The "Geng Lu Book," a historic book written between China's Ming Dynasty (AD 1368-1644) and Qing Dynasty (AD 1644-1911), begins with a few sentences outlining an accurate maritime navigation route of ancient Chinese fishermen sailing from the Tan Men port of China's Hainan Province to the South China Sea.
The origin of the "Geng Lu Book" could date back to the early Ming Dynasty. The book records names of more than 100 locations in and important maritime information about the South China Sea, including sailing directions, time, distance, islands and submerged reefs, as well as sea current speeds and weather changes.
Various versions of the "Geng Lu Book", based on inputs from generations of Chinese fishermen, recorded more than 20 fishing routes around the Xisha Islands, more than 200 fishing routes around the Nansha Islands, and more than 20 routes from Nansha back to Hainan. The book also earmarks several transportation hubs and fishing production centers in the South China Sea area.
In the book, there are a large number of local Chinese names for places of the Xisha Islands and the Nansha Islands. When English speakers came to the islands later, they simply gave these islands English names according to their local Chinese names. Those local names are strong evidence that the Chinese fishermen were the first people to discover, explore and live on the South China Sea islands.
More importantly, the "Geng Lu Book" gives people a full picture of Chinese fishermen sailing across the South China Sea fishing, living and farming on the islands and reefs in the area.
From the many fishing routes and fishing grounds mentioned in the book, people can tell that the Xisha and Nansha waters have been Chinese fishermen's traditional fishing grounds since as early as the Ming Dynasty, which constitutes hard evidence of Chinese fishermen exploring and operating in the South China Sea.