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Pale Ink, by Henriette Mertz, [1953], at

p. 12 p. 13



Geographical Myths

THIS IS A very ancient story, and yet a new one. It is the story of two Chinese expeditions to America—one in the fifth century A.D., and the other in the twenty-third century B.C. Both have been taken from Chinese records. One has been doubted—the other has never been examined.

The fifth century story, which will be treated first, is that of Hwui Shan, Buddhist priest, who told the Court of China of going to a far country, to the east, called "Fu-sang." The second story, the "Classic of Mountains and Seas," is the record of a series of journeys, compiled by the great Yu, at the request of the Emperor Shun, supposedly in 2250 B.C., describing mountains and rivers across the "Great Eastern Sea."

Fu-sang, this alleged-to-be "geographical myth of Mexico-figment of Buddhist imagination," is, today, assumed to be nothing more than legendary fantasy. The dramatic record, from the Chinese Classics, was microscopically examined from 1761 to 1885, by more than fifty top-flight European scholars. Paper after paper was written but when the fan-fare had died down, nothing was conclusively proved or disproved—since nothing was actually known of pre-historic Mexico or United States. The controversy over Fu-sang eventually died a natural death for lack of knowledge.

Work, the process of digging down deep into the earth to see what went on before, had not started. No one knew just what was there—and, even yet, the surface is barely scratched.

Within the past ten or fifteen years, archeologists have uncovered amazing pre-historic sites that would have been inconceivable to the scores of French and German scientists who

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examined the Buddhist monk's story. Recent finds in Arizona and New Mexico confirm some of the most minute details contained within Hwui Shan's gripping account of Fu-sang. Had this present-day knowledge been available to those European scholars, history, within the past century, would have recorded the facts in a far different manner from the way in which they are recorded.

Fu-sang is no geographical myth. It is real. In the fifth century, it was a vital, strategic spot—Hwui Shan's visit there changed the entire course of its history. He it was who was instrumental in creating in it a magnificently brilliant civilization—the like of which the world has never seen.

The second of our stories, which chronologically belongs first, suffering from want of examination, has been infrequently read, even in China, and has never been fully translated into English. Presumably compiled by Yu, who later became Emperor, the books comprising the Shan Hai King, the "Classic of Mountains and Seas," contain accounts of journeys that cover the earth. It is my belief that the Shan Hai King will be found to be the most astounding geographical document that has ever been written.

It has long been known that Asiatics came across Bering Strait to America at a very remote time—no one knows how early—100,000 years, 500,000 years, or perhaps earlier. Land masses in that area are relatively close and at no time is it necessary to be without sight of land from either the Asiatic or Alaskan coast. Then, too, we know that climatic conditions have changed many times in the polar regions—a million years ago, redwood trees and ferns grew on the Aleutians; they formed a continuous band from the Asiatic shore down to southern California. Other similar climatic changes in those ice-locked areas have taken place within the known age of man. Journeys, that now seem to us incredible, apparently were frequently undertaken.

No longer ago than sixty years, it was the general belief that the Indian on the American continent, although recognized as being of Mongolian origin, came sometime after the Christian

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era. Forty years ago, the date was moved back a thousand years and it was assumed that 3,000 years would be the limit of time accorded the "red man." Twenty-five years ago, with the finding of the "Folsom Man," the date was shoved to 10,000 B.C.—the "Sandia Man" came to light and the date was revised to 20,000 B.C. Now, with recent discoveries in southern California, it is believed to go back to 100,000 B.C., with 400,000 B.C. as a possibility. Tremendous strides have been made with these discoveries. Things that fifty years ago were inconceivable, are now accepted.

Mongolian characteristics among the Mexican Indians had been recognized even as far back as the Conquest. The Spaniards, time after time, likened the Indian people to the Chinese. As more knowledge became available, one similarity after another was noted. The Indian of North America also bore marks of similarity to the Chinese, but they were of a different type from those of the Indians farther to the south.

