Notes on David Helliwell's "The Clashing Rocks"

In the following I comment on "The clashing rocks," an article penned by Dr. David Helliwell for his blog, Serica.1

The "Laud" mentioned in the entry is William Laud (1573-1645), Archbishop of Canterbury and Chancellor of the University of Oxford. Shunfeng xiangsong (Jpn. Junpu Sousou, Voyage with a Tail Wind) is in the Laudian Collection at the Bodleian Library. Shen Fuzong (also known as Fu-Tsung or Fu Tsong, Jpn. Shin Fukusou), born in Nankin (Mandarin:Nanjing) of the Shin (Mdr. Qing) Empire, traveled to England in 1685 and was a pioneer of Sinology in Europe. David Helliwell introduced how Shen (Jpn. Shin) classified the Chinese collection in Oxford's Bodleian Library, among other matters, on a BBC Radio 4 program.2 Thomas Hyde (1636-1703) was a major English orientalist and the head of the Bodleian Library. The words "xin fum siam sum" written alongside the title 順風相送 (Shunfeng xiangsong, Jpn. Junpu Sousou) on the original manuscript correspond almost exactly with the northern Chinese pronunciation given in the 1626 work of Romanization Seiju jimoku shi (Mdr. Xiru ermu zi, Aid to the Eyes and Ears of Western Scholars), by French missionary Kin Jikaku (Mdr. Jin Nige, French original: Nicolas Trigault). "Prospere," written next to 順, means "favorable" in Latin, while "vente," next to 風, is the vocative for "ventus" or "wind," and "ire," next to 送, means "go." Put together, this means "to go ahead, borne on a favorable wind." The words "simul" and "seu," beside 相, are also Latin and mean "together with" and "or." The letters "SFT" in the bottom left appear to be an abbreviation of Shen Fu-Tsung. I cannot judge what the other writing represents. For further details, including whether these words include information from Hyde, it would be necessary to contact Helliwell.

Speech Claims 600 Years of Control

Voyage with a Tail Wind was completed after 1573, but China currently maintains that it was written in 1403. If this were true, it would be the oldest document relating to the Senkaku Islands; it has therefore come under the spotlight in recent years. In November 2012, at the Asia-Europe Meeting in Laos, Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi (Jpn. You Kecchi) gave a speech aimed at Japanese Prime Minister Noda Yoshihiko, stating: "We have controlled the Diaoyu [Chogyo, Senkaku] Islands for 600 years." This was broadcast by various Japanese television stations, causing the phrase "600 years" to echo through living rooms around the country on the evening news. I believe that many people remember it well. As 600 years earlier would have been the early 1400s, the phrase was based on the year in which China claims Voyage with a Tail Wind was written. Prime Minister Noda did not dispute the claim of 600 years; it can be surmised that he had not prepared any refutation.

Although "The People's Republic of China's Diaoyu Dao and Associated Islands," a map3 mentioned by Helliwell in his blog, does not directly refer to Voyage with a Tail Wind, the white paper Diaoyudao shi Zhongguo de guyou lingtu (Diaoyu Dao, an Inherent Territory of China), published around the same time, is based on the work and claims that China first discovered and named the island.4

Around 1970, China began to claim that Voyage with a Tail Wind was a record of the naming of "Chogyo Sho" (Mdr. Diaoyu Yu, now renamed Diaoyu Dao by China, possibly referring to Uotsuri Island). To examine the original work, Okuhara Toshio, a pioneering researcher on the Senkaku Islands, produced a microfilm with the help of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan. The film is now in the Center for Island Studies, run by the publisher of this journal. Helliwell writes about his recollections of that time toward the end of his blog entry. The first Japanese government diplomat to view the original manuscript was Umemoto Kazuyoshi in 1981.

There is a huge gulf between the endeavor of Okuhara, who supported efforts to examine the manuscript in 1981, when there was no Internet, and the Chinese attitude of insisting on its own benefit in a baseless and coercive speech. In the previously mentioned Diaoyu Dao white paper, there are also many parts that are based on erroneous secondhand quotations and no checking of the original manuscript.

Alterations by Zhonghua (Jpn. Chuka) Book Company

Around five years ago, there was reference in Hong Kong blogs and elsewhere to alterations made to the first edition of Xiang Da's (Jpn. Kou Tatsu or Shou Tatsu) book Liangzhong haidao zhenjing in the second printing.5 While Helliwell was not the first to note this issue, though, he has curated the Chinese collection at Oxford University's Bodleian Library for many years. It is significant that the curator of the original manuscript has noticed and written about the alterations. For the sake of thoroughness, I include extracts from the 1961 first edition; the black frames are my own addition.



