Friday, August 8, 2014

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Vietnam’s Territorial Map Collector

Prof. Nguyen Dinh Dau has devoted his whole life to conducting research on Vietnam’s territory and collecting old maps about Vietnam’s sea and islands, including those drawn by the Vietnamese, Chinese and people from western countries.

Prof. Nguyen Dinh Dau is famous in the field of geography and history and he is a dedicated scientist who has made important contributions to Vietnam’s sciences.

Nguyen Dinh Dau was born in 1920 in Hanoi and he studied at a French/Vietnamese primary school. From 1940-1941, he was assigned the task of drawing a map while following Hoang Dao Thuy, a famous revolutionist and culturist in Vietnam, to research the area surrounding the West Lake. At that time, he showed an interest in ancient maps about Vietnam.

            Prof. Nguyen Dinh Dau at a press conference to introduce his book entitled “Vietnam’s Sovereignty
in the East Sea and over Hoang Sa - Truong Sa Archipelagoes” in June 2014.

            Prof. Nguyen Dinh Dau introduces an ancient map
which depicts in detail Vietnam’s continental shelf, sea and islands.

            Nguyen Dinh Dau’s book entitled
“Vietnam’s Sovereignty in the East Sea and over Hoang Sa – Truong Sa Archipelagoes”.

After he graduated from the Science and Society Faculty of the Catholic University of Paris in 1953, Nguyen Dinh Dau lived and worked in Sai Gon, (present day Ho Chi Minh City). With his great passion and aptitude for drawing maps, he has made great efforts in researching Vietnamese history via ancient maps.

Prof. Nguyen Dinh Dau has so far collected over 3,000 old maps, including hundreds of precious ones which describe in detail Vietnam’s continental shelf and islands so they become a very useful material for Vietnamese researchers to give clear evidence to confirm Vietnam’s sovereignty over Hoang Sa and Truong Sa Archipelagoes. There are maps dating back to the 15th century and many others which the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment of Vietnam does not have. Most of the maps were bought from foreign countries and there is only one map from the National Library of France in Paris that he had to re-draw because he was not allowed to copy it.

Prof. Nguyen Dinh Dau said: “I consider maps an important means for research because maps help in explaining many issues related to history and geography. More importantly, maps are exact and scientific evidences which help find the truth in history.”
He also said that most of his researches are based on old maps and land registers in Vietnam. From the maps, he could tell much about the history of Vietnam as well as the historical ups and downs of the nation.

Through researching thousands of maps, he realised that almost all the Chinese maps about Vietnam from the 15th century, or earlier, to the early 20th century wrote the name of the sea east of Vietnam as Giao Chi Duong (Giao Chi is one of the names of Vietnam in the past) or Dong Duong Dai Hai or Dong Nam Hai. The map drawn by navigator Diogo Ribeiro from Portugal also wrote that the coast of Pracel is in the coastal province of Quang Ngai today. After discovering the Pracel Archipelago, known as Hoang Sa and Truong Sa by the western people, in the East Sea in 1525, Diogo Ribeiro defined the archipelagoes as part of Cochin (represented by phonetic symbols of Giao Chi by the westerners).

Speaking about Vietnam’s sovereignty over Hoang Sa and Truong Sa, Prof. Nguyen Dinh Dau cited some world maps made by westerners from the 16th to 19th century in which the Paracel or Pracel in the East Sea and the coast of Paracel was drawn on the coast of Quang Nam-Khanh Hoa Province in Vietnam. He also said that he has never seen any world maps that write the coast of Paracel in South China, in the Philippines or Malaysia. All show the fact that Hoang Sa and Truong Sa belong to Vietnam.

To make joint efforts with people nationwide to affirm Vietnam’s sovereignty over Hoang Sa and Truong Sa, at “Sea and Islands of Vietnam” week held in Ho Chi Minh City from June 1-8, Prof. Nguyen Dinh Dau showed the public his valuable book entitled “Vietnam’s Sovereignty in the East Sea and over Hoang Sa - Truong Sa”. His book focuses on two decisive factors of defining Vietnam’s sovereignty over territory and marine territory, including historical evidence and legal foundations. Therefore, his work is really a scientific and objective document system that helps scientists, authorities and viewers understand exactly and systematically issues related to Vietnam’s sovereignty over Hoang Sa and Truong Sa. His work also serves as a valuable scientific document during the process of resolving disputes in the East Sea according to international law.

Associate Prof. Phan Thanh Binh, Director of Ho Chi Minh City National University said: Dau’s work is not only a scientific research of high historical value but also shows the responsibility and the hard and serious work of a Vietnamese scientist. It is a precious work on the East Sea and Hoang Sa and Truong Sa of Prof. Nguyen Dinh Dau who has devoted his whole life to the documenting of Vietnam’s territory.”
Researcher Nguyen Dinh Dau was presented the Tran Van Giau Award in 2005 for his research relating to land registers in the Nguyen Dynasty in six provinces in the South and the 2008 Research Award granted by Phan Chu Trinh Cultural Foundation for his great contributions to the field of research. He also sets a national record for his book about official names and borders of Vietnam and collecting the largest number of ancient and modern maps about Vietnam’s Hoang Sa and Truong Sa Archipelagoes.

Story: Nguyen Vu Thanh Dat - Photos: Le Minh
Source: Vietnam Pictorial

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