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Chinese Knew North America More Than 4000 Years Ago!

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Bianca
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« Reply #15 on: September 02, 2007, 08:19:15 pm »








By the fifth century C.E., the volume of records and books in China had grown to such a total that no one could hope to read even a small fraction of those in existence. This was a different problem. The government decreed a massive editing project during which almost all former written words were read by teams of scholars and condensed. Originals were destroyed.

In the thirteenth century more condensation was ordered, and even the fifth century versions were cut down. Again, the “originals” were discarded. The enormous effort was understandable. One encyclopaedia, in manuscript form, had grown to the equivalent length of 22,937 books.

Because of such condensation and destruction, the Shan Hai King, originally about thirty-two books long, exists in an eighteen-book version, each section from one to thirty pages in length and in summary form. (12) The later compilers assumed readers would know the context. Thus, what is reprinted today is certainly not the whole story.

Here is some of what is left:

“. . . to the south, Lone Mountain is found. Upon this there are many gems and much gold, and below it many beautiful stones. Muddy River is found here, a stream flowing southeasterly into a mighty flood, in which there are many T’iao-Yung. These look like yellow serpents with fish’s fins. . . .

“. . . three hundred li to the south, Bald Mountain is found . . . wild animals are found here which look like suckling pigs, but they have pearls. They are called Tung-Tung, their name being given to them in imitation of their cry. The Hwan River is found here, a stream flowing easterly into a river . . . one authority says that it flows into the sea. In this there are many water-gems.
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« Reply #16 on: September 02, 2007, 08:20:27 pm »


“Three hundred li farther south, Bamboo Mountain is found, bordering on a river. . . . There is no grass, or trees, but there are many green-jasper and green-jade stones. The Kih River [water impeded in its course by rocks] is found here, a stream flowing into T’su-Tan [larger water of some sort]. In this place there is a great abundance of dye plants.” (13)Appendix 1

These are the descriptions of the last sections of a land traverse by Chinese explorers covering more than a dozen points of geographical interest along a generally north to south line. The Shan Hai King records three such traverses in this section and two others in subsequent books. Although the hand of an editor is obvious, the notes sound neither whimsical nor mythical. The account is not complete (or suffered in condensation), but it does give distances between major mountains and drainage patterns and notes on plants and animals and minerals. The notes are similar to notes explorers have taken, worldwide, since writing became common.

However incomplete the account, readers two thousand years later wondered where such land might be. Enough description exists to conform distance between prominent mountain peaks, direction of river flow, and occurrence of minerals, animals, and plants.
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« Reply #17 on: September 02, 2007, 08:24:21 pm »







Many geographers and historians searched for routes in China or other parts of Asia which would fit the descriptions. Matching land forms were not found there. (14) But the Shan Hai King notes that the traverses are in a place beyond the eastern sea from China—and the routes do match mountains and rivers in parts of Canada, the western United States, Texas, and Mexico. In the section quoted above, the course appears to be along part of a line of peaks through Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas. Mountain peaks, wooded and desert areas, stretches of sand, and river directions fit the description.

The Davis Mountains, Jeff Davis County,
looking southwest.
Photograph by Two Dog Woman Graphics


Lone Mountain may be El Capitán or Guadalupe Peak, the latter the highest mountain in Texas near the present Texas-New Mexico border, with Delaware Creek draining east into the Pecos. About a hundred miles (three hundred li) south is Mount Livermore, or Baldy, as it is called even today, (15) and the animals here are surely peccary, with pearl-like tusks. Limpia Creek flows east. And there are enough beautiful “water gems”—agate and quartz—in the area to satisfy the description.
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« Reply #18 on: September 02, 2007, 08:30:20 pm »


The Chisos Mountains, Big Bend National Park,
view to the southwest. Emory Peak (7825') is
the highest point in the isolated mountains.
Photograph by Two Dog Woman Graphics.




About a hundred miles south and somewhat east is the Emory Peak area, part of the Big Bend, with a logical route down Terlingua Creek to the west. The Rio Grande, indeed impeded somewhat, here breaks out of the spectacular Santa Elena Canyon. Or, the explorers might have swung more to the west, ending up at the river after skirting the Chinati Mountains. (16) Along either route, a local dye plant in great abundance is the creosote bush.





The Chisos Mountains, view from Lost Mine Peak
toward Elephant Tusk. The Chisos are well known
for varied wildlife and plants, spectacular geology,
wonderful hiking and camping, and ghosts.
Photograph by Two Dog Woman Graphics.




