Hui Shen was a Buddhist monk and missionary who lived during the latter half of the 5th Century AD to the early part of the 6th Century. From all indications he was born somewhere within the landlocked area adjacent to China which now days would be considered Afghanistan. Although not much is known of his early years it is known that he dedicated his life to Buddhism and spreading the word of Buddhism far and wide --- most notedly to America, known as Fu Sang in Chinese.
From around 1500 BCE to 1500 AD the southern reaches of Mexico and the Yucatan, in an area generally known as Mesoamerica, any number of tribes and peoples, minor and major, with many reaching very high states of civilization became known to us under such names as Olmecs, Toltecs, Zapotecs, Aztecs, Mayans, etc. Of those, in the annals of the Zapotec, there is a strong historic relation of Hui Shen to a carved statue-like figure said to exist or to have existed in the mountains above Tehuantepec.
The last sovereign king of the Zapotec was Cosijopii (1502-1563) having succeeded to the throne following the death of his father in 1529, just at the beginning of the Spanish conquest. About 20 years after taking the throne, for unknown reasons, Cosijopii moved his capital from Zaachila to Tehuantepec. In the book The Mexican Southland (1922), Chapter XVI 'The King of Tehuantepec' the author writes of Cosijopii and his interest, or perhaps his concern as the case may be, in the existence of the statue in his sovereign domain:
"But as one deeply versed in the mysteries of statecraft and religion, he was from the beginning greatly perplexed as he pondered upon the significance of a belief which had long prevailed among the Zapotecs and other tribes of the present state of Oaxaca. For a persistent rumor spread among the people that the time would come when there would arrive from the east a strange race of men, fair of complexion and strong in battle, who would conquer the land, despoil the people of their treasures, and eradicate their ancient beliefs, substituting therefor a new and unknown faith.
"This belief, and the circumstance that about this time the people of Tehuantepec became greatly exercised over a certain monument called Guixepecocha which existed within the confines of the kingdom, whose strange heiroglyphics the astrologers could not decipher, filled the mind of Cosijopii with grave misgivings, as it had the former rulers of the land.
"The origin of the monument in question has been imputed to the Aztec god Quetzalcoatl who, in passing through the town of Magdalena, was said to have cut on the pinnacle of a great rock lying in the open country near an arroyo or dry watercourse, a figure representing a religious clad in a white habit and seated in a high-backed chair, with hood drawn and cheek resting on hand, the face turned toward the right, and on his left an Indian woman with dress and white mantle (like that used by the mountaineers to this day), covered to the head and kneeling as if in the attitude of confession.
"This figure so disquieted the Zapotecs that Cosijopii on the advice of his counselor gave command that the priests proceed to the holy island of Monapoxtiac and there consult Pezelao, that is to say, the Oracle of Heaven or, as they were also pleased to call him, the Soul of the World, to the end that it might be revealed to them what the carving signified. They did as commanded and the oracle answered vaguely: 'Behold you have the figure for a mystery and a great omen.'"
A couple of quick clarifications to the above. First, Guixepecocha, as named above, is one and the same as Wi-shi-pecocha, with Wi-shi-pecocha being basically Guixepecocha spelled phonetically. Hui Shen and Wi-shi-pecocha (Guixepecocha) are considered by most historians as one and the same person, with Wi-shi-pecocha being a transliteration of Hui Shen, bhikshu. Secondly, that the origin of the monument in question being attributed to having been carved by the Aztec god Quetzalcoatl. Hui Shen, who the statue is said to commemorate, has in many quarters been, and incorrectly so, identified as possibly being Quetzalcoatl. Hui Shen being Quetzalcoatl is not the case. Traditionaly Wi-shi-pecocha has been described as having a long black beard, is said to have appeared from the south and to have disappeared southeast of Tehuantepec. Quetzacoatl is invariably said as having long white beard, coming from the north and departing toward the southeast without ever having entered the Oaxaca area.
Manuel Martínez Gracida (1847–1924), quoted by the author of The Mexican Southland, says Hui Shen arrived in the sixth century on the shores of Huatulco. Gracida then goes on to say:
"(As) he approached the Indians he saluted them in their own tongue, a circumstance which occasioned great surprise. He was, they averred, very old, corpulent, of a light complexion, and had a broad forehead, large eyes, long beard, and long black hair; and was clad in a long tunic and mantle. He remained among them for some time preaching his doctrine, and they observed that he was of a benevolent nature, humane, industrious, wise, prudent, and just; one who sought to introduce wise laws. At the same time they stated that it was he who had taught them the art of smelting metals and sculpturing stone. They seem to have considered him an extraordinary being similar to the Culchunchan of the people of Palenque and the Quetzalcoatl of the Aztecs."