Between the publication of the first edition in 1961 and Xiang Da's (Jpn. Kou Tatsu or Shou Tatsu) death in 1966 as a result of mistreatment, there is almost zero possibility that he made the alterations in question himself. This is because Xiang (Jpn. Kou) himself made revisions in 1962, added in the end of the second printing in 1982, but these made no reference to the Senkaku Islands. Is there any possibility that the Zhonghua (Jpn. Chuka) Book Company received permission from Xiang's (Jpn. Kou) family to make alterations in its 1982 second printing? It is extremely unlikely that the wishes of the original author were respected to that degree shortly after the end of the Cultural Revolution; nor are there any notes indicating this in the second printing. It is also unacceptable for the surviving family members to authorize any changes.

Who took responsibility for the alterations? It is probable that somebody senior at Zhonghua (Jpn. Chuka) Book Company ordered them to be made. Several decades later, this person and the printer may both still be alive, and perhaps the altered stereotype used in printing is still in storage at the company. Zhonghua (Jpn. Chuka) Book Company dates back to the Xinhai (Jpn. Shingai) Revolution of 1911-12 and is universally recognized as occupying the highest level in the research world. The alterations sullied the company's history and greatly violated Xiang's reputation as a researcher. At the same time, they dishonored the friendly research cooperation between Pekin (Mdr. Beijing) and Oxford. Having said this, in looking back at the cordial relations of 1936, when Xiang Da (Jpn. Kou Tatsu) was in Oxford, Helliwell does not need to go out of his way to lament the alterations made, and we do not need to conjecture about his feelings as a bibliographic researcher. Whatever Pekin (Mdr. Beijing) does, Oxford will remain unshaken as a preeminent treasure house for rare books.

I would like reporters for major media outlets to question the Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson. How does the current government regard these alterations? If the response is that Xiang Da (Jpn. Kou Tatsu) 's viewpoint was wrong, that is fine, but was Zhonghua (Jpn. Chuka) Book Company right or wrong to make alterations? Surely, an answer that the changes were appropriate would be surprising to hear. In that case, will there be any investigation into who authorized the alterations? More importantly, was there or was there not a government order to alter all geography books from before the Senkaku dispute arose? Are government orders still being stored as top-secret documents? If a journalist discovered them, it would be a feat to shake up the media.

The Year of Authorship for Voyage with a Tail Wind

The above speech and alterations are both important, but a further problem comes with the time and content relating to "Chogyo Sho" (Mdr. Diaoyu Yu) in Shunfeng xiangsong (Jpn. Junpu Sousou). China maintains that it is the oldest recorded naming of the island due to the fact that the year 1403 (永樂元年) is written in the preface of the manuscript. As early as 1985, however, Uchida Akiko writes in "Kotatsu kochu 'Ryoshu kaido shinkei' chu no 'Junpu soso' ni tsuite" that some accounts in the manuscript came from after 1570.6 Toward the end of the manuscript, it is written that "the ship entered the port of Choki (Mdr. Changqi) or Langasaki, and here there were Europeans." Choki (Mdr. Changqi ,長岐) refers to Nagasaki (長崎). The first character of Langasaki (籠仔沙機) is 籠, which is always seen pronounced as "lang" within the area where the wakou (Mdr. wokou) pirates of the time operated. At first I considered that in Teochew (Mdr. Chaozhou, Jpn. Choushu) dialect 籠仔沙機 would be pronounced lan-gyan-saki, closely resembling "Nagasaki," but as most of the wakou (Mdr. wokou) forces were from Hokkien (Mdr. Fujian, Jpn. Fukken) rather than Teochew, I also thought that this was difficult to explain. What I finally realized recently is that as 仔 is a in Minnan (Jpn. Binnan, southern Hokkien) pronunciation, so籠仔 is lang-a, coming to be pronounced as la-nga through liaison. Even today, a nasalized pronunciation of ga in naga remains in Tokyo pronunciation; it was standard in the former capital of Heiankyo (Kyoto) in ancient times. Thus, it is natural to surmise that the nasalized Japanese pronunciation of na-nga-sa-ki for Nagasaki became la-nga-sa-ki (籠仔沙機) in Minnan (Jpn. Binnan) language, with only the initial na altered.

The "Europeans" mentioned are written as佛郎番 (Futsurou ban, Mdr. fulang fan) in the manuscript, a Chinese word meaning "Franks." This refers to the Portuguese, as around 1570, the Spanish had barely completed its occupation of the island of Luzon and any European ships arriving in Japan were Portuguese. As all Japanese people know from their school textbooks, the Jesuit Francis Xavier was sent by Portugal and landed in Satsuma in 1549. It was either 1570 or 1571 when the Portuguese arrived in Nagasaki by ship and established a port. The history of Nagasaki started around this time. Both dates are very far from the year 1403 claimed by China.

