Diaoyu Dao Was First Discovered, Named and Exploited by China

Ancient ancestors in China first discovered and named Diaoyu Dao through their production and fishery activities on the sea. In China's historical literature, Diaoyu Dao was also known as Diaoyu-Yu, Diaoyu-Tai or Diaoyu-Shan. The earliest recorded names of Diaoyu Dao, Chiwei Yu and several other places can be found in Voyage with a Tail Wind (Shun Feng Xiang Song) which began to be written in 1403 (the first year of Emperor Yongle’s reign of the Ming Dynasty 1368-1644). This documentation proves China discovered and named Diaoyu Dao as early as the 14th and 15th centuries.


In 1372 (the 5th year of the reign of Emperor Hongwu of the Ming Dynasty), the King of Ryukyu started paying tribute to the imperial court of the Ming Dynasty. In return, Emperor Hongwu (the first Ming emperor) dispatched imperial envoys to Ryukyu. Across the next five centuries until 1866 (the 5th year of Emperor Tongzhi’s reign of the Qing Dynasty 1644-1911), imperial Ming and Qing courts sent envoys to Ryukyu 24 times to confer titles on Ryukyu kings, and Diaoyu Dao was exactly located on their route to Ryukyu. Ample volume of records on Diaoyu Dao can be found in reports writen by Chinese envoys of the time, such as various copies of Records of the Imperial Title-Conferring Envoys to Ryukyu (Shi Liu Qiu Lu) written respectively by envoys Chen Kan in 1534, Guo Rulin in 1562, and Xiao Chongye and Xie Jie in 1579, Records of Messages from Chong-shan (Zhong Shan Chuan Xin Lu) by Xu Baoguang in 1719, Envoys to Ryukyu by Li Dingyuan in 1800, and Added Annals of Ryukyu (Liu Qiu Guo Zhi Lue) by Qi Kun and Fei Xizhang in 1808.


In 1579, Xie Jie, a deputy imperial title-conferring envoy of the Ming Dynasty, recounted in 1579 in his book, Addendum to Summarized Record of Ryukyu (Liu Qiu Lu Cuo Yao Bu Yi) that he reached Ryukyu from Cang Shui to Hei Shui (waters adjacent to today’s Okinawa), and returned to China from Hei Shui to Cang Shui. Xia Ziyang, another envoy of the Ming Dynasty, wrote in 1606 that “When the water flows from Hei Shui back to Cang Shui, it enters Chinese territory.” Wang Ji, as envoy of the Qing Dynasty, described in Miscellaneous Records of a Mission to Ryukyu (Shi Liu Qiu Za Lu) in 1683 that “Hei Shui Gou (today’s Okinawa Trough),” situated outside Chi Yu, is the “boundary between China and its foreign land.” In 1756, Zhou Huang, a deputy imperial envoy of the Qing Dynasty, illustrated in Annals of Ryukyu (Liu Qiu Guo Zhi Lue) that Ryukyu “is separated from the waters of Fujian by Hei Shui Gou to the west.” These historical accounts clearly demonstrate that Diaoyu Dao and Chiwei Yu are part of China, and that the dividing line lies at Hei Shui Gou (today's Okinawa Trough) between Chiwei Yu and Kume Island.


The waters surrounding Diaoyu Dao are traditionally Chinese fishing grounds. Chinese fishermen have, for millennia, engaged in fishery activities in these waters. In the past, Diaoyu Dao was frequently used as a navigation marker by Chinese people residing along the southeast coast.