At the top of the page there is a map that diagrams Hui Shen's voyage and travels to the new world. That map comes from a book titled Inglorious Columbus (1885) by Edward Payson Vining. Basically, according to Vining, Hui Shen followed the curve of the Aleutian Islands from China to Alaska and down the west coast of America to Mexico. However, in contrast to Vining's unbrokeng darkened line of Hui Shen's travels clear to southern Mexico along the coast, Hui Shen's own record indicates he stopped and turned inland from the Pacific somewhere along what is now California, going east at least as far as the Grand Canyon, before turning south overland into Mexico.
So said, according to Buddhism In America Before Columbus, linked below, and other sources, although Hui Shen may have used most of the sea route as outlined, he and his party went ashore in an area located just north of present day Point Hueneme between Santa Barbara and Los Angeles where the Santa Clara River exits into the Pacific. How he knew about or went about selecting the Point Hueneme location is open to deliberation, however, considering the distance one would have to travel, plus all the hardships, difficulties, and potential lack of water one would encounter trying to reach the Colorado River and points beyond on foot from the Pacific, it is probably the best of all starting points.
The same records indicate that Hui Shen left the Grand Canyon area heading south overland through Mexico reconnecting with his fleet --- or ship --- moored in the bay either as far north as Puerto Vallarta or as far south as Acapulco. From there he sailed further south apparently going ashore at the Isthmus of Tehuantepec and traveling inland to the various cultures preaching his ways as so stated by Manuel Martínez Gracida quoted above and others. Eventually he made his way back to the Pacific side of isthmus and was last seen sailing toward the west, never to return.
Many authorities and non-authorities in the field, self proclaimed or otherwise, have questioned the authenticity and/or existence of Hui Shen as a real person because in their research they are unable to find any historical references to him outside of the 7th century tome called the Book of Liang by Yao Silian. The problem arises primarily because of several different pronunciations of his name that when translated phonetically into English and from those pronunciations, when spelled out, imply an entirely different person. From that, even though the exploits of the different named persons are the same --- as is the person --- the dots are not always connected. A good example is found on the map at the top of the page wherein his name is spelled Hwui Shen. Another example --- which should not be discounted in any search --- is found in the personage called Hoei Shin. Hoei Shin shows up in the book by C.G, Leland, FUSANG: The Discovery of America by Chinese Buddhist Priests in the Fifth Century as well as in Chapter 4 of They All Discovered America (1961) by Charles Michael Boland. Leland and Boland's Hoei Shin, of course, being the same Hui Shan AND the same personage whose memory still stands high on a rock in a village north of Tehuantepec that bares the name Wi-shi-pecocha, a transliteration of Hui Shen, bhikshu.
The aforementioned above authorities and non-authorities in the field, self proclaimed or otherwise, who question the authenticity and/or existence of Hui Shen usually have an ulterior motive. Attempts at discrediting Hui Shen is usually aimed at discrediting the whole thesis of Buddhists and Chinese explorers in America before Columbus. The thing is, the whole thesis is bigger than one individual, Hui Shen or not. The following on the subject, published in January 1901 is semi-based on an earlier New York Times article and attributed to a correspondent writing for another major New York paper:
REMARKABLE FIND IN MEXICO
Chinese temples in an excellent condition of preservation have been unearthed in the State of Sonora, in Mexico. Large stone tablets have been found in the ruins covered with ancient Chinese writings, which have been partly deciphered by an Oriental expert employed by the Mexican Government.
The inscriptions state that the temples were built between the years 300 and 400 AD by Chinese adventurers, who had crossed the "unending sea" at the insistence of Chinese men of science who were convinced that land of great richness existed in the East.
Notice the translation of the inscriptions once deciphered state the Chinese adventurers that crossed the "unending sea" had done so at the insistence of Chinese men of science AND apparently, it would seem, not those of a religious bent. However, of those selected there is no sign that once in Mexico they dedicated themselves to science, but it is quite clear they built temples.
Sources for the above quote as well as the original New York Times article from the actual New York Times archives, can be found at the following link, more specifically Footnote :
"Through the great canyon a large river flows from the north to the south and falls into the northern end of the Gulf of California. Now, in the useful translations of the Spanish authors of 1540 AD we find that the scribe of the Conquistadors placed near the Colorado River, in a small island, a sanctuary of Lamaisra, or of Buddhism. He mentions a divine personage living in a small house near a lake upon this island, and called, as he says, Quatu-zaca, who was reputed never to eat."