Uchida also notes that there is mention of a fort on Luzon in the second half of Voyage with a Tail Wind. Spain, slower than Portugal to move into the Far East, had to develop a western route going around the Americas. It is well known in the Philippines today that the Spanish expedition led by Magellan reached the southern Philippines in 1521 and the Spanish established an administration in Manila on the northern island of Luzon in 1571. A fort was then built in Manila in 1573. This shows that Voyage with a Tail Wind was completed in 1573 or later.

The Year of Authorship of the Second Section

The year 1403 that China insists on is nothing more than the time when Voyage with a Tail Wind appeared in its most basic form. As the preface describes the route of the ship of the Muslim Tei Ka (Mdr. Zheng He) to "the west sea and other locations" in 1403, the work must have been a record of western sea routes in its original form. In those days, "the west sea" (西洋) meant the sea from Sumatra to India. On the other hand, Java, Borneo, the Philippines, the Senkaku Islands, the Ryukyu Islands, and Japan were all in the east sea (東洋). As the 1403 voyage was not to the east and west, but to "the west and other locations," it had nothing to do with the Senkaku Islands in the distant east. The "other locations" (等) simply refers to places in the east sea Tei Ka (Mdr. Zheng He) passed while traveling to the west sea, such as Vietnam, Borneo, and Java.

In the essay "Shishi sheng yu xiongbian, Diaoyudao que shu Zhongguo, ping Riben mou xuezhe zai Diaoyudao wenti shang de miushuo," Liu Jiangyong disputes my theory, writing: "If we suppose the work was completed after 1570, this would mean that the Chinese writer had only just become aware of Tei Ka (Mdr. Zheng He)'s 1403 route in 1570, which does not make sense," and much more in this vein.7 Liu is deputy dean of the Institute of Modern International Relations at Tsinghua (Jpn. Seika) University and often writes for the Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun. The "Riben mou xuezhe" (certain Japanese scholar) he refers to in the title of his essay is me. In brief, Liu maintains that although Voyage with a Tail Wind includes material from later than 1570, the section that refers to the Senkaku Islands was completed in 1403. Which of us is correct?

Voyage with a Tail Wind consists of a beginning notification and the main body of the text. The main body is divided into two sections, containing 80% and 20% of the text, respectively. In the original manuscript the second section starts on a new page. In Xiang Da's (Jpn. Kou Tatsu) book, the second section does not start on a new page, presenting no clear divide. We only noticed the divide when we saw the film of the original Oxford University manuscript. As the first section includes sea routes to "the west sea and other locations," or the Indian Ocean and southern part of Southeast Asia, while the second section includes eastern sea routes to such places as Manila, Taiwan, Ryukyu, and Nagasaki, the content is completely different. The beginning notification also only includes the names of locations on western sea routes without any mention of those on eastern routes. From this, it is clear that the eastern sea routes were not in the work in its original form. The mention of the Senkaku Islands toward the end of the second section was added at a much later time.

The first section also includes depth measurements for more than 100 locations on western sea routes, while there are only 2 locations for eastern sea routes in the second section. The first section provides the results of many other surveys, including whether the sea bottom is muddy, sandy, or solid, while there is only one similar result in the second section. There are also dozens of measurements in the first section of the North Star and Southern Cross, used to establish latitude, and none at all in the second section. As the sea route for the Senkaku Islands runs west to east, the north-south bearing was always a concern so latitude measurements would have been highly useful, but they are entirely absent. In short, the first section demonstrates Islamic navigation techniques and the second section Chinese navigation. The Oxford manuscript combines writings from two completely different cultures. There is absolutely no connection between the Senkaku Islands, which appear toward the end of the second section, and the year 1403 in the preface.


The end of the records of western sea routes in the first section of Voyage with a Tail Wind.


The beginning of the records of eastern sea routes in the second section of Voyage with a Tail Wind.
(Both taken from the written manuscript at Oxford University, based on the microfilm in the Center for Island Studies.)

One more item of evidence shows when the second section was written, apart from the points about Manila and Nagasaki mentioned above. Around 1560, the wakou (Mdr. wokou) pirates of Sekkou (Mdr. Zhejiang) were most powerful, preventing the use of ports in this area. Notably, the second section only includes routes to Japan from Ryukyu, with no routes from Ninpo (Mdr. Ningbo) or other locations in Sekkou (Mdr. Zhejiang). It is possible to deduce that there is almost no information in the second section from before 1560. The mention of "Chogyo Sho" (Mdr. Diaoyu Yu) in Voyage with a Tail Wind is not, therefore, the oldest historical record relating to the Senkaku Islands, as claimed.

