5,000 years ago, some of the people living south of the Yangtze River began building bamboo rafts and canoes, and paddling over to Hainan Island, which was completely uninhabited until this point. They settled here, becoming the ancestors of the Li people, the first inhabitants of Hainan.
2,000 years ago, after Emperor Qin Shihuang unified China, Hainan island was considered the frontier, and was a part of Guangxi Province. In the many years after, there were many changes in the governing of Hainan, and was at times independently governed by the Li people themselves. It wasn’t until the Republic of China period that an effective administration system was established in Hainan. On May 1, 1950, Hainan was liberated and the Hainan administrative district was formed, under the jurisdiction of Guangdong Province. On April 13, 1988, Hainan Province was established, and became China’s largest special economic zone. On June 21, 2012, Hainan Province established Sansha City. Hainan currently administers 19 towns and counties, as well as Yangpu Economic Development Zone.
More than 1,000 years ago Hainan fishermen began living on the various islands of the South China Sea. During the early Ming Dynasty, the fishermen of Tanmen, Qionghai composed the Xisha, Zhongsha, and Nansha archipelago guide, or “Road Map”. During the Ming Dynasty, aside from fishing in the South China Sea, Hainan fishermen also built houses on some small islands in the Xisha archipelago, dug wells, planted trees, raised cattle, tended sheep, and became long term residents. Even now, traces of their houses, wells, and other artifacts can be seen on Yongxing and many other islands.