Old Map of the Philippines in year 1628 showing the Reed Bank (an area just East of the Spratly islands) as part of the Philippines.

Ancient Maps spark debate between China and Philippines over South China Sea islands

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The Chinese government claims ninety percent of the South China Sea, including the Spratly Islands, an archipelago of 750 islands and reefs nearer the Philippines. However, a series of ancient maps have drawn this claim into question. The government of the Philippines says Beijing is overreaching in claiming territory so far south of the island of Hainan, which historical maps show to be southernmost China, far north of the Spratly archipelago.

The Nine Dash Line in the Wikimedia Commons map below shows how much of the South China Sea China claims for itself.

A Filipino judge examined maps going back hundreds of years and said the southernmost China limit  historically was the island of Hainan, which is at the top of this map (above) far to the northwest.

A Filipino judge examined maps going back hundreds of years and said the southernmost China limit  historically was the island of Hainan, which is at the top of this map (above) far to the northwest. The bottom of China’s Nine Dash Line extends almost to Malaysia, 1,200 miles (1,931 km) south.

One map in particular, from 1136 A.D., that was engraved in stone clearly shows Hainan as the southern limit of China.

Rubbing of an 1136 A.D. map engraved in stone showing Hainan (at the bottom of the map) as the southern limit of China

Rubbing of an 1136 A.D. map engraved in stone showing Hainan (at the bottom of the map) as the southern limit of China ( South China Morning Post image of map submitted to the U.N. )

"All these ancient maps show that since the first Chinese maps appeared, the southernmost territory of China has always been Hainan Island, with its ancient names being Zhuya, then Qiongya, and thereafter Qiongzhou," said Philippines Senior Supreme Court Judge Antonio Carpio last year when the dispute made news.

Carpio calls the Nine-Dash Line by which China claims 90 percent of the South China Sea a “giant historical fraud.”

The Philippines filed a 4,000-page territory dispute over China’s claims of the South China Sea with the United Nations. Last June, China refused to defend its claims to the sea in a U.N court. The Chinese government said it does not recognize international jurisdiction over its dispute with the Philippines.

PhilSTAR.com said China snubbed the U.N. on a December 15, 2014, deadline to defend itself in the matter before the court. The online paper called the sea the West Philippine Sea.

A China official seemed to indicate China would defend its area with force if necessary.

"The Chinese side will have to make necessary response to any intentional and provocative action unilaterally initiated by relevant party," said China Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Qin Gang on December 15, 2014.

Carpio said in June 2014 the Philippines intends to establish China has no historical claim to the region even though “historical facts” cannot be invoked under the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea because China said it would make war to defend its claim.

The Philippines started its case with the U.N. tribunal in March 2014 after aggressive action by Chinese forces on fishermen.

“On March 9, Chinese coast guard vessels drove away two Philippine ships from Ayungin Shoal, preventing them to re-supply a small group of Filipino soldiers guarding the maritime feature. In January, the Chinese coast guard also fired water cannons at Filipino fishermen on Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal, also called Bajo de Masinloc,” philSTAR.com said in its December article .

Ancient maps of the East Indies, which the Philippines were part of, show the small shoal, about the size of three rugby pitches west of the Philippines. The shoal has potential fossil fuel reserves and valuable fisheries.

A 1770 map by Britain's Royal Hydrographer shows the Panacot Shoal, now called Scarborough Shoal. “Panacot” is a Filipino name in the Tagalog language.

A 1770 map by Britain's Royal Hydrographer shows the Panacot Shoal, now called Scarborough Shoal. “Panacot” is a Filipino name in the Tagalog language. ( National Library of Australia, as published by Quartz.com .)

“China has held control of the shoal since 2012, leading to clashes between Filipino and Chinese fisherman and an ongoing arbitration case at the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea. Elsewhere in the disputed area, China appears to be building an airbase and a kindergarten, raising the risk of further tensions,” reports Quartz .

