So I have long avoided the issue of “those rocks in the sea” because I’ve long felt that the things that people have been saying are just too idiotic to pay any attention to. However, this issue just won’t go away. So it’s time to enter the fray.

Recently there has been a claim circulating on the Internet that the Scarborough Shoal, a bunch of rocks that stick out of the sea some 123 miles to the west of the Philippines, is Chinese territory because in 1279 a Chinese astronomer by the name of Guo Shoujing supposedly made an astronomical measurement there.

Guo Shoujing was an extremely capable Chinese astronomer who served the Mongol Yuan Dynasty.

According to the History of the Yuan (Yuanshi) he reported to the Mongol emperor, Kublai Khan, that the current territory that the emperor ruled over was larger than that of the earlier Tang Dynasty when the last significant astronomical calculations had been made, and that new astronomical measurements should therefore be made in order to correctly calibrate the calendar.

Kublai Khan approved this request, and dispatched Guo Shuojing to set up observatories in various places and to take measurements.

The History of the Yuan states that the officials responsible for carrying out this mission went “east to Gaoli [i.e., Korea], west to Dianchi [in what is today Yunnan Province], south past Zhuyai [i.e., Hainan], and north through the Tiele [the name of a Turkic tribe which inhabited areas to the north of what is today China, at times including areas of what is today Central Asia].”


The section on astronomy in the History of the Yuan then lists one of the places where an observatory was established as “Nanhai” (南海). It is not clear where this was. However, the History of the Yuan lists the calculations that were made there.


Nathan Sivin provides a translation of the calculations in his Granting the Seasons: The Chinese Astronomical Reform of 1280, pages 577-579. These pages are available for preview view on Google Books.

He says there that “They first determined that at Nanhai the north pole emerged from the earth 15 du; at the summer solstice the shadow would fall to the south of the gnomon and was 1.16c long; day length was 54 marks, and night length was 46 marks.” (page. 578)

I’m not an astronomer, so I don’t understand what the calculations mean. However, this is what people are now doing: In order to determine where “Nanhai” actually was, people are looking at the calculations that were made there and are then trying to determine from them where they were taken.

One Chinese scholar has recently made the claim that they were taken at Scarborough Shoal (Huangyan dao in Chinese).

This is what is being debated on the Internet at the moment. What I don’t see people doing, is looking at the larger context, and talking about how selective this use of historical information is.

A thousand years ago a Han collaborator working for an alien conquest dynasty made astronomical measurements from around “the territory” (疆宇). That area included what is now the Korean Peninsula as well as probably the area of Mongolia. Meanwhile, there was no mention of places like Tibet or Taiwan.

So if Guo Shoujing’s activities demonstrate the extent of Chinese sovereignty, then why aren’t the Chinese demanding that the world recognize China’s “indisputable sovereignty” over the Korean Peninsula and Mongolia?

While it’s debatable where “Nanhai” was, the Korean Peninsula was clearly one of the places that Guo Shuojing made astronomical calculations from. That is 100% indisputable. So why isn’t China claiming sovereignty over the Korean Peninsula?

On a different point, the Yuan were not “Chinese.” They were a foreign conquest dynasty. Further, the khanate in the east, the area that Kublai Khan ruled over, included territory that went far north into what is today Siberia.

When the Ming Dynasty took over, what were the internationally-recognized legal mechanisms that allowed for the transfer of territory? What legal negotiations took place to determine how much of the former khanate would be internationally-recognized as part of the Ming Dynasty realm? What was the extent of that territory?

Obviously there are no answers to these questions, because these are modern concepts which did not exist in people’s minds at that time. However, the distinction between the modern and pre-modern worlds is one which Chinese today willfully ignore in order to promote their nation’s agenda.

In the end all any of this really does is to just insult human intelligence.