World atlas affirms Vietnam’s sovereignty over Hoang Sa

Posted at: MONday - 08/09/2014 10:47 - post name: Nguyễn Thị Thùy

World atlas affirms Vietnam’s sovereignty over Hoang Sa

The French National Library (Francois-Mitterrand) in District 13, Paris in one of the first places where Vietnamese researchers discovered Philippe Vandemaelen’s world atlas affirming Vietnam’s sovereignty over the Hoang Sa (Paracels) archipelago.

 The world atlas

The French National Library was founded in 1368 now has 13 million books, 250,000 manuscripts, 350,000 newspapers and magazines, and 12 million other documents written in different languages. Among them is the ancient Bible, the first metal print book made in 1377, and a world atlas created by outstanding Belgian geographer and cartographer Philippe Vandemaelen in 1827. the atlas clearly indicates that the Hoang Sa (Paracel) and Truong Sa (Spratly) archipelagos belong to the Empire of An Nam. It means that for over 187 years, world geographers have been aware of Vietnam’s sovereignty over the two archipelagos. The atlas is also a reliable evidence for Vietnam to protect its territorial integrity over the sea and island.

At that time, in order to use the state-of-the-art lithography, Philippe Vandemaelen had to move thousands of blocks of stones from Germane to Belgium to complete the atlas.

Based on the best maps in the world, Philippe Vandemaelen’s atlas was drawn coherently in the 1/1,641,836 ratio, and boasts 53.5x37cm maps, which can combine to build a 7.755m-in-diameter generic globe. It was competed in 1827 and soon became well-known.

The atlas consists of seven generic maps of the five continents, 381 conically projected maps, 40 pages of statistical tables, and information on geography, politics, and mineral reserves in six volumes. Among them, Asian countries are described in 111 maps of volume two, while islands and archipelagos are mostly featured in volume six. The Empire of An Nam (Empire d'Annam) was described in map number 97 (Tonquin) featuring Northern localities, map number 105 (Partie de Camboge) featuring the Central mainland, and map number 106 (Partie de la Cochinchine) featuring the Central coast, sea and islands.

The Great An Nam Map (An Nam Dai Quoc Hoa Do) by Bishop Jean Louis Taberd of France (1938) also provided precious information to affirm Vietnam’s sovereignty over the Hoang Sa and Truong Sa archipelagos. In The map, Bishop Jean Louis Taberd marked the Hoang Sa island with eight dots, symbolising the coral islands. In addition, he had an article proving the Empire of An Nam’s sovereignty over the coral islands.

In both theory and practice, Phillippe Vandermaelen’s atlas is of great value, which accurate position of the Hoang Sa (Paracel) archipelago, which he said belong to the Cochinchine (Dang Trong or Southern region of Vietnam) and is an inseparable part of Vietnam. In the maps, he also accurately described coastal island in the Central region including the Canton ou Cachitam (Ly Son island), Cham Collac ou (Cham island), and the Hoang Sa (Paracels) in the East Sea.

Map number 98, called “Partie de la Chine,” which features China’s Guangdong Province and Hainan Island, proves that China’s southernmost frontier did not reach Latitude 18. Hoang Sa is also described precisely from Latitudes 16 to 17 and from Meridians 109 to 111. In the map, the Hoang Sa includes Pattles and Duncan island in the west; Tree, Lihncon, Rocher au desus de leau in the East and Triton island in the Southwest, under Latitude 16.

According to researchers, Philippe Vandemaelen’s atlas is now a popular document used in library, research institutes, universities in Europe, Asia, and America.

In April, 2014, Prof. Ta Quang Ngoc visited the French National Library where he found the valuable atlas, which has not been used for 187 years. He has also studied various world atlases in Belgium and America.

Phillippe Vandermaelen was born in a rich family. His father was a medical doctor who owns a big soap factory. However, Phillippe Vandermaelen did not like medical science and soap manufacture. He had a great passion for cartography. Two years after completing his atlas, he became a member of the Royal Academy of Sciences. He founded the Brussels Royal Geography Institute in 1930. In 1936, he was granted the Lesopold medal of the Belgian Royalty.

According to researchers, Phillippe Vandermaelen’s atlas is of great value which affirm Vietnam’s indisputable sovereignty over the Hoang Sa and Truong Sa archipelagos.


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