The documents and maps submitted by the Philippines to the international tribunal quoted a 1986 judgment of the International Court of Justice, which said, “Maps merely constitute information which varies in accuracy from case to case; of themselves, and by virtue solely of their existence, they cannot constitute a territorial title.”

Vietnam also claims part of the South China Sea. Vietnamese call the sea the East Sea because it is just off the eastern coast of that country.

Featured image: Old Map of the Philippines in year 1628 showing the Reed Bank (an area just East of the Spratly islands) as part of the Philippines. ( Image Source )


Hi Guys! I've been reading all of the comments here and sad to think that by looking at the arguments, the only thing that can solve this could only be WAR, (I salute the veteran Generals now who are trying to talk this over and don't want to repeat the mistakes of the past who killed 200 million innocent civilians because of war) If CHINA will not honor the result filed by the Philippines against them this could end to violence and I wish we can end this peacefully for the future of our daughters and all of the children who wants to live peacefully.

I can see that the Chinese are all brainwashed by their culture and is now not thinking straight. They don't think if what they are doing is good or bad as long as they can get what they want. China is claiming all and that is not right! They are basing it using History. The Philippines gave evidence and proofs using international law and History that the Chinese 9 dash line is a bullshit, but what is CHINA's answer? NONE!! Common sense CHINA, you are too far from this islands and the reason why we have LAWS is to maintain peace and order! They are now acting like Nazi Germany, or very close to it now. China just want it all because of the rich resources it possesses, basically, that's it. You are selfish and greedy. The south China sea doesn't mean that it is owned by CHINA because it has the word CHINA on it. Does the INDIAN SEA owned by INDIA? NO! Because INDIA is following the international LAW which helps not to spread the Greediness and the CANCER to other countries to end the WORLD!

Rust..., I have one for you. China stands for Crime Headquarters In Asia.

Why would it lead to war? The Philippines does not have the ability to go to war and China is playing it as if there will be no war they are taking what they want slowly.

First of all your comment that "China is claiming all and that is not right! They are basing it using History"

Is hypocritical the Philippines is also using false facts to claim Mindanao and taking what they want there also to my own understanding Philippines when China was weak took and claimed Islands willy nilly of what anyone else thought. So now China has power it is not allowed to do what Philippines had been doing before?

What evidence did Philippines produce? An old map? Explain why did Japan after the sino Japanese war claim those Islands but was not at war with Spain who owned Philippines at that time. Why did Spain not say anything? Is it because China was claiming those Islands?

International law was invented by old white men who fail to abide by those laws themselves so why should anyone follow them?
Note this when you have power you can do anything you want Philippines did this.

You talk about Chinese being brain washed but Filipinos have the same problem same with anywhere people being brainwashed by nationalistic morons who think they are always right (I agree Chinese are brainwashed but so are your people).

China is claiming the Islands and territory for wealth yes but also because they believe those territories were taken off them by the European racists.
Philippines is illegally claiming Sabah in violation of international law and norms and refuses to recognize the will of the people of Sabah for the sake of greed.

Be honest you are critical of China but ignore Philippines own sins

India has a different form of government to China and you are right just because its called South China sea does not mean its owned by China.

The term you were looking for was Indian Ocean

As a side note I agree with you about the 9 dash line but would the Philippines have been so "law abiding" had it the power to project itself abroad? (Think about Philippines greedy politicians not its kind people)

You're brainwashed by your malaysian government to believe that North Borneo issue has been resolved. But it was not. Remember that Manila Accord reserve the issue to be resolved peacefully. Hence, malaysia is not the owner of North Borneo.

Its true, I really hope mindanao, Palawan, Sulu (MinSuPala) gets indepenence from Philippines (slave of King Philip II) if not, granted Autonomous region of BangsaMoro (minsupala).

Malaysia and Indonesia should help Mindanao and Palawan through Education.


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