VOYAGES: l'Histoire de la Découverte de l'Amérique, Vol IX, Henri Ternaux-Compans (1836)"A deified priest or lama, who is said to have lived on a small island near the Colorado River, had the name of Quatu Sacca which seems to combine the two names Gautama and Sakhya."
The Buddhist Discovery of America a Thousand Years Before Columbus, John Fryer (1901)
It was during the first summer following my last major excursion into the High Sierras and the desert southwest with my Uncle in 1971 that I recall hearing for the first time the ancient Mesoamerican name Quatu zaca --- and most especially so, referring it back to the great Enlightened sage from India, Gautama Shakyamuni, the Buddha.
I was updating my uncle via phone regarding the health of his brother, my father, who had the year before been caught in a fire while on the job. He received some rather severe burns as well as an excessive amount of smoke inhalation leading to a collapsed lung and most of the hair on his head and arms burned off. Right after the fire my uncle came to see him in the hospital with the two of them spending most of the time talking about the old days. After a week or so my uncle headed back home to Santa Fe. Since that visit my father had been released and become an outpatient. The primary reason I was updating my uncle was because the doctors had become much more concerned that my dad was not showing the amount of recovery they were hoping for, still having a great deal of trouble with his lungs and breathing. They had dealt with all of his symptoms and lungs as best they could and told me, among other things, they had ruled out for example, tuberculosis and that sort of thing, but to still expect the worse, telling me one year, two at the most.
A few days before calling my uncle I was sitting in a hospital waiting room stalling for time as my father went through some test or the other, going over in my mind what the doctor had told me, including even, being relieved over the not to be concerned with tuberculosis aspect of it all. I had long known tuberculosis was a deadly disease having learned about it when I was ten years old or so. My uncle and I, in the process of our travels throughout the desert southwest in my early years, had gone to the 'town to tough to die,' Tombstone, Arizona. While there I saw a reenactment of the shootout at the OK Corral. The narrator said that one of the participants in the real shootout, Doc Holliday, had tuberculosis and since he was going to die anyway he was 'fearless in the face of death.' For some reason, as the kid I was, I loved that 'fearless in the face of death' comment and never forgot Holliday or the word tuberculosis.
In conversation on the phone with my uncle that day I brought up the tuberculosis story and in passing just happen to mention I had it in my mind to visit Holliday's gravesite some day just for the heck of it.
A few months later, in fall of 1971, my uncle called and asked me to meet him in Denver, Colorado. Now while it is true the two of us catching up ended with us driving down to Glenwood Springs to see Holliday's gravesite and seeing a bunch of petroglyphs during our trip, his call was for much more than that. At first he was very shook up saying it was imperative that we meet, almost as though for ME there was no other option. Apparently the day before he had been sitting in a café in Taos, New Mexico when a Native American spiritual elder and peyote road man by the name of Little Joe Gomez along with two other men stepped up to his table. Gomez, who my uncle knew, introduced the two men then left. According to my uncle the two men said they were emissaries of a supposedly highly regarded Buddhist monk then residing in Boulder, Colorado and of which, at the time of the call, my uncle couldn't remember his name let alone pronounce it. The two men said the highly regarded monk, who turned out to be Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, wanted to meet with my uncle and were there to escort him back to Boulder. He said the two men were very insistent, almost to the point of coercion, and seemed more like thugs than you would expect so-called Buddhist emissaries to be like, with a just below the surface demeanor reminding him of my ex-stepmother's onetime friend, mobster muscle and gentleman enforcer Johnny Roselli. In any case, in that I had a Buddhist background --- and the fact that my uncle was somewhat apprehensive over the whole thing --- he wanted me to meet him in Denver on his way through to Boulder. Which I did.
After arriving in Boulder, per Trungpa's request, we met in a small closed-door room on one of the upper floors of the library at the University of Colorado. At first he seemed set-back when he saw my uncle was traveling with someone like me, but without missing a beat, after brief introductions and selectively leaving me out of the conversation, he immediately went to the subject at hand as though he and my uncle had been friends forever. As Trungpa put it, he had become privy to strong rumors, at least in how it related to the legends and lore of the desert southwest, that an ancient Buddhist temple, perhaps Tibetan, existed deep in a cave high along the walls of the Grand Canyon, and if it was so, he wanted to see it. He said where he came from there was usually more truth to such legends than falsehood, it was only that the truth was veiled to the unknowing. He had been told by powers that be if there was anybody that would know or could get him there, it would be my uncle. My uncle told him that as long as he could remember he had heard of such rumors and legends, but that as he was presently constituted and stood before him, he himself had never tread foot in such a place as he described. Such places, my uncle said, when they do exist are typically known only to a few and not meant to be trespassed against.
