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 Hǎinán and a similar distance northeast of central Vietnam. The islands, which have no indigenous 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 the French 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 the Xīshā ("West Sand") Islands (西沙群岛) in Chinese and as Hoàng Sa in Vietnamese. China administers the islands as part of Hǎinán Province. In 2012 China announced the creation of the prefectural-level city of Sānshā ("Three Sands") including the Xīshā (Paracel) Islands and (to the extent that China controls them) the Nánshā (Spratly) Islands. The population of Xīshā is now about 2000.

There are many languages and dialects spoken in China, but Standard Chinese, often called Mandarin, is official. The pīnyīn system for transliterating Standard 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 Standard Chinese jiāo (formerly chiao) is a reef or rock, jiǎo is a cape or headland, dǎo (tao) is an island; (tsu) or tuózi ("lump") is a small island, hǎi is a sea, wān is a bay, hǎixiá is a strait, or jiāng is a river, hékǒu ("river mouth") is an estuary, and gǎng (kang) is a harbor.

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.

Most of the lights of the islands are missing from international light lists, so additional information about them is needed.

ARLHS numbers are from the ARLHS World List of Lights. CN numbers (where available) are the Chinese light list numbers as used by the Hǎinán 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.
Online List of Lights - Paracel Islands
Photos by various photographers posted by Alexander Trabas.
Chinese English Pinyin Dictionary
A useful tool for juggling the representations of Chinese names.
Navionics Charts
Navigation chart for the islands.

Langhuajiao Light
Běijiāo (North Reef) Light
photo copyright unknown, probably PRC government

Běijiāo (North Reef) Lighthouses
Běijiāo (North Reef, Đảo Bắc) (2)
1980 (station established under French administration). Active; focal plane 23 m (75 ft); two white flashes every 6 s. 22 m (72 ft) round cylindrical concrete tower with lantern and gallery. Lighthouse painted white, lantern red. A photo is above and Google has a satellite view. Located at the southwest end of the reef, on the northwest side of the island group. Accessible only by boat. Site open, tower closed. ARLHS PRC-077; CN-5151; Admiralty P3196; NGA 20288.
Běijiāo (North Reef, Đảo Bắc) East (2)
2019. Active; focal plane 13 m (43 ft); three very quick white flashes every 5 s. 13 m (43 ft) post, painted black with a yellow horizontal band and mounted on a square platform. No photo available but Google has a satellite view. Located at the east end of the reef. Accessible only by boat. Site open, tower closed. Admiralty P3196.8.

Zhàoshùdǎo (Tree Island) Lighthouses
Located on the north side of the Amphitrite Group in the eastern Paracels, Zhàoshùdǎo (Tree Island) is a 22 hectare (54 acre) islet recently developed by China with a small fishing port.

Zhàoshùdǎo West Breakwater
Date unknown. Active; focal plane 8 m (26 ft); two red flashes every 8 s. 7 m (23 ft) round tower painted with lantern and gallery, painted with red and white horizontal bands. The photo at right shows this light in the distance and Google has an indistinct satellite view. Located on the west (main) breakwater at the west end of the islet. Site status unknown. Admiralty P3197.
Zhàoshùdǎo East Breakwater
Date unknown. Active; focal plane 8 m (26 ft); two green flashes every 8 s. 7 m (23 ft) round tower painted with lantern and gallery, painted with green and white horizontal bands. A photo is at right and Google has an indistinct satellite view. Located on the east (inner) breakwater at the west end of the islet. Site status unknown. Admiralty P3197.1.
 

Zhàoshùdǎo Breakwater Lights
unattributed tourist development photo
 

Yǒngxìngdǎo (Woody Island) Lighthouses
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. China established a base on the island in 1956. Yǒngxìngdǎo has been developed as the administrative center for the islands with an airstrip and two artificial harbors.

Yǒngxìngdǎo (Woody Island, Đảo Phú Lâm)
Date unknown. Active; focal plane 20 m (66 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 and Google has a satellite view. Located near the harbor. Site open, tower closed. CN-5154; Admiralty P3197.5; NGA 20280.
#Yǒngxìngdǎo Range Front
Date unknown. Apparently demolished in 2015-16. This was an approx. 15 m (49 ft) round cylindrical white concrete tower, painted white with a black vertical stripe. No photo available and the light is no longer seen in Bing's satellite view. Formerly located on the waterfront.
#Yǒngxìngdǎo Range Rear
Date unknown. Apparently demolished in 2015-16. This was an approx. 15 m (49 ft) round cylindrical white concrete tower, painted white with a black vertical stripe. No photo available and the light is no longer seen in Bing's s satellite view. Formerly located about 100 m (110 yd) behind the front light.

Yǒngxìngdǎo (Woody Island) Light, November 2005
PRC Navy photo
Yǒngxìngdǎo West Entrance South Breakwater (2)
Date unknown. Active; focal plane about 15 m (49 ft); green light, pattern unknown. Approx. 15 m (49 ft) round cylindrical concrete tower with lantern and gallery. Tower painted white with one red horizontal band, lantern painted red. A photo of the two breakwater lights is at right and Google has a satellite view. Located at the end of the south breakwater of Yǒngxìngdǎo's main harbor. Site status unknown.
Yǒngxìngdǎo West Entrance North Breakwater (2)
Date unknown. Active; focal plane 15 m (49 ft); red light, pattern unknown. Approx. 15 m (49 ft) round cylindrical concrete tower with lantern and gallery. Tower painted white with one black horizontal band, lantern painted black. A photo of the two breakwater lights is at right and Google has a satellite view. Located at the end of the north breakwater of Yǒngxìngdǎo's main harbor. Site status unknown.
Yǒngxìngdǎo North Entrance South Breakwater (2?)
Date unknown. Active; focal plane about 9 m (30 ft); green light occulting once every 4 s. 6 m (20 ft) round concrete tower painted white and mounted on a large octagonal concrete pad. A closeup photo and a second closeup are available, the light is on the left in a photo of both breakwater lights (halfway down the page), and Bing has a satellite view. The satellite views suggest these two breakwater lights have been replaced by towers with lantern and gallery. 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. CN-5153.52.
Yǒngxìngdǎo North Entrance North Breakwater (2?)
Date unknown. Active; focal plane about 9 m (30 ft); red light occulting once every 4 s. 6 m (20 ft) round concrete tower painted white and mounted on a large octagonal concrete pad. L. Jin has a photo, the light is at the left in a photo of both entrance lights and on the right in another photo of both lights (halfway down the page), and Bing has a satellite view. Located on the north side of the entrance channel. Accessible only by boat. Site status unknown. CN-5153.51.

