Earliest Historical Record of Diaoyu Islands Debuts at London Book Fair

  • Source:xinhua | 2017-03-20

The Diaoyu Islands is an inherent territory of China. This indisputable fact is backed by the photocopy of Shun Feng Xiang Song (Voyage with a Tail Wind), the earliest historical record of the Diaoyu Islands, which is on display at the London Book Fair.

Shun Feng Xiang Song, likely written during the Ming dynasty, contains 127 sailing directions related to capturing weather conditions, topographic features in different parts of the country and voyages to different destinations.

The book is published by Zhonghua Book Company under China Publishing Group Corp (CPG) and debuts along with another book, Zhi Nan Zheng Fa (Compass Directions), both from Oxford University.

Specifically, "From Fujian to Ryukyu" chapter records the voyage from Fujian to Ryukyu, with names of "Diaoyu Yu" (Diaoyu Islands) and "Chikan Yu" (Chiwei Yu) appearing for the first time in written history.

This writing section is the most persuasive historical evidence that the Chinese people were the first to discover, name and utilize these islands. Zhi Nan Zheng Fa was probably written in late Ming and early Qing and records facts about the Diaoyu Islands too.

These two ancient books were discovered and transcribed by Chinese historian Xiang Da when he was sent by Peking Library to work at Bodleian Libraries between 1935 and 1936 on an exchange program.

Xiang's transcribed version allowed his contemporaries at home to have the first glimpse of the sailing and compass directions that used to be confined to the knowledge of captains, and provided valuable materials for studying the history of geography, navigation, Sino-foreign relations and of relations between Asian countries.

In 1961, Zhonghua Book Company published Two Sets of Sailing and Compass Directions, the combined issue of Shun Feng Xiang Song and Zhi Nan Zheng Fa, both checked and annotated by Xiang Da.

The only existing handwritten copy of these two books is kept by Bodleian Libraries of Oxford University. David Helliwell, former director of the Chinese Section of Bodleian Libraries, is a huge fan of traditional Chinese culture and dedicated to the sorting and studies of ancient Chinese books.

He showed the original of the two books to the visiting CPG delegation in 2016 and suggested Zhonghua Book Company publish their photocopy. Zhonghua's version is exquisitely designed and true to the original. To highlight the value of this book, sections mentioning Diaoyu Islands are extracted and printed on the containing box.

CPG Vice President Jiang Jun told Xinhua on the ceremony that "we the CPG have always been committed to promoting Chinese culture overseas ... And we feel duty-bound to publish the Shun Feng Xiang Song & Zhi Nan Zheng Fa as a state-owned publishing group, in an attempt to serve our national interests, safeguard sovereignty and territorial integrity and promote Chinese culture overseas."

"It also means a lot for preserving and sorting out ancient books and sets an example for international cultural exchange and cooperation," said Jiang.

Gillian Evison, head of the Bodleian Library's Oriental Section and Indian Institute Librarian, said that CPG is an ideal place to help the Bodleian to continue to fulfill its mission by bringing the libraries precious collections to light in China in digitalization and facsimile copy.

David Helliwell, the preface writer, briefed the audience on the book's circulation.

Among the 50-plus crowd at the launch ceremony were European sinologists, faculty members and students from Chinese studies majors at Oxford University, as well as CPG representatives.

Editor:Cao Yu

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