It seemed as though an instant flash of anger crossed Trungpa's face hearing my uncle's response, then dismay and maybe even distraught. Trungpa asked if my uncle had any other suggestions. My uncle looked down toward the floor and shook his head no. When we turned to leave the two men who brought us were in effect, blocking the exit, but with a slight one-finger hand gesture Trungpa waved them off. They moved aside, my uncle exited and just as I was about to fully pass from the room Trungpa asked, "Who was your Teacher?" Other than a slight smile I offered no response. Without saying a word, with a quick one-arm push he spun the office-like chair with roller wheels he was sitting in away from the table toward the window, turning his back and silently staring into the darkness beyond.
The next morning after having breakfast with a friend of my uncle, an artist named Howard Fogg, we headed toward Glenwood Springs and Holliday's grave site following a night of silence regarding Trungpa or the meeting in the library. As the morning wore on my uncle began elaborating on the legend Trungpa was interested in --- without revealing how much of it was known to him to be true or not. From the very moment my uncle gave his carefully worded response to Trungpa, saying "as he was presently constituted and stood before him, he himself had never tread foot in such a place as he described," I knew there was more to the story than he was letting on. As he was presently constituted opens up a lot of doors for someone like my uncle who operated on a number of spiritual planes, without actually answering the question. While we were driving my uncle didn't have every one of the specific facts at his fingertips (i.e., all the names, dates, etc.), more or less paraphrasing the story as we traveled along. Although I let him continue as he knew it, what my uncle didn't realize at the time was that I already had a fairly good working knowledge on the subject and easily filled in the blanks. What I didn't know, or at least it was new to me under that name, was Quatu zaca and the Grand Canyon cave part of the story. Since then I have gone back and researched the subject on and off over the years, mostly out of curiosity, and filled in most of those blanks.
Basically, as the story goes, in 458 AD a Buddhist monk named Hui Shen from somewhere within the landlocked area adjacent to China which now days would be considered Afghanistan, along with several other monks (some say as few as four, others say as many as 40), sailed across the north Pacific from China to North America, with Hui Shen returning in 499 AD to report his adventures to the court of the Chinese emperor.
The following is said to have been translated as found in the History of the Liang Dynasty, compiled circa AD 600, regarding Hui Shen and his trip to America:
"In former times, the people of Fusang guo knew nothing of the Buddhist religion, but in the second year of Da Ming [around AD 458] five monks from Chipin traveled by ship to that country. They propagated Buddhist doctrines, circulated scriptures and drawings, and advised people to relinquish worldly attachments. As a result, the customs of Fusang changed."
The Grand Canyon part of the story actually has three tied together parts, two from ancient Chinese history and one stemming from more recent times in America. Fusang or Fu-Sang, is considered to be the land that existed to the east of China beyond the Great Sea. References to Fusang begin to show up most seriously in Shan Hai King, the "Classic of Mountains and Seas," an ancient multi-volume set of Chinese books compiled in 2250 BCE that contain accounts of Chinese geographers that traveled throughout the world gathering up information on the surface features of the Earth and their locations. According to scholars who study such things there were originally 32 books, but in the 5th century AD, all of the subject matter was condensed into 18 books, and of those 18 not all have been translated into English. Two of the books in translation, the Ninth and Fourteenth Books, carry the subtitles "In Regard to the Regions Beyond the Sea, from its Southeast Corner to its Northeast Corner" and "The Classic of the Great Eastern Waste," both of which relate to the Grand Canyon and surrounding territories, to wit the following quote. While reading the quote below remember, albeit in translation for our purposes here, is cited as being written in 2250 BCE, over 4000 years ago:
"Nature's most magnificent display of her handiwork—the Great Luminous Canyon with the little stream flowing in a bottomless ravine—outspectacles every other natural extravaganza on this earth with its brilliant yellows, vibrant oranges, deep subtle reds and in its shadows pale lavenders toning into rich, velvet blues—like a glorious sunrise or sunset. Nothing but the sun itself could have imparted such rich color—and nowhere else does it exist."