These three sections of a route would hardly be called good evidence. Three locations, taken alone and only generally describing the landscape, would prove nothing. But the whole traverse from Wyoming to Texas—mentioning rivers, desert areas, wildlife, distances, minerals, and plants—is more convincing. And comparisons of the Chinese text with maps and field observations show that the five routes in the Shan Hai King fit more or less accurately on land in the western part of North America. (17) This would seem to be more than coincidence. At least the routes do not fit China or Western Asia, and there seems nowhere else to put them. (South America was even tried, with no success.) (18)
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« Reply #19 on: September 02, 2007, 08:38:30 pm »








But this evidence really satisfies few people—and for good reason. For a statement to be “unquestionably” true, to be verified, there usually has to be supporting evidence of several kinds. Unlike the conquests of Caesar in Europe or the commercial contacts of the Polo family, there is almost no other evidence the Chinese were in western North America at a very early date. If Chinese did walk the land, they did not conquer.

A few small things have been noticed: American Indian legends mention the arrival of strangers long before Europeans; (19) certain prehistoric earth mounds in Mississippi are similar to some in China; (20) particular stone axes and blades seem much the same as some in China—indeed, one Chinese story relates how souvenir stone points were offered the emperor Yu. (21) North American and Shang artists alike depict animal forms as if the body were split with joined halves. (22) Central American legends speak of the gifts of language and agriculture being brought by travelers. (23) One cache of old Chinese coins was found by miners in British Columbia in 1882, but not under conditions that would guarantee it had been hidden at a pre-Columbian date. (24) This kind of data, however, can easily be coincidence or hoax. (25) Final decisions cannot be made on the basis of such things. (26)

Even a number of other documents telling the same story would add support, but no other records speaking of such a journey at this early date have yet been found.

Interestingly, one other Chinese document does seem to describe a much later visit to North America. It is an account told by a Buddhist priest on his appearance at a Chinese royal court about C.E. 500 from what he considered to be the far east. His name was Hwui Shan. (27) His voice comes from government records of only 1500 years ago:

“Fu Sang is twenty thousand li or more to the east of the Great Han Country, which is east of the Middle Kingdom [China]. The region has many Fu Sang trees, giving the country its name. The leaves of the Fu Sang resemble T’ung, and the first sprouts are like bamboo. The people of the country eat them and a fruit which is like a pear, but red in color."
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« Reply #20 on: September 02, 2007, 08:41:52 pm »





“They spin thread from the bark [of the Fu Sang] from which they make cloth. They make houses of planks, but have no walled cities. They have a written language and use the bark of the Fu Sang to make paper.”

Speaking here of peoples far to the east, Hwui Shan commented at length on the system of justice, the method a ruler follows in assuming power, the colors and style of the ruler’s clothing, ceremonial processions, social ranks in the land, and the presence of cattle (perhaps bison) and deer.

“The ground is destitute of iron, but it has copper. They do not value gold and silver and have no taxes in the markets.” (28) The priest went on to outline wedding customs and the manner of burial. He also noted carefully that the people of the land were ignorant of the Buddha’s way of life until about C.E. 458 when five priests voyaged to that country and tried to covert them.

Of great interest is that Hwui Shan, unlike some surveyors, provided some detail of the trip east.

Added to the priest’s account in the court record is a story of certain unnamed man who a few years later (C.E. 507) were crossing the sea and were blown ashore in the unknown land. Their story confirms some of the priest’s comments. The women of the country to the far east resembled Chinese women, but their language could not be understood. Some men had human bodies but dog heads and dog voices. These people made round adobe houses, the doors of which resembled burrows.
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« Reply #21 on: September 02, 2007, 08:48:09 pm »








Wild stories . . . but to judge the accounts, one must consider the history of the source document, the probability of such a journey, and another slice of Chinese history. How the priest’s story was written is particularly important because it explains why some of the descriptions of the land and peoples in China’s Far East are hard to understand or to believe.

The story of Hwui Shan was recorded in the Liang-shu, the Records of the Liang Dynasty, a part of the Nan-shih, or History of the South, compiled by Li Yen-shau who lived in the seventh century. The account was copied by Ma Twan-lin in his Antiquarian Researches, published in 1321. Both versions are copies of the earlier court records.

No one now knows Hwui Shan’s homeland. (29) He was known to have been a priest more or less crossing China, or to have been there only for a short time before his journey east. He may have come from present-day Afghanistan or Kashmir. His name is simply an epithet meaning “very intelligent,” similar to names taken by many another priest.

