VietNam Bridge – Prior to 1909, Hoang Sa (Paracel) and Truong Sa (Spratly) archipelagoes were administrative units of the Nguyen Dynasty, and were strictly organized and managed by the central government.
Soldiers of the Nguyen Dynasty.
With a strategic vision, the Nguyen Emperors decided that Hoang Sa and Truong Sa were important positions while several Chinese and Western traders called Hoang Sa "full of evil" and a "sad" area.
Fortunately, undergoing several devastating wars, Vietnam still retains important documents related to Hoang Sa and Truong Sa. In particular, in addition to official historical books, Vietnam has preserved many “chau ban” or official documents of feudal governments that show the management and sovereignty of Vietnamese royal courts over Hoang Sa and Truong Sa centuries ago.
In 1830, or the 11th year of the Minh Mang Dynasty, a French merchant ship encountered a storm in the Hoang Sa Islands. The mandarin who was in charge of managing the Da Nang Seaport – Mr. Nguyen Van Ngu – submitted a report to the Emperor Minh Mang about the incident.
The report read: "I’m Nguyen Van Ngu, who is in charge of guarding the Da Nang Estuary. I would like to report to Your Highness Majesty an incident as follows: on the 20th day of this month, the owner of the French merchant ship, his assistance and Vietnamese envoy Le Quang Quynh sailed to Lu Tong (ie the Philippines) for trading. This has been reported to Your Highness Majesty. On the 27th day of this month, we found the assistant and 11 sailors on a small boat at the estuary. They said that their boat went aground west of Hoang Sa. Their boat was flooded with more than eight feet of water.. I immediately instructed a patrol boat at the estuary to carry fresh water to Hoang Sa to search for the ship in distress. They then found the French vessel with its owner, the Vietnamese envoy and 15 sailors. All of them and their properties in the ship were transported safely to the estuary."
This document was sealed by the Da Nang Seaport guard mandarin.
At the order of the Nguyen emperors, all provinces had to provide ships, sailors or necessary facilities to the journeys to Hoang Sy annually. On July 11, the 18th year of the Minh Mang Dynasty (1837), the Ministry of Finance asked the Emperor’s permission to take five days to study and examine provinces’ contribution to the survey trip to Hoang Sa that year.
The Ministry of Finance then submitted a report to the Emperor, with the following paragraph: "The Ministry of Finance would like to report to Your Highness Majesty that: The province of Quang Ngai reported that they obeyed the royal court’s order to hire laborers to Hoang Sa to do public works. They now ask to be paid for this".
The report was considered and approved by King Minh Mang, as follows: “I know! Let’s do it!".
Emperor Minh Mang saw Hoang Sa as a very important area so he always kept an eye on every activity related to this area. All official reports on Hoang Sa were considered and marked by himself.
Beginning in 1836, the exploration trips to Hoang Sa became annual events. The Emperor wrote clearly that the exploration trip to Hoang Sa had to be organized every January.
However, in 1838 due to bad weather, the trip was canceled until April. The report on this incident was written as follows: "The survey trip to Hoang Sa was scheduled in the last week of March but due to the inconvenient wind direction and the flow, the trip could not be held until the last week of April. We report the case to Your Highness Majesty based on the truth. "
Although the survey trip took place late, the trip result was still reported to the King. The report by the Ministry of Construction dated June 21 wrote: “We asked relevant officers about the survey trip and they reported that during this trip they visited 25 islands in the third region. But according to the guide Vu Van Hung, the Hoang Sa area includes four regions and this time we survey the third region. There is the region in the south, which is quite far from other regions, not being surveyed this time because of strong winds. This region will be surveyed the next year. We also receive four maps from the survey ships, including three maps of each region and one of the entire four regions along with an unchecked diary. We will carefully check the maps and the diary before submitting them to Your Highness Majesty”.
“According to these people, during the survey trip, they collected one cannon, red coral stones, birds and sea turtles to submit to the court. We would like to make this report to you".
Another ancient royal document which is evidence for the Vietnamese feudal government over Hoang Sa is the report asking the Emperor’s forgiveness for a mandarin.
A mandarin named Truong Viet Soai was sent to Hoang Sa several times but he did not fulfill his tasks well. He was sentenced to be beheaded but the verdict would not be conducted until the autumn.
Below is the report by the Ministry of Construction on the case: “Admiral Pham Van Bien, guides Vu Van Hang and Pham Van Senh, and boat driver Luu Duc Truc were sent to Hoang Sa by the royal court and provincial authorities but they returned very late. These people were reprimanded and given a hiding… This time, except for Pham Van Bien who deserves reprimanding, other people would be rewarded. However, the rewards are decided by Your Highness Majesty. There is the case of Truong Viet Soai. He was previously charged with the army-related crime so he was sent to Hoang Sa. Last year, he was sent to Hoang Sa again. Upon his return, he did not take home a map of Hoang Sa as requested. Under the rules, his verdict of being beheaded was maintained. We would like to report and wait for the decision ….”
King Minh Mang commuted the sentence, writing: “Let him be a soldier and be sent to Hoang Sa again”.
The above documents, written by administrative agencies and remarked on by Nguyen emperors are clear evidence for Vietnam’s management and sovereignty over the two archipelagos of Hoang Sa and Truong Sa at that time. These are historical proofs that nobody can deny or counterfeit.
To be continued…