The second part of the three parts relating to the Grand Canyon circles around the previously mentioned Buddhist monk Hui Shen and his travels to, from, and in Fusang circa 458 AD to 499 AD. In the book Inglorious Columbus (1885) by Edward Payson Vining there is a map that outlines Hui Shen's voyage and travels to the new world. Basically, according to Vining, he followed the curve of the Aleutian Islands from China to Alaska and down the west coast of America to Mexico. However, Hui Shen's own record of his travels indicates he went inland from the coast at least as far as the Grand Canyon before turning south toward Mexico. In a book by Henriette Mertz titled Pale Ink (1953), Mertz postulates, and I am in agreement with, that although Hui Shen may have used the sea route as described by Vining, he only did so as far south as southern California. There he and his party went ashore in an area located just north of present day Point Hueneme between Santa Barbara and Los Angeles where the Santa Clara River exits into the Pacific. How he knew about or went about selecting the Point Hueneme location I'm not sure, but considering the distance one would have to travel, plus all the hardships, difficulties, and potential lack of water one would encounter trying to reach the Colorado River on foot from the Pacific, it is probably the best of all starting points.
For the third part of the Grand Canyon saga we have to move from 458 AD and return to the works of Edward Payson Vining and his book Inglorious Columbus published in 1885. However, between the start and finish of that move there needs to be a little bit more ground work and explanation inserted. If you remember from above I said some say Hui Shen traveled to Fusang with as few as four, others say with as many as 40 people (monks) in his entourage. Where those who say such things come up with such figures I am not sure. However, the written account of Hui Shen indicates that before he even got to Fusang in the first place his trip had already been proceeded by five monks. The author Charles G. Leland in his tome on Hui Shen titled Fu-sang points out that in the narrative by Hoei-shin (Hui Shen), he mentions that five beggar-monks (whom Hui Shen purportedly met there) were already in Fusang in A.D. 458 and that they had brought with them images of Buddha.
The question has always been, in that Hui Shen traveled thousands of miles east from China and almost an equal number of miles down the west coast of North America, why did he suddenly disembark his ships and turn inland on foot somewhere around Point Hueneme and cross eastward over a harsh and hostile desert for 300-400 miles? The answer may well be because of the five itinerant beggar-monks. Nowhere has it been recorded how, when, or the amount of time any of the five monks had been in America, only that they were. It is my belief they were not all present at the same time but, like the Dali Lama, the Pope, or the Phantom, one replaced the other in a long line of secession creating in a sense a venerated holy man. Hui Shen turned inland to pay homage to that venerated holy man. The Buddha was reputed to have been born around 563 BCE and died around 483 BCE. By the time of Christ some 400 years or so later the Buddhist religion was well established and shown to be so, for example, as found in such Buddhist texts as the Hemis Manuscripts. So said, by the time Hui Shen showed up in America circa 458 AD there had been plenty of time to have established lineage.
In the volumes of information regarding the Chinese and Buddhism in America before Columbus there is only a thin veneer that comes close to meeting the necessary criteria we are talking about here regarding Buddhism, Hui Shen, the Grand Canyon, and/or the Colorado River and the existence of a potential venerated holy man --- a thin veneer of which within are only two stories --- with the credibility of one, although repeated over and over as if it was so, is considered highly suspect by most.
That story begins in 1909 and revolves around a man identified in newspaper accounts as an archaeologist and explorer, reportedly working for the Smithsonian, and said to go by the name G.E. Kincaid (sometimes Kinkaid). On Friday, March 12, 1909 the Arizona Gazette, the leading evening newspaper in Phoenix, printed a small story about Kincaid completing a one-man voyage down the Colorado in a small skiff, having traversed the full length of the Grand Canyon and the river clear to Yuma, Arizona. In having done so the article says Kincaid stated that he had some very interesting archaeological discoveries he unearthed on the trip and they were of such interest he planned to "repeat it next winter in the company of friends." Then, three weeks later, rather than waiting until the next winter, on Monday April 5, 1909, the evening edition of the Arizona Gazette printed a semi-follow up article on the front page. The article went on to say that on the previous day, Sunday April 4th, Kincaid "related to the Gazette" that archaeologists of the Smithsonian Institute, of which he was one and of which was financing the expedition, were exploring a mysterious cave high up on the walls of the Grand Canyon hewn out of solid rock by human hands that he, Kincaid, discovered. Among other things the article goes on to say:
"Over a hundred feet from the entrance is the cross-hall, several hundred feet long in which is found the idol, or image, of the people's god, sitting cross-legged, with lotus flower or lily in each hand. The cast of the face is oriental, the carving shows a skillful hand, and the entire object is remarkably well preserved, as is everything in this cavern.