But by whatever name, the priest apparently made a successful return from a most interesting and almost unknown land far to the east. Yet, he had trouble telling his story. China was in disarray, embroiled in civil wars and split into northern and southern kingdoms. Ruling families and capital cities shifted like autumn leaves. Hwui Shan bided his time.
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« Reply #22 on: September 02, 2007, 08:52:27 pm »









In C.E. 502 the Southern Ch’i Dynasty, with Chien-k’ang (Nanking) as its capital, was overthrown by Liang Wu Ti. He established the Liang Dynasty which for a short time was stable. The possibility appeared for Hwui Shan to present himself at court.



 Reconstructed drawing of a
Chinese royal court, c. 831
Institute of Texan Cultures, 74-239


The choice of the southern capital for a reception was a good one, for both the priest and for the record which exists today. Emperor Wu Ti was not only a good ruler by the standards of the day but also a patron of Buddhism. Hwui Shan, who probably could speak little court Chinese, was nevertheless heard politely, and the court realized that his story was a most unusual one. In fifth century China a land to the far east was known mostly as a myth—a land where the sun was born and a proper subject matter for poets. The earlier Classic of Mountains and Seas could not be confirmed. But what the priest said rang true—or the court was just being polite.

When the priest related his story, a number of nobles were at court. One of them, Yu-kie, was asked by the emperor to question Hwui Shan further, translate when necessary, and write his story for the court records. Working together, certainly misunderstanding each other from time to time, Hwui Shan and Yu-kie produced a short narrative of the journey. (30) But the royal court of the day was, if anything, highly cultured, and Yu-kie could not resist writing a parallel version of his own, satiric and interspersed with humorous comments.

Literary scholars rather enjoy these two versions of the land of Fu Sang; earlier historians, however, were a bit uneasy with the second version because a humorous document is always an uncertain record. How can one decide when the author is being serious?
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« Reply #23 on: September 02, 2007, 08:57:24 pm »








But the versions are identifiable. Hwui Shan’s is matter-of-fact for the most part. Yu-kie’s version has the thread of Hwui Shan’s words, but the bulk of it is humorous burlesque on a basic story. But a basic story there is.

The story is that Hwui Shan and his companions traveled east from China about thirteen thousand miles and, from a coast, traveled inland. Within some three hundred fifty miles, they met “primitive” people along the way and saw others who had heads of dogs and lived in round adobe homes. Traveling on, they eventually reached a “relatively civilized” people having a written language, a type of paper, a government, buildings, and a culture somewhat like that of the natives of southern Mexico. Hwui Shan described the geography only generally but had much to record about the social organization of the people.

The court records do not mention whether Hwui Shan was working from his own notes or not. If the story is true, he was a man recalling something he had done years earlier.

What the emperor thought of the priest’s story is not known, but into the court records it went. The record attracted some later comment about the Far East, but the Chinese consistently had other things to worry about than a real continent across the ocean. More than a thousand years passed before anyone apparently wondered where Hwui Shan might really have been.

Western scholars made the first controversial comments about the story. In 1753 Phillippe Buache made the outrageous suggestion that Buddhist priests had established a colony on the west coast of America. (31) In 1761 Joseph de Guignes presented a paper to the French Royal Academy concerning Hwui Shan’s account. Not only did he give a translation of the priest’s words, but also de Guignes maintained that Fu Sang was Mexico and that the people described by Hwui Shan were the Indians of Mexico and the southwestern United States. For many years there was a scholarly silence. Then in 1831 Julius Klaproth, an eminent German scholar, attacked de Guignes’s view, and the fight was on. The contention quickly attracted other scholars—but only the few who were attracted to Chinese sources.

To this day, the argument has not been resolved. (32)
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« Reply #24 on: September 02, 2007, 08:59:01 pm »









The first disputes were personally bitter and poetically violent, in the style of academic contention that was to endure until the early 1900’s. Since those original arguments, only a few others have analyzed the account, argued over it, and tried to prove—or to disprove—that the land of Fu Sang was the present southwest United States and Mexico.



 The Chisos Mountains in the Big Bend, c. 1937
Institute of Texan Cultures, 74-60


Some of the story fits. The men with dog heads could be Native Americans. Wolf masks are still worn. Certainly the Indians look somewhat Chinese, although their language is different, as the priest noted. The multi-use Fu-Sang plant—source of fiber, thread, food, and drink—is possibly the maguey, a variety of the “century” plant. The red, pear-shaped fruit could be either early American corn, such as has been found in abandoned storage pits, or the tuna of the nopal—the fruit of the prickly pear cactus—still a common food.

