Lighthouses of China: Xīshā (Paracel Islands)

The Paracel Islands are a group of islets and reefs in the South China Sea about 320 km (200 mi) southeast of Hainan and a similar distance northeast of central Vietnam. The islands, which have no native population, have long been claimed by China. In the late 1800s France claimed the islands as part of its Vietnam colony, and after the French withdrew from Vietnam in 1954 this claim passed to South Vietnam. During the Vietnam War a tense situation developed in the islands, as both South Vietnam and China maneuvered for control and established military outposts. On 19 January 1974, a Chinese fleet defeated a Vietnamese fleet, and a few days later Chinese forces occupied all of the archipelago.

The islands are known as Xīshā in Chinese and as Hoàng Sa in Vietnamese. China considers the islands to be part of Hainan Province, and in 2012 China announced the creation of the prefectural-level city of Sānshā, including the Paracel Islands and (to the extent that China controls them) the Nánshā (Spratly) Islands.

The modern lights of the islands are not included in available Chinese lists and are also missing from international light lists, so additional information is badly needed. It is likely that there are additional lighthouses in the islands.

Lighthouses in China are maintained by the PRC Maritime Safety Administration. The administration is organized in four regional administrations; Hǎinán is one of the four regions. The Hǎinán Maritime Safety Administration is responsible for the Xīshā lighthouses.

The pinyin system for transliterating Chinese into Latin characters is now the international standard, but some locations continue to be known also under the spellings of older transliteration systems. The Chinese word for a lighthouse is dēngtǎ (灯塔). In pinyin jiāo (formerly chiao) is a reef or rock, jiǎo is a cape or headland, dǎo (tao) is an island; (tsu) is a small island, wān is a bay and gǎng (kang) is a harbor.

ARLHS numbers are from the ARLHS World List of Lights. CN numbers are the Chinese light list numbers as used by the Hainan regional office of MSA. Admiralty numbers are from volume P of the Admiralty List of Lights & Fog Signals. U.S. NGA List numbers are from Publication 112. So far, the international light lists do not include the harbor lights of the islands.

General Sources
Paracel Islands
From Wikimedia, this map shows the islands and their relationship to Hainan and to Vietnam. The islands are identified by their English names.
Chinese English Pinyin Dictionary
A useful tool for juggling the representations of Chinese names.

Dongdao Light
Dōngdǎo (Lincoln Island) Light
photo copyright unknown, probably PRC government

Běijiāo (North Reef) Lighthouse
Běijiāo (North Reef, Đảo Bắc) (2)
Date unknown (station established under French administration). Active; focal plane 23 m (75 ft); two white flashes every 6 s. 22m (72 ft) round cylindrical concrete tower with lantern and gallery. Lighthouse painted white. A photo of the new lighthouse is available, and there is a photo (3/4 the way down the page) of the lighthouse being built. Located on a reef on the northwest side of the island group. Accessible only by boat. Site open, tower closed. ARLHS PRC-077; CN-5160; Admiralty P3196; NGA 20288.

Yǒngxìngdǎo (Woody Island) Lighthouses
Note: Located in the Amphitrite Group in the eastern Paracels, Yǒngxìngdǎo (Woody Island) is the most substantial island of the archipelago; it is about 1.5 km (1 mi) in diameter and has a population of about 1400. Yǒngxìngdǎo has been developed as the administrative center for the islands, with an airstrip and two artificial harbors.
Yǒngxìngdǎo (Woody Island, Đảo Phú Lâm) (2)
Date unknown. Active; focal plane about 35 m (115 ft); three white flashes every 9 s. Approx. 30 m (98 ft) octagonal cylindrical concrete tower carrying a large observation room. Lighthouse painted white. A photo is at right, a closeup photo, another photo (2/3 the way down the page) and a fourth photo (first photo on the page) are available, there's a distant view, and Google has a satellite view. Located near the harbor. Site open, tower closed. Admiralty P3197.5; NGA 20280.
Yǒngxìngdǎo Range Front
Date unknown. Active; focal plane about 20 m (66 ft); light characteristic unknown. Approx. 15 m (49 ft) round cylindrical white concrete tower, painted white with a black vertical stripe. The range towers are seen to the right of the main lighthouse in a view from the sea, and Google has an indistinct satellite view. Located on the waterfront. Site open, tower closed.
Yǒngxìngdǎo Range Rear
Date unknown. Active; focal plane about 30 m (98 ft); light characteristic unknown. Approx. 15 m (49 ft) round cylindrical white concrete tower, painted white with a black vertical stripe. The lighthouse is seen on the left in a photo, and Google has an indistinct satellite view. Located about 100 m (110 yd) behind the front light. Site open, tower closed.
Yǒngxìngdǎo Entrance South
Date unknown. Active; focal plane about 9 m (30 ft); light characteristic unknown. Approx. 6 m (20 ft) round concrete towers mounted on large octagonal concrete pads. Wencheng Yan has a closeup photo, and the light is centered in a photo of both entrance lights, but clouds block Google's satellite view. These lights mark a new channel blasted through the reef to expand the harbor of Yǒngxìngdǎo. Located on the south side of the entrance channel. Accessible only by boat. Site status unknown.