"The idol almost resembles Buddha, though the scientists are not certain as to what religious worship it represents. Taking into consideration everything found thus far, it is possible that this worship most resembles the ancient people of Tibet."
Many people, both credible and questionable, have researched and investigated all aspects of the contents of the article and have continued to come up short with any hard evidence of such a cave or even the existence of Kincaid himself. Many of those same investigators say the Smithsonian has no record of having any such person, persons, researchers, or archaeology-like teams participating in any venture similar to or like the ones so attributed to in the article.
Complete and full linked internet access to the Monday April 5, 1909 evening edition of the Arizona Gazette Grand Canyon cave article can be found in Footnote  which follows in a few paragraphs.
For the second of the two stories we have to go back to circa 1540 and the Spanish expeditions into the Grand Canyon and Colorado River area under the command of Francisco Vasquez de Coronado. Coronado had a diarist or scribe, a chronicler if you will, by the name Pedro de Castañeda de Nájera that traveled with and recorded all aspects of the majority of the Coronado expeditions. Castañeda's original account, Relación de la jornada de Cíbola compuesta por Pedro de Castañeda de Nácera donde se trata de todas aquellos poblados y ritos, y costumbres, la cual fué el año de 1540, has been lost, but a copy is still in existence that was made in 1596.
In Appendix B of Inglorious Columbus the author, Edward Payson Vining, includes in his book a copy of a letter to the French Academy of Sciences by Charles Hippolyte Paravey de Chevalier dated April 26, 1847. In that letter Paravey cites, albeit second hand having done his research from the 10 volume works of the Americas from Henri Ternaux-Compans, in of which Volume IX he includes the writings of Castaneda and presents from that volume the following:
"One of the countries of America which was first converted by the shamans of Cabal, arriving from the southern point of Kamtchatka at the excellent port of San Francisco, in California, to the north of Monterey, must evidently have been the country upon the banks of the Colorado River, a large river which flows through these same regions from the north to the south and falls into the northern end of the Gulf of California. Now, in the useful translations of the Spanish authors made by Henri Ternaux-Compans, we find that Castaneda placed near the Colorado River, in a small island, a sanctuary of Lamaisra, or of Buddhism. He mentions a divine personage living in a small house near a lake upon this island, and called, as he says, Quatu-zaca, who was reputed never to eat."
John Fryer (1834-1924) was an eminent Professor of Oriental Languages and Literature at the University of California at Berkeley. In 1901 an article he wrote titled The Buddhist Discovery of America a Thousand Years Before Columbus, was published in the July issue of Harper's Monthly Magazine. On page 256, mimicking the information provided by Paravey's letter to the Academy and or the original source by Castaneda without citing either, the following appeared:"A deified priest or lama, who is said to have lived on a small island near the Colorado River, had the name of Quatu Sacca which seems to combine the two names Gautama and Sakhya."
As interesting as all of that is, what Fryer has to say in another part of the same article is even more so:
"There exists in Mexico a tradition of the visit of an extraordinary personage having a white complexion, and clothed in a long robe and mantle, who taught the people to abstain from evil and live righteously, soberly, and peacefully. At last he met with severe persecutions, and his life threatened, the suddenly disappeared, but left his imprint of his foot on a rock. A statue erected to his memory still stands upon a high rock at the village of Magdalena. He bore the name Wi-shi-pecocha, which is probably a transliteration of Hui Shen bikshu."
Nine hundred years after Hui Shen, according to records reportedly found in China and elsewhere, over a period of several years during the 1420s AD, China launched a series of seven long distant voyages intended to explore the world. The voyages were said to be under the command of Admiral Zheng He (1371-1435). As a part of those seven voyages, one of his four vice admirals, Captain Zhou-man, using the Kuroshio current, embarked toward the Pacific coast of North America, landing at Vancouver Island. From there Zhou-man's fleet sailed along the Pacific coast founding a number of colonies along the way. When they reached the coast of Peru the fleet turned west, reaching China using the prevailing currents. In the book 1421: The Year China Discovered America, the author, retired British submarine commander Gavin Menzies writes:"The Chinese set up settlements all along the west coast of North America, from Vancouver Island to New Mexico and inter-married happily with the local Indians. When the first Spanish colonialists arrived in the 16th century they found many Chinese, as well as wrecked junks. But the diseases the European colonists brought with them wiped out 90% of the Indians, and destroyed the Chinese influence."