Who Used the Senkaku Route?

Voyage with a Tail Wind includes a number of Senkaku Islands routes. One of these begins in Shoushu (Mdr. Zhangzhou) in southern Hokkien (Mdr. Fujian, Jpn. Fukken), traveling via Touyu (Mdr. Dongyong) Islet and Houka (Mdr. Pengjia) Islet to Chogyo Sho (Mdr. Diaoyu Yu) without landing on the northern part of the main island of Taiwan. Many other itineraries typically record routes traveling farther south, near the north of the island of Taiwan, thus ensuring navigational accuracy and safety. The above direct route is exceptional. The only other such direct route is recorded in Shinan kogi (Broad Overview of Navigation) by the scholar Tei Junsoku of Ryukyu. This was written much later, in 1708, so it would normally be expected that the later work would carry over the route from the earlier Voyage with a Tail Wind. The problem is, however, that no rutters including the direct route from Voyage with a Tail Wind exist apart from Shinan kogi. How can this be explained? It indicates that the direct route recorded separately in Fukken (Mdr. Fujian) and Ryukyu in Shinan kogi and Voyage with a Tail Wind have a common source, and that source was a Ryukyuan prior to the appearance of Voyage with a Tail Wind.

This can be seen from the fact that the oldest record of the Senkaku Islands is of Ryukyuans guiding the Chinese envoy Chin Kan (Mdr. Chen Kan) via the Senkaku route in 1534, a time when the islands were not known in Fukken (Mdr. Fujian). The 1556 work Nippon ikkan (Mdr. Riben yijian, A Mirror of Japan) by Tei Shunko (Mdr. Zehng Shungong) recorded that the Ryukyuans taught the island route to the Fujianese in the time of Chen Kan and it spread among them. With other records too, such as of the 1542 voyage of southern Hokkienese (Fujianese) pirate Chin Ki (Mdr. Chen Gui) to the Ryukyu Islands in Koumin keisei bunpen (Mdr. Huangming jingshi wenbian, Collected Writings of Statecraft Created for Ming Empire) and of Shoushu (Mdr. Zhangzhou) pilots in southern Fukken (Hokkien, Fujian) who had already mastered the Senkaku route in 1578 in Shi Liuqiu lu (Records of the Imperial Missions to Ryukyu) by Shou Sugyou (Mdr. Xiao Chongye), Fukkenese (Hokienese, Fujianese) voyages to reach the Ryukyu Islands by their own efforts are seen only in this era. The Fukkenese (Hokkienese, Fujianese) later forgot the Senkaku route, leaving it to the Ryukyuans alone. Based on this, it is highly probable that the direct Senkaku route included in Voyage with a Tail Wind was the route the Fukkenese (Hokkienese, Fujianese) knew for a period from 1534 after learning it from the Ryukuans.

Further evidence comes with discussion of the direct route and the route via the north of the island of Taiwan in Min (Mdr. Ming) and Shin (Mdr. Qing) Empire records. Ryukyuans favored the direct route when steering the ships of envoys, while Fukkenese (Hokkienese, Fujianese) and envoys maintained it was best to go via Taiwan Island. This can be seen in numerous records, such as famous Shi Ryukyu zouroku (Mdr. Shi Liuqiu za lu, Miscellaneous Records of the Imperial Mission to Ryukyu) by Ou Shu (Mdr. Wang Ji) and Chuzan denshin roku (Mdr. Zhong Shan chuanxin lu, Records of Messages of Zhong Shan) by Jo Houkou (Mdr. Xu Baoguang). Direct routes were regarded as the area of the Ryukyuans. Although they are not included in any rutters apart from Voyage with a Tail Wind, there are many accounts of traveling directly without going via Taiwan Island in records of voyages, although not in rutters. These records remain because the voyages were led by Ryukyuans who knew the route well.

From consideration of the large trend, the "Chogyo Sho" (Mdr. Diaoyu Yu) mentioned in Voyage with a Tail Wind is likely to have been taken from the Ryukyuan route. Quite contrary to what China currently maintains, the document demonstrates that the Senkaku Islands were within the Ryukyu cultural sphere. The islands also were named by Ryukyuans. It would be preferable for Japan if the year of writing was as early as possible, but unfortunately it cannot have been written before 1560.