About thirty years ago, the Mexican Government took an interest and it, together with several North American private institutions, set to work to find out some of the answers. Archeologists began the work of shovelling out trenches and soon were able to identify which piece of pottery came from which level, and thus built up a time sequence. Gradually, a mosaic was pieced together and relative periods of time fell into place.

Tremendous spurts of activity in the arts and sciences are known to have taken place shortly after the beginning of the Christian era in southern Mexico, Yucatan and Guatemala. Such things as the corbelled roof suddenly appeared in north-western Yucatan, in 475 A.D., with no apparent explanation and with no gradual process of evolution leading up to it. It arrived full blown. The calendar came onto the scene at approximately the same time. Great cities, such as Chichen Itza and Uxmal, rose in spectacular glory.

Speculation started buzzing around among archeologists to find the cause. Some impact from an outside source must have exerted a terrific influence. Material that was unearthed showed

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evidence of great and sudden change—a religious motif not noticeable earlier, cropped up. Artifacts that were unearthed bore an uncanny resemblance to Buddhist Java, Cambodia and China. Buddhists, who were known to have wandered over the face of the earth spreading their doctrine, were charged with having found their way over here sometime around 500 A.D., during a time of great upsurge of Buddhist missionary activity.

Then other material was found that preceded the time of Buddha. One thing after another turned up. The Tuxtla Statuette, a jade figurine, tentatively dated as of 162 A.D., was discovered; the El Baul monument supposedly executed in 29 A.D., and the monument from Tres Zapotes, in southern Vera Cruz, presumably carved in 21 B.C., were next uncovered. The earliest fixed date is that of the Leyden jade piece, dated as having been carved in 320 A.D. An early spurt appeared to have taken place somewhere about the second millennium B.C.—pottery had developed to a finished state and corn was cultivated by that date. Buddhist Chinese could not then be alleged to have contributed to the teaching of pottery or the cultivation of corn, since they both arose here before the Buddha was born.

Did the Indians from Mexico to Peru develop all of their arts and crafts independently? Were there two separate periods of external influence? Were Chinese the emigrants in both instances? Did these wanderers come for a time and then stop? After a thousand years or more did they come back? At the early date did they bring any Egyptians along? If any of them were here did they leave anything behind? Archeologists started looking for Chinese "bones." None are known to have been found. Since none have been found and positively identified, there appeared to be nothing that would prove that they were here.

It would be a relatively simple matter if the Chinese Buddhists had been as thoughtful as "Kilroy" and had taken time out to have carved their names in Chinese characters on solid rock, together with a date. If Chinese were here before the Buddhists, they likewise might have been more considerate. If they came over at periodic intervals starting about 400,000 B.C. and for

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some reason terminated their visits along about 500 A.D., why did they not leave some note of it? If they did, perhaps we have not yet recognized it. Were there many persons that came across—or just a handful? Were they on round trip expeditions or did they come as permanent settlers? How far down did they travel or settle? Was there trade back and forth once the contact had been established? Did one "borrow" from the other back and forth? If the Chinese taught the Indians, did the Indians likewise teach the Chinese?

Both the history of China as well as that of Japan, relate stories concerning boatloads of thousands of young people sailing out across the eastern sea to find a fabled land—never to return. Great ships sailed across the Indian Ocean, carrying as many as 200 persons, together with their horses—but they all returned. Whether the boatloads of young people were shipwrecked or went down in mid-ocean was never known. Whether they may have been carried along with the Kamchatka Current and deposited on another shore was never presumed nor suspected. Chinese records reveal that a boatload sailed about 219 B.C. and the Japanese date was three hundred years later. They were all looking for "The Promised Land."