Menzies says the Zhou-man expedition traveled as far south as the coast of Peru before turning west and then, using the prevailing currents, returned to China. Along the way it is said he founded or put into place a number of settlements from Vancouver to New Mexico.
About 200 years before the Chinese expeditions of the 1420s began sailing along the western coast of North and South America, their island neighbor Japan had already laid their own groundwork, remnants of which I came across as a young boy.
Right after World War II I started traveling around the desert southwest with my Uncle exploring it's many natural wonders and interacting with it's indigenous cultures. It was during those early travels that I met members of a group of Native Americans from the Navajo Tribe known as Code Talkers. They had been recruited and placed on the war front in the South Pacific by the U.S. Marines to speak their own language back and forth between themselves via radio communication creating in a sense a secret code. Because of it, the whole of the Japanese war machine from Hirohito to Tojo to the lowest private were not able to decode or make heads or tails out of what was being said.
At the same time I was hearing about Navajo code talkers for the first time I was also hearing about their neighbors, the Zuni. As the story came down to me was that the Marines were able to use the Navajo as code talkers but not the Zuni because the Zuni spoke Japanese.
The Zuni native tongue supposedly being closely similar to that of the Japanese language in many respects has always been accepted on the ground in local lore, rumor, and legend. However, rising above the lore, rumor, and legend, it has been suggested there is strong evidence of rather substantial physical contact having existed between the two cultures, an inter-connection that occurred in the not-so-distant past. An anthropologist, Nancy Yaw Davis PhD, promulgated just such a theory, stating that between 1250 AD and 1400, a major change in settlement patterns occurred in the Zuni area, a major change she attributes to a large influx of Japanese into their culture. She backs up her theory with reams of research published in her book The Zuni Enigma (2001). Davis writes:
"This period, the late thirteenth century A.D., is proposed as the probable time for the arrival of Japanese pilgrims—with new language, religion, and genes. If a freeze-frame could capture that event, I believe it would reveal an entourage of people from many backgrounds arriving and deciding this was the exact middle of the universe, and then commencing to build large pueblos, drawing in straggling survivors of the Anasazi civilization.
"Of course we have neither a photograph nor a written record of what happened and why such a consolidation occurred. But this is an unusually thoroughly studied area: Sophisticated tree-ring dating, dendrochronology, provides a rich record of when structures were built, and the timing, severity, and length of droughts; skeletal remains indicate significant physical changes in the population; measurements and excavations of ruins reveal major changes in settlement patterns; glaze on pottery suddenly appears."(source)
Now, in an effort to tie all of the elements above together, we need to jump from the 1250s of Davis and 1420s of Menzies, neither author of which mentioned Buddhism to any degree, to the present day --- to the time when I was in high school and shortly thereafter. Near the top of the page I write that when my uncle was filling me in on some of the information above, what I didn't tell him was I already had a fairly good grasp on the subject and easily filled in the blanks. That learning curve came about because of a series of events that happened during my last two years of high school.
Sometime just before the start of my junior year in high school I began study-practice in Zen under the guidance of the person I call my Mentor. In the process of that study I developed an interest in and became familiar with the history and background of the Buddha. At the high school I attended the graduating class had what they called 'Senior Ditch Day,' wherein a regular school day was officially set aside to ditch and go somewhere as a class en mass. My senior year the class selected Catalina Island as our destination. During that high school excursion I participated in all the usual tourist stuff with my girlfriend and buddies: go on the inland motor tour, ride the glass bottom boat, hang out at the beach. I also went to the Catalina Island History Museum housed in those days on the ground floor of a harbor front building called the Casino. There I saw what was to me, thanks to my growing Buddhist knowledge, a truly remarkable artifact --- an artifact that was on exhibit as though it was nothing special, but for me at the time, really blew my mind. Sitting in a glass case amongst a myriad of other Native American artifacts was two halves of an open abalone or clam shell that had at one time been closed and sealed with natural occurring asphaltum. The sealed shell had been found, as I was to learn much later, in 1922 in an ancient Indian burial site located on the island at a place called Empire Landing. When the abalone shell was opened, inside, and the same thing I saw and was set aback when I did, was a small ceramic fired Buddha-like image, looking all the same as high quality white porcelain. And it was. Again, as I was to find out later, the Buddha-like image was way beyond any of the knowledge or ability to do so or make by Native American cultures prior to the burial. Professor T. Y. H. Ma (1899-1979), late of the National Taiwan University, Taiwan, and his colleagues reported that the ceramic image was certainly of Chinese origin and that the workmanship showed it to be from the Tang dynasty circa 618–907 AD. My mentor, who was quite familiar with the object, having lived on the Channel Islands off the coast of California for seven years prior to me meeting him, brought up the artifact in conversation one day several years after my graduation when I told him a buddy and I were planning an extended trip through Mexico.
