Artifacts offer ancient proof on Diaoyu Islands

Updated: 2012-09-25 07:50

By Qin Zhongwei (China Daily)

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Museum exhibit provides evidence of China's sovereignty over islands

As the atmosphere between China and Japan remained tense over sovereignty of the Diaoyu Islands, an exhibition opened in Beijing on Monday that provides more solid evidence proving that the islands belong to China.

Two valuable items - a handwritten journal and a map from the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), which both have great historical value and offer clear evidence of China's sovereignty over the islands - are being displayed for the first time at Poly Art Museum.

The exhibition is free to the public.

The handwritten journal, entitled Ji Shi Zhu, recorded the journey of two envoys who were dispatched by the Qing emperor to visit the Ryukyu Kingdom in 1808. It said they first saw the islands on their journey before they crossed the Ryukyu maritime boundary after spending another day at sea.

The Ryukyu Kingdom was a Chinese vassal state during the Ming and Qing dynasties until Japan formally annexed Ryukyu in 1879 and renamed it Okinawa, according to Huang Runhua, a librarian at the National Library of China.

"It clearly recorded that the Diaoyu Islands did not belong to Ryukyu or Japan at that time. It (the journal) was written nearly 80 years earlier than the first time the Japanese government claimed that they owned the islands in 1884," Liu Jinku, a specialist on ancient calligraphy and painting at Tianjin Academy of Fine Arts, said.

The handwritten journal has been verified as genuine by Chinese experts and historians. It was once sold for more than 10 million yuan ($1.59 million) at auction in 2010, added Liu.

The map, which was compiled before 1800 by Zhuang Tingfu, a coastal defense officer in the Qing Dynasty, clearly marked the islands within the Chinese maritime boundary, "which adds new solid evidence to prove our sovereignty", he said.

The Japanese government's "purchase" of the islands in the East China Sea earlier this month has provoked firm opposition from both the government and civic society in China.

The National Library of China also presented several other pieces of historical evidence after the "purchase", including an atlas compiled by General Hu Zongxian and geographer Zheng Ruozeng, which proved that the islands were part of China's coastal defenses as early as 1562, marking the earliest record of China's formal jurisdiction over them.

In mid-September, China's State Oceanic Administration also published a pamphlet - including ancient documents and maps - that proves the islands were first found, named and administrated by China.

He Xingyuan, an art lover who went to see the exhibition at the museum, has been paying attention to the handwritten journal since it first appeared at an auction in 2010.

He used to appreciate it as an excellent calligraphic work, and said he was visiting the exhibition to learn more about its historical value.

"I am more convinced from the journal that the islands are part of China, which is a fact that no one can deny," he said.

Xinhua contributed to this story.

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