Two hundred years ago, de Guignes, a Frenchman, thought that he had found the answers to these questions in the Chinese Classics. His discovery connected the Chinese Buddhists of 500 A.D. with the fabled land of Fu-sang—which de Guignes believed was Mexico. After a lapse of seventy years, another scholar came to the conclusion that de Guignes was wrong. For the past 120 years, the second man's opinion has been accepted. Whether or not either one or the other was correct or in error, it still does not explain the early period, 1500 years before the advent of Buddha in 500 B.C.

Since the Classics of 500 A.D. were disproved in 1831, insofar as they were identified with Mexico, why should one go back to the Classics again for any earlier record of contact between Mexico and China? The search may be presumed to be fruitless before it is started. Nevertheless, it is now being undertaken.

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The account which de Guignes examined, that of Hwui Shan, the Buddhist priest, will be re-examined first. The second portion will deal with the record of Yu, which is called in Chinese, Shan Hai King, and, in English, the Classic of Mountains and Seas. Presumably this recording was begun during the reign of the Emperor Shun, 2250 B.C., and completed after Yu succeeded to the throne, about 2205 B.C. Both the dates and the geographical substance of the record have been completely discounted by scholars, here and abroad, who consider the entire account as pure travesty—a descriptive collection of non-existing mountain ranges peopled with leprechauns and fire-spewing dragons.

If the fabled country across the "Great Eastern Sea," of which Yu has left descriptive notes, were non-existent, why did so many poets tingle with excitement when they wrote of the spectacular beauty of the "Great Luminous Canyon"? Why did so many poets write "I saw the place where the sun was born?" Why did others feel that they had been cheated because they had been born too late and were unable to travel to the place where the sun was born? One poet of the T’ang dynasty (618 A.D.) regretted that Confucius had travelled extensively to the west but had failed to go east to the place of the sun. The inspiring sight of the "Great Luminous Canyon" thrilled those poetic souls—it could not fail to do so.

For centuries Chinese scholars had studied this Book of Mountains and Seas—this record of Yu. It was one of the required books that all students had to read and on which they were examined during the time of the great examinations of China.

About the third century B.C., doubts as to the veracity of Yu's account crept in. Scholars looked for his mountain ranges in every conceivable corner of China and failed to find them. Since they failed to find them in China, it was concluded that Yu's mountains did not exist; that the record was good literature—it was never intended to be factual. That opinion has been held for the past 2,000 years.

Originally the Book of Mountains and Seas comprised 32

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books—18 have come down to us. No complete English translation is known to exist. On reading the precious few that were found in translation. I was impressed by their sincerity. It was perfectly obvious that whoever set down the data had been somewhere. The record was an eye-witness account—it was no collection of mythical nor imaginary labyrinthine wanderings.

The fragmentary portion, available in translation, was titled "Across the Great Eastern Sea." Chinese scholars had made exhaustive searches in China but failed to locate Yu's mountain ranges. Looking in China would prove pointless—the caption specifically stated otherwise. No one, it seemed, had looked "across the Great Eastern Sea."

If the book were to be examined, directions of the author would have to be scrupulously followed. Discounting the other fellow's directions and mileage, on the presumption that he must be wrong, one never gets to the place where he was directed. That was what happened to the German scientist who examined Hwui Shan's account in the 1830's. In this instance, when we are told to go east—we go east; when directions specify 266 miles, then we shall go 266 miles. We shall follow every instruction laid down in the Classics, insofar as we have it.

Traditions, oftentimes, are forgotten. In the case of Yu's journeymen, great numbers of persons were sent out across the seas who, on their return, doubtless related stories of their adventures to their children and grandchildren. But time, along with war, upheaval and pestilence over extended periods, has a habit of erasing details from men's minds. If we rely solely on tradition, which, while it maintains the germ, frequently is distorted, we would have an incomplete picture. Tradition in this case was long since forgotten—but the record of Yu remained intact, indelibly written down so that man would not forget.


"Pale ink," said Confucius, "is better than the most retentive memory." And so it was with the record of Yu.

Next: Chapter II. Fu-sang