The circular houses were common in the Mogollon culture of the southwestern United States about C.E. 350 and later. (33) The social customs match fairly well—or can be made to match—much that is known about pre-Aztec Indians of central Mexico and the southwestern Indians of California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas.

The journey itself—via the Aleutian current or along the coast—is a plausible one. (34) Even ships without crews can drift to the California coast, as evidenced by many a Japanese wreck, particularly in the favorable autumn winds. (35) What the priest describes along the way also matches the culture of some former Siberian and Alaskan peoples, as far as they are known today. And the geographical sites he mentions, including descriptions of places hard to miss, such as the La Brea tar pits of California, seem to fit.
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« Reply #25 on: September 02, 2007, 09:02:45 pm »








Even the stranger comments—a kingdom of women, ladies taking serpents for husbands, and men speaking with the voices of dogs—can be explained, if one grants the literary customs of earlier Chinese. In the traditions of certain Southwestern Native Americans, matriarchal tendencies are obvious and women can wed serpents—at least in the understanding of outsiders. Male members of various Snake Clans consider themselves physically and spiritually one with snakes—in the understanding of outsiders. Hwui Shan would have had a hard time trying to explain that to Yu-kie. In addition, the Chinese were very fond of offering insults to the language and the physical aspects of foreigners. Language that sounded like the barking of dogs or men who looked like filthy devils are common epithets in some Chinese texts for even close neighbors. (36)

But again, the only evidence of the priest’s journey is an old document mentioning things that might be, although in the right place, coincidence.

Since the days of the start of the controversy—but rarely outside professional papers—a few authors have devoted themselves to establishing cultural links between pre-Spanish Mexico and the Orient. Similarities have been noted in art, religion, myth, architecture, and social institutions. It is said of some Mexican antiquities that had they not been found in the Americas, they would have been called colonial Chinese without question. (37) Some Chinese and Japanese images of the Buddha are so similar to Mexican jades that they could be interchanged; some carved wall designs are similar; earlier Spanish explorers at the west coast of California reported seeing strange trading ships; (38) there are resemblances in calendars, and one of the oldest New World pottery styles is virtually identical to early Japanese. (39)

Indeed, some researchers date the appearance of the bow and arrow in the American southwest to around C.E. 500—about the time such a weapon could have been brought by Hwui Shan or earlier Chinese explorers. This statement is regarded with a wide variety of responses by archaeologists. A few think it an interesting possibility; others consider the suggestion irresponsible and ignorant.
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« Reply #26 on: September 02, 2007, 09:05:40 pm »









Most scholars view cultural, but widely separated, similarities with caution. The fact of similarity does not mean contact between peoples. Parallel but independent development of cultural traits is a possibility. (40) Even contact between peoples would not necessarily mean a colonial venture but perhaps only an exploration. (41) At the present state of knowledge, however, there are those who say that evidence in support of early cultural connections across the Pacific Ocean appears to be better than the evidence of strong cultural relations between the early peoples of the central valley of Mexico and Guatemala. (42)

A reader of such stories as Hwui Shan has to tell might also question whether a Buddhist priest of the fifth century would have had a motive for such a journey. Few Chinese seem to have had a motive, or the curiosity, but for a Buddhist priest the answer is almost certainly yes. (43)

It is particularly believable that Buddhist priests would have made such a trip. (44) Traveling Buddhist priests and scholars, such as the famous Fa-Hsien, traveled west, south, and north over all of Asia and into Africa and Europe as missionaries and pilgrims of the first major religion known to actively take its belief to others. (45) Buddhist priests were particularly active in the fifth and sixth centuries. (46) They even visited early Britain and the Roman Empire, leaving records that are not questioned—as long as the journey does not cross the Pacific Ocean. (47)



Fa-Hsien regards a fallen companion
Institute of Texan Cultures, 74-234


Fa-Hsien, traveling in the fifth century, ranged from China across central Asia, came back into India from the west, took ship for Ceylon, traveled across the Indian Ocean, around Sumatra, across the China Sea, and back home. His was a stupendous journey, and his written accounts sound much like Hwui Shan’s. (48) This journey is believed in spite of Fa-Hsien’s notes about “evil spirits,” Buddha’s shadow left on a rock, and an invisible but white-eared dragon. Like Hwui Shan’s account, his journey is also a human story of hardship and faith. Unlike Hwui Shan’s, it is accepted as true. (49)
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« Reply #27 on: September 02, 2007, 09:09:35 pm »









One question might be: When an account from the year 500 is read that speaks of going the proper distance east from China to reach North America, and gives many details that could be true, why should it not be believed? (50)

There are reasons. Not only is verified secondary evidence lacking, but also, as far as archaeological or anthropological theory goes, many things—for some scholars—are at stake. Early contact between peoples of the Americas and the Old World is a subject highly charged with emotion even today, particularly where the transmission of inventions and beliefs might be involved. (51) Even the consideration of “insignificant” contact creates interest and argument.