Yǒngxìngdǎo (Woody Island) Light, November 2005
PRC Navy photo
Yǒngxìngdǎo Entrance North
Date unknown. Active; focal plane about 9 m (30 ft); light characteristic unknown. Approx. 6 m (20 ft) round concrete towers mounted on large octagonal concrete pads. A 2010 photo is available, and the light is at the left in a photo of both entrance lights, but clouds block Google's satellite view. Located on the north side of the entrance channel. Accessible only by boat. Site status unknown.
Yǒngxìngdǎo South Breakwater
Date unknown. Active; focal plane about 9 m (30 ft); light characteristic unknown. Approx. 6 m (20 ft) round concrete tower. The light is on the left in a photo of both breakwater lights (halfway down the page), and Google has a satellite view. Located at the end of the south breakwater of Yǒngxìngdǎo's main harbor. Site status unknown.
Yǒngxìngdǎo North Breakwater
Date unknown. Active; focal plane about 9 m (30 ft); light characteristic unknown. Approx. 6 m (20 ft) round concrete tower. L. Jin has a photo, a closeup photo and a third photo (almost halfway down the page) is available, the light is on the right in a photo of both breakwater lights (halfway down the page), and Google has a satellite view. Located at the end of the north breakwater of Yǒngxìngdǎo's main harbor. Site status unknown.

Dōngdǎo (Lincoln Island) Lighthouses
Note: Dōngdǎo (Lincoln Island) is a small island at the eastern edge of the archipelago. China maintains a small military base on the island.
Dōngdǎo (Lincoln Island, East Island, Đảo Linh Côn)
2006(?). Active; focal plane and light characteristic unknown. 25 m (82 ft) round concrete tower with lantern and gallery. Lighthouse covered with white ceramic tiles; lantern painted red. A photo appears at the top of this page, and Google has a satellite view. This large modern lighthouse guides vessels around the eastern end of the archipelago. Located at the eastern end of Dōngdǎo. Site open, tower status unknown.
Dōngdǎo Harbor Range Front
Date unknown (recent). Active; light characteristic unknown. Approx. 9 m (30 ft) round cylindrical concrete tower painted white with a black vertical stripe. A photo and a 2012 view from the sea are available, and Google has a satellite view. Located at the artificial harbor created on the southwestern side of Dōngdǎo. Site open, tower closed.
Dōngdǎo Harbor Range Rear
Date unknown (recent). Active; light characteristic unknown. Approx. 12 m (39 ft) round cylindrical concrete tower painted white with a black vertical stripe. A 2012 view from the sea is available, and Google has a satellite view. Located about 50 m (165 ft) northeast of the front light. Site open, tower closed.

Lànghuājiāo (Bombay Reef) Lighthouse
Lànghuājiāo (Bombay Reef, Đá Bông Bay, Surf Reef) (2)
1980 (station established under French administration). Active; focal plane 24 m (79 ft); white flash every 4 s. 22m (72 ft) round cylindrical concrete tower with lantern and gallery. Lighthouse painted white, lantern black. A photo is at right, ChinaNews.com has a photo, another closeup photo is available, and Bing has a satellite view. Located on Lànghuājiāo (Surf Reef or Bombay Reef), a reef on the southeast side of the island group. Accessible only by boat. Site open, tower closed. ARLHS PRC-037; CN-5151; Admiralty P3199.5; NGA 20284.
Langhuajiao Light
Langhuajiāo (Bombay Reef) Light
photo copyright unknown, probably PRC government

