A FACSIMILE edition of two manuscripts that are believed to be the earliest-known historical references to China’s Diaoyu Islands was unveiled at the University of Oxford on Thursday as part of this year’s London Book Fair.
China Publishing Group presented the copy of the manuscripts to a group of European Sinologists at Oxford’s Bodleian Library.
The Diaoyu Islands are an uninhabited group of islands in the East China Sea.
The two ancient books, “Shun Feng Xiang Song” (“Voyage With a Tail Wind”), and “Zhi Nan Zheng Fa” (“Compass Directions”), are believed to be the world’s last existing copies that offer concrete proof of China’s sovereignty over the islands. Both original books are kept at Bodleian Library.
David Helliwell, curator of the Chinese Collection at the Bodleian, said: “These two manuscripts are important because they are the only two surviving manuscripts of the books of this kind. ... This is the first time that Diaoyu is mentioned in any Chinese texts, according to what we know.”
The manuscripts are known as rutters, which are charts of compass bearings of sea routes and directions.
“These books must be common, because we know that Chinese merchants were going to all parts of the world in the late Ming Dynasty (1368-1644),” said Helliwell.
Both books record facts about the Diaoyu Islands, written among a list of place names and a list of routes in the charts.
“Diaoyu, these little islands, represent a turning point in that voyage, and they are used as markers from which to take compass bearings,” Helliwell said.
The publication of the facsimile edition is the result of a chance visit last year to the Bodleian Library by Wang Jun, department head of Zhonghua Book Co., which is owned by China Publishing Group. Wang got to know and respect Helliwell.
“Helliwell talked to us and, after a testlike little chat, invited us into the Bodleian’s internal library,” Wang said. (Xinhua)