China's plan to claim sovereignty over the South China Sea.

China's sovereignty claim to the Senkakus (or Chogyo-dai, Mdr. Diaoyu-tai) in the East China Sea is also based on a fabricated historical reference. The marine navigation manual, "Sailing Downwind"(Junpu sousou, Mdr. Shunfeng xaingsong), which was claimed to be written in 1403 was actually written after 1573 and, therefore, was not the earliest historical reference. In 1461, the "Min (Mdr. Ming) Empire Unification Record"(Daimin ittoushi, Mdr. Daming yitongzhi) described that the empire's border was along the continental coastline and thus was far away from the Senkakus. The earliest among other literature, "Ryukyu Mission Chronicle"(Shi Ryukyu roku, Mdr. ShiLiuqiu lu), recorded in 1534 that the appointed envoy, Chin Kan (Mdr. Chen Kan), was escorted by the Ryukyuans when navigating through the sea of the Chogyo-sho Islands (or Senkakus, Mdr. Diaoyu-yu). In 1683, the boundary of Chugai (Mdr. Zhongwai —intermal and external) was not the boundary separating China from the other countries, but rather the internal and external border of the Ryukyu. The local records in Taiwan later noted “Chogyo-dai (Mdr. Diaoyu-tai) behind the mountain", which actually referred to a different Chogyo-dai (Mdr. Diaoyu-tai). These examples have demonstrated that historical truths can be easily uncovered through detailed verifications.

For several years now, it's been clear that China has been plotting to break the first island chain and to dominate the west Pacific region.  The first island chain spans Japan, the Ryukyu islands, Taiwan, Philippines, Malaysia, and Vietnam. There have been many signals of an increasing concern by Japan and the U.S. over a possible breach of the island chain at Taiwan. I believe, if Taiwan makes it clear that Taiwan is a member of the camp that guards the island chain and fights against the hegemony, it will benefit the island chain immensely. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Taiwan could well use this as a bargaining chip to exchange for an elevated international status, and could even request Japan and the U.S. to recognize its independence. Without this bargaining chip, the U.S. may not necessarily cater to Taiwan's needs, either.

If the government of Taiwan colludes with the People's Republic of China to fabricate histories and eventually the People's Liberation Army successfully occupies the Senkakus, will that outcome benefit or hurt Taiwan? By that time, if China would also have successfully obtained sovereignty over the South China Sea, they will further encroach upon Taiwan by occupying three quarters of the surrounding waters of Taiwan. Taiwan's days will most certainly be numbered. Unarguably, this outcome will hurt and not benefit Taiwan. For Japan and the U.S., any gap near the Senkakus will cause seismic change in the global balance of power and an immediate collapse of the peace in the East Asia. Are Taiwanese really going to choose to surrender to the power of dictatorship?

P.S. The statement made by China's ambassador to the U.S., Cui Tiankai, that "America didn't even exist back then" has truly shown his arrogance and lack in introspection. When the U.S. announced the "Declaration of Independence" in 1776, where was the People's Republic of China? Looking at the culture alone, the U.S. has inherited the profound traditions of the native Americans, Greeks, Romans, and Europians. The tradition of Greeks can be traced further back to the Egyptian and Babylonian cultures which have an far longer history than our Kan (Mdr. Han) civilization. When the cuneiform characters were invented, the Kanji (Mdr. Hanzi) characters did not even exist.

The Caligula's ancient vessel from the bottom of the Lake Nemi near Rome (copied drawing), a screenshot from the Wikipedia, the copyright has been disclosed.