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Backgrounder: South China Sea islands first discovered, named by Chinese people

(Xinhua)    18:06, April 21, 2016

BEIJING, April 21 -- Chinese people first discovered and named the South China Sea islands, and successive Chinese governments exercised sovereignty and jurisdiction over the islands.

Following is a summary of written history regarding Chinese people's navigation and fishing activities in the South China Sea, and historical evidence that the region has long been part of China.

Documents from the Qin Dynasty (221-207 BC) wrote about sailing and fishing activities of its people in the region.

In the "Book of the Han," Han Dynasty historian Ban Gu (AD 32-92) wrote that Emperor Wu sent envoys to Southeast Asian countries, who traveled to their destinations via sea and their routes of course involved the South China Sea.

Ancient Chinese fishermen and seafarers gave names to various islands in the South China Sea based on their prominent landscape features. Such names include Shanhuzhou (coral reef) and Ruluozhou (conch-shaped reef).

With navigation activities becoming more frequent in the South China Sea, Chinese people of later dynasties had better knowledge of the region and during the Song Dynasty (AD 960-1279) they referred to islands in the South China Sea generally as qianli changsha, wanli shitang, wanli changsha, meaning sandbanks and reefs that stretches thousands of miles. And these general names were also adopted by people from today's Thailand and Vietnam in their travels to China, according to history records.

In the past few centuries, Chinese governments further exercised effective control of the islands in the South China Sea.

In 1909, a naval commander of the Qing Dynasty (AD 1644-1911) named Li Zhun led a 170-strong contingent to the Xisha Islands to map the region. They surveyed and named 15 islands there, and announced those names publicly.

Between 1934 and 1948, the Chinese government for three times published island names and issued updated maps of the South China Sea.

In April 1983, the Chinese government published a list of 287 standard names for some of the Chinese islands and reefs in the South China Sea.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Editor:Yuan Can,Bianji)

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