Lighthouses of China: Xisha (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 Xisha 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 Sansha, including the Paracel Islands and (to the extent that China controls them) the 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, with district offices in the major ports. The Chinese word for a lighthouse is dēngtǎ (灯塔). Jiao or chiao is a cape, dao, tao, yu, or hsu is an island, wan is a bay, and kang or gang is a harbor. Due to competing systems for transliterating Chinese into Latin characters, there are always several possible spellings for the names of places in China.

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 F 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.

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

Lighthouses
Beijiao (North Reef, Dao Bac) (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 and a photo of the French lighthouse are available, and there is a photo (3/4 the way down the page) of the lighthouse being reconstructed. 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 F3196; NGA 20288.
Yongxingdao (Woody Island, Dao Phu Lam) (2)
Date unknown (recent). 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 (1/4 the way down the page) and a second photo (2/3 the way down the page) are available, and Google has a satellite view. Yongxingdao has been developed as an administrative center for the islands, with an airstrip and an artificial harbor. Located near the harbor. Site open, tower closed. Admiralty F3197.5; NGA 20280.
Yongxingdao Entrance South
Date unknown (recent). 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. The light is centered in a photo of both entrance lights, and Google has a satellite view. These lights mark a new channel blasted through the reef to expand the harbor of Yongxingdao. Located on the south side of the entrance channel. Accessible only by boat. Site status unknown.
Yongxingdao Entrance North
Date unknown (recent). 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. The light is at the left in a photo of both entrance lights, and Google has a satellite view. Located on the north side of the entrance channel. Accessible only by boat. Site status unknown.
Yongxingdao South Breakwater
Date unknown (recent). Active; focal plane about 9 m (30 ft); light characteristic unknown. Approx. 6 m (20 ft) round concrete tower. A photo shows a waterspout behind the light, the light is on the left in a photo of both breakwater lights (halfway down the page), and Google has a good satellite view. Located at the end of the south breakwater of Yongxingdao's main harbor. Site status unknown.
Yongxingdao North Breakwater
Date unknown (recent). 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 second 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 good satellite view. Located at the end of the north breakwater of Yongxingdao's main harbor. Site status unknown.
Dongdao (Lincoln Island, East Island, Dao Linh Con)
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 Bing has a satellite view. This large modern lighthouse guides vessels around the eastern end of the archipelago. Located at the eastern end of Dongdao. Site open, tower status unknown.
Dongdao 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 2012 photo is available, and Bing has a satellite view. Larry Smith has a photo of an earlier light at this harbor. Located at the artificial harbor created on the southwestern side of Dongdao. Site open, tower closed.
Dongdao 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 photo is available, and Bing has a satellite view. Located about 50 m (165 ft) northeast of the front light. Site open, tower closed.
Langhuajiao (Bombay Reef, Da Bong 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. ChinaNews.com has a photo, and Bing has a satellite view. The MSA photo is at right and another closeup photo show the lighthouse before it was recently altered and restored. Located on Langhuajiao (Surf 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 F3199.5; NGA 20284.

Information available on lost lighthouses:

  • Shanhudao (Pattle Island) (1937-?). A photo of the French lighthouse is available. It is not known if anything survives of this light station.
Langhuajiao Light
Langhuajiao (Bombay Reef) Light
photo copyright unknown, probably PRC government

Notable faux lighthouses:

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

Return to the Lighthouse Directory index | Ratings key

Posted March 11, 2009. Checked and revised October 30, 2014. Lighthouses: 10. Site copyright 2014 Russ Rowlett and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.