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Hwui Shan, Traveller par Excellence

EXPLORER, teacher, missionary, recorder of events and traveller par excellence, Hwui Shan was, without question, one of the greatest that the world has ever known. A mendicant, begging alms as he went, he faithfully practiced and taught his religious beliefs to a strange and aboriginal people far removed from his homeland. He introduced there a new culture and raised it, single-handed, to such a high degree that the world today still stands in amazement of it—even the calendar that he taught was more perfect than is our own. Perhaps no other in the world's history has ever done so much for so many people in such varied fields of activity and yet remains unknown. His religious faith was indelibly stamped upon the Mexican people and the deeply spiritual kindly folk all over the country still reflect that teaching after 1500 years.

Converting an entire country as he did, should rank him with the world's great religious teachers. In addition to a better life, he brought advanced methods of agriculture; of weaving and ceramics; he taught astronomy and the calendar; he taught metallurgy and the art of fine feather-work. His dynamic personality was so strong that he was revered as a god, even in his own time—Quetzalcoatl, Kukulcan and Wixipecocha represented the highest ideals of mankind. Marco Polo pales beside him.

Geographic data that he recorded, although twice condensed and many times edited, were as accurate as any record brought back by any other ancient explorer. This has here been more than amply demonstrated. That he was well-beloved by all those with whom he had contact, is evident by the number of towns and villages from one end of Mexico to the other, named in his honor. It is my belief that his journey can be traced by those places. Whether the villages were named at the time he was there or as a remembrance after he had left, is a matter of conjecture.

Applying the three names, which we arbitrarily selected earlier, "Hwui Shan," "Pi-k’iu," or "Saka," we can map a definite

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course from Point Hueneme to Sacaton, Picacho and Hano in Arizona, and follow every mile of the way down those 2,500 miles.

Following a route that would take advantage of the natural contour of the land, using well-known mountain passes and accepted ancient travel paths, Hwui Shan travelled south and probably passed through or close by the present towns of Quijano, Huepac, Picacho, Sinaquipe, Wicam, Cuitaco, Sinaloa, Chinoaqui, Huichol, Huilacatlan, Zacatecas, Huitzontla and as far south as the "smoking mountain" in the State of Colima. Turning eastward from there, he passed through Huetamo to the country of the Toltecs, where we find Zacatlan, Huamantlan, Huitzuco, Zacapoaxtla, Huitzitzilapam, Tehuacan and Hueyonipan. Crossing the Bay of Campeche, to northwestern Yucatan and the Maya, he visited Muna, Mani, Sacabchen and Champoton—returning by way of Xicalonga and the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, he stopped at Pichucalco, Quibesche, Picacho, Cuilapan, Huitzo, Tlahui, Quibicuzas and in Guatemala, Sacapulas, Zacualpa and on the west coast, Huixtla.

On a map, these villages form a thin line, with scarcely a deviation, from northwestern Mexico down the coast to Colima, east across the Valley of Mexico, across to Yucatan, returning west by way of southern Mexico, Chiapas, Tabasco and Oaxaca, a side excursion into Guatemala and ending on the Pacific coast. Considerable time apparently was spent in two areas, that from Tula to Tehuacan, and that in and around Chiapas and Oaxaca, for extensive wanderings in both areas are clear. Both areas show that unusual bursts of activity must have taken place in a short space of time—both areas, in the late fifth century, were literally bee-hives of productivity.

The incentive stimulating an aboriginal people and giving them the driving force to rise to such unprecedented heights, could only have been furnished by a truly magnetic personality—and Hwui Shan must have been such a one. It is true that he undoubtedly found a highly intelligent group with whom he could work in the first place—but there have been other highly intelligent groups in other places, throughout history, none of

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whom arrived at anything comparable to the brilliant culture produced in southern Mexico or Yucatan.

This tall, fair-skinned, bearded white man, in simple robes, walking about with his staff, this mendicant, loving people and life, teaching, preaching, converting, and moving on to extend the teaching and preaching, single-handed, changed the entire course of an empire.

People adored him and believed in him. That is evident from the fact that they followed him from Mexico to Yucatan—it is evident from the fact that the Emperor of China gave him audience, at a crucial time, and furnished a recorder, a Prince of the realm, to take down and preserve his words for posterity. Again, it is evident when, 1000 years later, the ruler of all Mexico, the famed Moctezuma II, had such abiding faith in his integrity, that his promise to return in the year of his name, CE ACATL, was believed without question. Moctezuma laid down his arms and welcomed the bearded white man back—the fulfillment of a promise and a dream. An empire was lost—history was changed.

One should not be led astray by assuming for one moment that because novelists have grabbed on to and glamourized the dramatic story of Hwui Shan, the "bearded white man," that it is fiction. Because a seed was planted into our early thinking by such whimsical novels as "The Fair God," does not mean that Hwui Shan, the bearded white man whom Lew Wallace wished to portray, was fictitious. He was not. We, the foreigners, are the ones who pinned the label of fiction on Quetzalcoatl, merely because we did not understand it. We tagged it as a carry-over from the ancients as was the archer story of the Chinese; tagged it as being nothing more than a fable, a "fairy-tale hero" held up to small children as an example of the morals all good little boys and girls should strive to emulate. That interpretation on our part has been gratuitous—and we have sold it back to a few Mexicans. A good Mexican Indian knows better.