I have written extensively on the Ryukyuan route; for more information, please refer to my books or articles addressing the navigational issues involved.8

Okuhara obtained the microfilm, from which the above selections from the first and second sections are taken, many years ago. As Helliwell writes in his blog, the original manuscript will soon be made available in high-quality digitized form on the Serica interface to the Bodleian collection. It might have been good to have been able to use that for these notes, but as this journal appears in black and white, there would be no advantage to accessing the color original. Inevitably, the microfilm that Okuhara expended great efforts to obtain will no longer be viewed after the high-quality digitization, so including it in the journal is the last chance to remember it. That is a reason for deliberately including the microfilm.

  1. David Helliwell, "The clashing rocks," in Serica, July 17, 2013, Accessed on January 28, 2016. The entry was published in Japanese translation as "Butsukariau iwayama: Senkaku Shoto to 2 satsu no koro annaisho" in Tosho Kenkyu Journal, Vol. 3 No. 2, pp. 119-127. []
  2. "The first Chinese VIPs," episode 1 of the Chinese in Britain series, broadcast on April 30, 2007, []
  3. Zhonghua Renmin Gongheguo Diaoyudao ji qi fushu daoyu (The People's Republic of China's Diaoyu Dao and Associated Islands) (Beijing: SinoMaps Press, 2012). ISBN 978-7-5031-7131-4 []
  4. State Council Information Office of the People's Republic of China, Diaoyudao shi Zhongguo de guyou lingtu (Diaoyu Dao, an Inherent Territory of China), Accessed on January 28, 2016. []
  5. Xiang Da, Liangzhong haidao zhenjing (Two Maritime navigation Sutras) (Pekin or Beijing: Zhonghua Book Company, 1961). Zhonghua Book Company published the second printing of the first edition in 1982. []
  6. Uchida Akiko, "Kotatsu kochu 'Ryoshu kaido shinkei' chu no 'Junpu soso' ni tsuite" (Concerning Shunfeng xiangsong within Liangzhong haidao zhenjing by Xiang Da), Nanto shigaku (Journal of Ryukyuan Studies) issue 25?26 (September 1985) (Fukuoka: Society of Ryukyuan Studies). []
  7. Liu Jiangyong, "Shishi sheng yu xiongbian, Diaoyudao que shu Zhongguo, ping Riben mou xuezhe zai Diaoyudao wenti shang de miushuo" (Facts Are Louder Than Words; Diaoyu Islands Are Indeed Chinese: Absurd Comments by a Certain Japanese Scholar on the Diaoyu Islands Issue), Riben Xuekan (Japanese Studies) 2013-14 (Institute of Japanese Studies, CASS). []
  8. See, for example: Wakun senkai: Senkaku Chogyo retto kanbun shiryo (Kan (Mdr. Han) Literary Materials on the Senkaku Chogyo Islands) (Nagasaki Junshin Catholic University Institute of Comparative Cultures, 2012), pp. 38?52; "Senkaku Chogyo Retto zosetsu shishu" (Four Arguments on the Senkaku Chogyo Islands), in Junshin Jinbun Kenkyu (Junshin Journal of Humanities) 19 (Nagasaki Junshin Catholic University, 2013); and Senkaku hanbaku manyuaru hyakudai (Senkaku Refutation Manual: One Hundred Materials) (Shukosha, 2014). []


Associate professor at Nagasaki Junshin Catholic University. Born in Tokyo in 1966. Completed doctoral studies in literature at Kyoto University. Appointed as a lecturer at the Nagasaki Institute of Applied Science in 2001. Current position since 2009. Responsible for university courses on Kanbun (literary classics of Sinosphere world) and related fields. Recently he has done research on the historical documents pertaining to the Senkakus as teaching material on Kanbun. He has authored Wakun senkai: Senkaku Chogyo retto kanbun shiryo (Kanbun Materials on the Senkaku Islands) (Nagasaki: Nagasaki Junshin Catholic University, 2012). Among his journal articles are: “Dai Indo sho Chaina setsu” (Views on a Big India and a Small China), Chugoku Kenkyu Ronso 11, Kazankai; and “Senkaku Chogyo retto zosetsu shichihen” (Seven Arguments on the Senkaku Chogyo Islands) in Kotoba to ningen keisei no hikaku bunka kenkyu (Institute of Comparative Culture for Language and Human Development), (Nagasaki Junshin Catholic University); and “Chugoku no Senkaku ryoyuken no mosetsu o utsu” (Challenging the Misguided Belief in Chinese Sovereignty Over the Senkaku Islands) in Nippon no ibuki (Breath of Japan) 305–309 (Nippon Kaigi).