Chēnhángdǎo (Duncan Island) Lighthouses
Note: Chēnhángdǎo (Duncan Island) is an island in the Crescent Group, an irregular atoll about 70 km (43 mi) southwest of Yǒngxìngdǎo. It is the site of China's principal settlement in the western Paracels.
Chēnhángdǎo (Duncan Island, Đảo Quang Hòa)
Date unknown. Active; focal plane about 35 m (115 ft); light characteristic unknown. Approx. 30 m (98 ft) octagonal cylindrical concrete tower carrying a large observation room. Lighthouse painted white. Sibling of the Yǒngxìngdǎo lighthouse (see above). A 2012 photo is available, and Google has a satellite view. Site open, tower closed.
Chēnhángdǎo Entrance East
Date unknown. Active; focal plane about 10 m (33 ft); light characteristic unknown. Approx. 10 m (33 ft) round white concrete tower mounted on a square concrete pier. A view from the sea is available, and Google has a satellite view. Located on a shoal on the east side of the harbor entrance. Accessible only by boat. Site open, tower closed.
Chēnhángdǎo Entrance West
Date unknown. Active; focal plane about 10 m (33 ft); light characteristic unknown. Approx. 10 m (33 ft) round white concrete tower mounted on a square concrete pier. A view from the sea is available, and Google has a satellite view. Located at the end of a sand spit on the west side of the harbor entrance. Accessible only by boat. Site open, tower closed.
Chēnhángdǎo South Breakwater
Date unknown. Active; focal plane about 15 m (49 ft); light characteristic unknown. Approx. 14 m (46 ft) round cylindrical white concrete tower. A sunset photo is available, and Google has an indistinct satellite view. Located on a long breakwater that protects the south side of the Chēnhángdǎo lagoon and harbor. Accessible by walking the pier. Site open, tower closed.

Shānhúdǎo (Pattle Island) Lighthouses
Note: Shānhúdǎo (Pattle Island) is an islet on the northwest side of the Crescent Group atoll. The French established a weather station here in 1932 and built a lighthouse in 1937. South Vietnam maintained a base here until China seized the islands in 1974.
Shānhúdǎo Range Rear
Date unknown. Active; focal plane about 14 m (46 ft); light characteristic unknown. Approx. 12 m (39 ft) concrete tower colored white with a black vertical stripe. A photo is available, and Google has an indistinct satellite view. Located at the harbor on the south side of the island. Site status unknown.

Zhōngjiàndǎo (Triton Island) Lighthouses
Note: Zhōngjiàndǎo (Triton Island) is the southwesternmost island of the Paracels and the closest island to the Vietnamese coast. China maintains a military base on the island.
Zhōngjiàndǎo Entrance
Date unknown. Active; focal plane about 14 m (46 ft); light characteristic unknown. Approx. 14 m (46 ft) round concrete tower. A sunset view is available, and Google has a satellite view. Located of the entrance to the harbor of Zhōngjiàndǎo. Accessible only by boat. Site status unknown.
Zhōngjiàndǎo (Triton Island, Đảo Tri Tôn)
Date unknown. Active; focal plane about 20 m (66 ft); light characteristic unknown. Light on a small skeletal tower atop a large building. A 2012 photo is available, Rebiye Qabir has a fuzzy 2009 photo, and Google has a satellite view. Located on the waterfront of the island. Site status unknown.
Zhōngjiàndǎo Range Front
Date unknown (recent). Active; light characteristic unknown. Approx. 9 m (30 ft) round cylindrical concrete tower painted white with a black vertical stripe. Rebiye Qadir has a photo showing the range lights, and Google has an indistinct satellite view. Located on the waterfront on the north side of the main lighthouse. Site status unknown.
Zhōngjiàndǎo Range Rear
Date unknown (recent). Active; light characteristic unknown. Approx. 12 m (39 ft) round cylindrical concrete tower painted white with a black vertical stripe. Rebiye Qadir has a photo showing the range lights, and Google has an indistinct satellite view. Located about 40 m (130 ft) southeast of the front light. Site status unknown.

Information available on lost lighthouses:

Notable faux lighthouses:

Adjoining pages: North: Hainan | South: Spratly Islands | West: Southern Vietnam

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Posted March 11, 2009. Checked and revised November 22, 2016. Lighthouses: 21. Site copyright 2016 Russ Rowlett and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.