That Hwui Shan, revered as Quetzalcoatl, still dominates Mexican thinking, perhaps unconsciously, is definitely shown in a dynamic book on present-day Mexican political philosophy.

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[paragraph continues] Virginia Prewett, in her "Reportage on Mexico," has fittingly told the story of Quetzalcoatl, using it as the background for understanding the gamut of social, economic, political and religious psychology. She mentioned that Quetzalcoatl, the bearded white man, called Kukulcan in Yucatan, is the only single one of the gods in the Mexican pantheon that the Mexicans remember—even to knowing precisely how he looked. She has identified him as having been a living priest who was later deified, from whom all emotional roots of the mestizo stem.

In his fascinating book, "Gods, Graves, & Scholars," C. W. Ceram related the story of Quetzalcoatl, the bearded white man, and it was his belief that history, which has frequently validated legend, will find a kernel of truth in this story and that it should not be dismissed as poetic invention no matter how fictitious it may appear. He holds to the theory that Quetzalcoatl was a missionary from a strange land, stating that some see in him the Apostle Thomas himself. Many persons have sought this legendary figure—but, up to now, in vain.

Hwui Shan, Buddhist Pi-k’iu, this dynamic personality, fabled as the "bearded white man," as "Quetzalcoatl, "Kukulcan" and "Wixipecocha," revered for centuries in Mexico, has waited long for history to recognize him. He deserves a highly honored and respected place beside the world's greatest religious teachers, beside the builders of empires and beside the great explorers. Hwui Shan's right to distinction rests on his very own record, Kuen 327, preserved for fifteen centuries in the Chinese Classics—and twice corroborated by the Mani Chronicle of the Books of Chilam Balam.


"Om mani padme hum."


p. 89

A Poem on the Stone Drums

Chang handed me this tracing, from the stone drums,
Beseeching me to write a poem on the stone drums.
Tu Fu has gone. LI Po is dead.
What can my poor talent do for the stone drums?
. . . When the Chou power waned and China was bubbling,
Emperor Hsuan, up in wrath, waved his only spear
And opened his Great Audience, receiving all the tributes
Of kings and lords who came to him with a tune of clanging weapons.
They held a hunt in Ch’i-yang and proved their marksmanship:
Fallen birds and animals were strewn three thousand miles.
And the exploit was recorded, to inform new generations . . .
Cut out of jutting cliffs, these drums made of stone
On which poets and artisans, all of the first order,
Had indited and chiselled—were set in the deep mountains
To be washed by rain, baked by sun, burned by wildfire,
Eyed by evil spirits, and protected by the gods.
. . . Where can he have found the tracing on this paper?—
True to the original, not altered by a hair,
The meaning deep, the phrases cryptic, difficult to read,
And the style of the characters neither square nor tadpole.
Time has not yet vanquished the beauty of these letters—
Looking like sharp daggers that pierce live crocodiles,
Like phoenix-mates dancing, like angels hovering down,
Like trees of jade and coral with interlocking branches,
Like golden cord and iron chain tied together tight,
Like incense-tripods flung in the sea, like dragons mounting heaven.
Historians, gathering ancient poems, forgot to gather these,
To make the two Books of Musical Song more colorful and striking;
Confucius journeyed in the west, but not to the Ch’in Kingdom,
He chose our planet and our stars but missed the sun and moon . . .
I who am fond of antiquity, was born too late
And, thinking of these wonderful things, cannot hold back my tears . . .
I remember, when I was awarded my highest degree,
During the first years of Yuan-ho, p. 90
How a friend of mine, then at the western camp,
Offered to assist me in removing these old relics.
I bathed and changed, then made my plea to the college president
And urged on him the rareness of these most precious things.
They could be wrapped in rugs, be packed and sent in boxes
And carried on only a few camels: ten stone drums
To grace the Imperial Temple like the Incense-Pot of Kao—
Or their lustre and their value would increase a hundredfold,
If the monarch would present them to the university,
Where students could study them and doubtless decipher them,
And multitudes, attracted to the capital of culture
From all corners of the Empire, would be quick to gather.
We could scour the moss, pick out the dirt, restore the original surface,
And lodge them in a fitting and secure place for ever,
Covered by a massive building with wide eaves
Where nothing more might happen to them as it had before. . . .
But government officials grow fixed in their ways
And never will initiate beyond old precedent;
So herd-boys strike the drums for fire, cows polish horns on them,
With no one to handle them reverently.
Still ageing and decaying, soon they may be effaced.
Six years I have sighed for them, chanting toward the west . . .
The familiar script of Wang Hsi-chih, beautiful though it was,
Could be had, several pages, just for a few white geese!
But now, eight dynasties after the Chou, and all the wars over,
Why should there be nobody caring for these drums?
The Empire is at peace, the government free.
Poets again are honored and Confucius and Mencians . . .
Oh, how may this petition be carried to the throne?
It needs an eloquent flow, like a cataract
But, alas, my voice has broken, in my song of the stone drums,
To a sound of supplication choked with its own tears.

Han Yu (768-823 A.D.)
Translated by Witter Bynner

Next: Chapter XI. Early China