Yǒngxìngdǎo South (left) and North Breakwater Lights
CNTV (state television) photo (no longer online)

Dōngdǎo (Lincoln Island) Lighthouses
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 about 28 m (92 ft); white light, pattern unknown. 25 m (82 ft) round concrete tower with lantern and gallery. Lighthouse covered with white ceramic tiles; lantern painted red. A photo is at right 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 view from the sea shows both range lighthouses, 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, another view from the sea shows both range lighthouses, 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. 22.5 m (74 ft) round cylindrical concrete tower with lantern and gallery. Lighthouse painted white, lantern black. A closeup photo is available, and Bing has a satellite view. This lighthouse is identical to the Běijiāo lighthouse; both were built in 1980. The lighthouse was restored in 2012. 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-5178; Admiralty P3199.5; NGA 20284.
Dongdao Light
Dōngdǎo (Lincoln Island) Light
photo copyright unknown, probably PRC government

Yǒngqún Islands (Crescent Group) Lighthouses
The Crescent Group is a large, irregular atoll about 70 km (43 mi) southwest of Yǒngxìngdǎo.

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 at right, the same photographer has a closeup, Tâm Dzao has a photo (misidentified as Pattel Island), and Google has an indistinct satellite view. Chēnhángdǎo (Duncan Island) is an island on the south side of the Crescent Group. It is the site of China's principal settlement in the western Paracels. Site open, tower closed.
Chēnhángdǎo Entrance East
Date unknown. Active; focal plane about 10 m (33 ft); red light, pattern unknown. Approx. 10 m (33 ft) round white concrete tower mounted on a square concrete pier. A photo is available and Bing 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); green light, pattern unknown. Approx. 10 m (33 ft) round white concrete tower mounted on a square concrete pier. A view from the sea is available and Bing 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 Range Front
Date unknown. Active; focal plane about 15 m (49 ft); light characteristic unknown. Approx. 14 m (46 ft) square cylindrical white concrete tower. A sunset photo is available and Bing 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.
Chēnhángdǎo Range Rear
Date unknown. Active; focal plane about 22 m (72 ft); light characteristic unknown. Approx. 20 m (66 ft) square cylindrical white concrete tower. Both range lights are seen at the upper right edge of Tâm Dzao's 2021 photo and Bing has an indistinct satellite view. Located on a spur of the south breakwater, about 180 m (600 ft) south southeast of the front light. Accessible by walking the pier. Site open, tower closed.

Chēnhángdǎo (Duncan Island) Light, March 2012
ex-Google Plus photo by p. pc高手
Shānhúdǎo (Pattle Island) Range Front
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. No photo available and the tower is not seen in Google's indistinct satellite view. 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.Located at the harbor on the south side of the island. Site status unknown.
Shānhúdǎo (Pattle Island) Range Rear (?)
Date unknown. Active; focal plane and light characteristic unknown. Concrete tower colored white with a black vertical stripe. No photo available and the tower is not seen in Google's indistinct satellite view. This tower is due north of the front light. Site status unknown.
Yínyǔ (Observation Bank)
Date unknown. Active; focal plane 10 m (33 ft); white flash every 5 s. 10 m (33 ft) round tower with lantern and tower. A 2021 photo is at right and Google has an indistinct satellite view. Yínyǔ (Observation Bank) is a tiny islet on the northeast side of the Crescent Group atoll. It appears to be occupied by a fishing camp. Located at the southern tip of the islet. Site status unknown. Admiralty P3197.6.
Jìnqīngdǎo (Drummond Island)
Date unknown. Active; focal plane 8 m (26 ft); white flash every 5 s. 8 m (26 ft) round tower painted with black and yellow horizontal bands. No photo available but Bing has a satellite view. Jìnqīngdǎo (Drummond Island) is just to the east Chēnhángdǎo (Duncan Island). Located on the southwest tip of the island guiding vessels in the strait separating the two islands. Site status unknown. Admiralty P3197.8.
 

Yínyǔ Light, October 2021
Google Maps photo by Ring Ho

Zhōngjiàndǎo (Triton Island) Lighthouses
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 cylindrical white concrete tower. A photo (almost halfway down the page) is available and Bing 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 at right and Bing 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. An aerial view (second photo on the page) shows the range lights to the left of the main lighthouse and the light is centered in Bing's 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. A photo shows the tower to the right of the main lighthouse, an aerial view (second photo on the page) shows the range lights to the left of the main lighthouse, and the light is centered in Bing's indistinct satellite view. Located about 40 m (130 ft) southeast of the front light. Site status unknown.

Zhōngjiàndǎo (Triton Island) Light, March 2012
ex-Google Plus photo by p. pc高手

Information available on lost lighthouses:

Notable faux lighthouses:

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

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Posted March 11, 2009. Checked and revised April 14, 2022. Lighthouses: 28. Site copyright 2022 Russ Rowlett and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.