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Pima Territory, by Edward Curtis [1912] (Public Domain Image)
Pima Territory, by Edward Curtis [1912] (Public Domain Image)

Pale Ink

by Henriette Mertz


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This is another attempt to investigate early Chinese trans-Pacific contacts, written mid-20th century by a globe-trotting patent attorney, Henriette Mertz. Like Charles Leland's Fusang, written three-quarters of a century before, Mertz depends heavily on ancient Chinese geographical treatises to support her thesis that the Chinese explored the western United States hundreds, maybe thousands of years before Europeans. The strongest part of the book is her attempt to explain the available Chinese historical descriptions, even the most fanciful parts, in terms of specific locations, animals, and cultures, for the most part plausibly. On the downside, she misidentifies parts of the Hindu sacred texts as Buddhist, and indulges in the amateur etymology game, with predictable results. But these factual lapses seem to be peripheral to the book.

Mertz self-published this in 1953, and followed it up with a second edition in 1972, which corrected many of the endemic typos in the first edition. The book was reissued in paperback by Ballentine in 1975 as Gods from the Far East: How The Chinese Discovered America (see cover), apparently in an effort to cash in on the Van Daniken craze. However, Pale Ink is a much better effort than Van Daniken, as Mertz is not obsessed with explaining every Native American technological advance as a borrowing from unknown visitors.

The Chinese discovery of America continues to be a perennial theory. Most recently we've seen 1421: The Year China Discovered America, by Gavin Menzies, and Voyages of the Pyramid Builders, by Robert M. Schoch. Both of these books owe quite a lot to the work of Henriette Mertz.

Title Page
Chapter I. Geographical Myths
Chapter II. Fu-sang
Chapter III. Chinese Whimsy?
Chapter IV. Kuen 327 and the Liang-Sse-Kong Ki
Chapter V. Mexican Legends
Chapter VI. Yucatan
Chapter VII. Related Items
Chapter VIII. The Buddhists
Chapter IX. A Matter of Words
Chapter X. Hwui Shan, Traveller par Excellence
Chapter XI. Early China
Chapter XII. The Shan Hai King
Chapter XIII. Across the Sea
Chapter XIV. The Great American Desert
Chapter XV. Conclusion
Author Biography