And this is another way of asking: So what? Stories like these have an importance beyond simple curiosity. If it is ever proven that common human inventions, art forms, or beliefs were made independently in many areas of the world, this would support the innate creativity of humans and perhaps even the inevitability of human achievement. Independent development of things and ways of belief would mean human culture is not unique to any place in the world—or perhaps to human-like beings on other worlds. And it would mean that lost cultural accomplishments are probably regained.

If, on the other hand, major things are only invented once and thereafter passed on from person to person, human culture is apparently unique, even accidental—and susceptible to permanent loss. In this case, no one can count of cultural advances to regenerate if destroyed. (52)

At present, the stories of early Chinese explorers and wandering Buddhist priests have no unquestionably supporting facts outside of a few old documents and cultural observations which could be coincidence. This is evidence which by no means forms what is known as full verification or proof.

 

Ruins remain in the trans-Pecos of Texas but, so far,
nothing that appears to have come from China.
Photograph by Two Dog Woman Graphics.

 
The most liberal opinion which attracts general support at present is that a boat or two may accidentally have been driven by storms over the Pacific in earlier centuries, but any contact was culturally insignificant. (53) In other words, no one has yet discovered the ruin of a fifth century Buddhist temple in Texas.

But these stories remain intriguing. And they remain. They are a long way from being forgotten, and their consideration can lead to a great flexibility in thinking. That’s a good thing to develop. Above all, the stories are illustrations of a basic concern: Just what is a fact? And that consideration—being able to intelligently form such a question—is perhaps more important than the “truth” of the stories.


 
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Institute of Texan Cultures
at San Antonio
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« Reply #28 on: September 02, 2007, 09:13:49 pm »

                             



                                   






Statements in the humanities—fields of concern such as history and literary studies—are often unlike statements in the sciences. They are mostly specific and concrete, that is, unique and from in the past: “Chinese surveyors explored a part of West Texas about thirty centuries ago” or “in 1985, Rafaela Gonzales became the first known person to climb Guadalpue Peak” or “a majority of people in Hidalgo County speak Spanish as a first language.” Until somehow proven or verified, those statements cannot be accepted as fact.

In the sciences, important statements are often general and apply to many places and conditions and times—they are not unique. “Force is equal to mass times acceleration.” This is general and reproducible on demand. Like the humanities, science also deals with specific statements which can or can not be verified and are much more specific: “Four species of mistletoe grow in the Big Bend area” or “some three thousand years ago, the creeks of West Texas carried much more water than they do today..”

Any one of these statements must be verified or confirmed before it can be used as a statement of truth or fact. In general, and in the logic of the western world, a statement is verifiable if a test can be agreed on by which the statement could be falsified (whether stated in the affirmative or negative). Some scientists use the word “confirmation” when a statement is thus proven true. (1)
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« Reply #29 on: September 03, 2007, 06:39:54 am »

                       






Of course, agreeing on a test can be a problem. Some people might say “I know this to be true in my heart.” This may be but cannot be so proven. Others might say “If we see a stone that has been cut with the tool called the pilachavekia, then this proves Bolzenians lived here in 1372.” Many people might want to establish the causes and effects required by such a statement before admitting this was a good test.

And, of course, antiquity proves little. Few people would agree that a single document, unwitnessed and suspect, could be a self-test of its own statements. Thus, the Shan Hai King, whatever its antiquity, and because of its vagueness in spite of many commentators, proves little. Now, a reader could believe the book speaks truth, but unless others make this jump of faith, this belief comes to nothing.

Every kind of human knowledge, worldwide, has its set of rules for verification: chemistry, short-term investment, curanderismo, epistemology, carburetor adjustment, astrology, aromatherapy, mineralogy, history . . . Yet, some tests are remarkably different. Verification methods in psychology support certain practices of folk medicine more easily than applying the standards of modern chemistry. And the “scientific method”—the method of contemporary logic—demands that a test be agreed on by which a statement could be disproven. Otherwise, no rational discussion about its truth is possible.

In addition, new facts in the fabric of human knowledge cannot be contradictory to statements already tested. On occasion, of course, a new verification will tumble old knowledge completely. This usually happens when older knowledge is based on incomplete data.
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