It was the summer of 1960 and I had tired of the day-to-day grind working as a technical illustrator since high school. I had been working on the high altitude breathing equipment for the then super-secret U-2 spy plane, which was exciting work. With the contract nearing an end, my job was beginning to get stale. Adding that to the fact the draft was looming over my head and my long term semi-on-and-off high school and after girlfriend --- who had gone off to college while I remained home being nothing but a dunce working stiff --- hit me with the fact she had met and fallen in love with some hunkering down stud and they were planning on getting married didn't help. When my buddy, who was in much the same boat I was, suggested an extended, open-ended trip to Mexico I decided to take a never-come-back leave of absence from my job and go for it.
My buddy and I shopped around and bought a used six-cylinder 1951 Chevy panel truck just for the trip that was in pretty good shape and over a period of a few months the two of us outfitted it like a camper with fold down bunks, table, sink, stove, and portable toilet. We got a bunch of new fan belts, radiator hoses, inner tubes and tools, then, early one Saturday morning we crossed into Mexico with no idea how long we were going to be gone. My mentor told me, referring back to the ceramic Buddha I had seen at Catalina, there were Buddha-like references all over ancient Mexico and to keep my eye open for them. He emphasized over the centuries that the most important Buddhist related site had been found in the mountains several miles north of the southern city of Tehuantepec and if I got that far south and didn't do anything else, not to miss an attempt to locate it.
There was as well he said, a highly relevant and much more recently discovered second site that, because of how close it was to the border considering the full length of Mexico, would actually have been the first of the two sites to have been explored during our travels. However, no sooner had we crossed the border into Mexico than the bony arm and hand of Fate intervened and inexplicably altered our trip to such a point we were never able to get close. The site was said to have been discovered in the 1800s in the Mexican state of Sonora east of Hermosillo near the small village of Ures. There archaeologists unearthed what appeared to be the remains of an ancient Chinese temple complex in excellent condition along with a number large stone tablets clearly covered with Chinese characters.(see)
I had all honorable intentions of visiting the site during our trip except the itinerary of our journey in relation to the Ures, Sonora, site was changed so much I never did get close. Nor too, up to the present, have I attempted to return in some fashion to make up for it.(see) For further elaboration on the above travels please visit the following:
The following year, months after having returned from my trip to Mexico, my mentor gave me a brand new book that was only just published titled They All Discovered America (1961) by Charles Michael Boland. In doing so he had carefully bookmarked Chapter 4, Hoei Shin, for my own edification. And that's how it was all tied together --- from the abalone shell in Catalina to the carved figure in the mountains above Tehuantepec to the book with the chapter on Hoei Shin --- Boland's Hoei Shin being, of course, the same Hui Shan I write about above AND the same personage whose memory still stands a high on a rock in a village north of Tehuantepec that bares the name Wi-shi-pecocha, a transliteration of Hui Shen, bhikshu.
Legend has it that Hui Shen, after paying homage to the holy man, left the Grand Canyon area heading overland through Mexico reconnecting with his fleet moored in the bay either as far north as Puerto Vallarta or as far south as Acapulco. From there he sailed further south apparently going ashore at the Isthmus of Tehuantepec and traveling inland to the various cultures preaching his ways. Eventually he made his way back to the Pacific side of isthmus and was last seen sailing toward the west, never to return. Before he departed, however, the years he was in Mexico and the Yucatan many a legend and story grew up around him, of which the story surrounding Wi-shi-pecocha and memorialized in the carved figure in the mountains above Tehuantepec is but one.
While it appears there is a very strong parallel to Hui Shen and Wi-shi-pecocha being the same person, the name of the holy man Hui Shen crossed the Mojave Desert to see and/or pay homage to is highly elusive and never specifically designated. It is my belief he was the same deified priest or lama said to have lived in a small house on an island near the Colorado River and called by the name Quatu Sacca (Quatu-zaca) --- said by Coronado's scribe Pedro de Castañeda de Nájera to exist or to have existed. Again, who that deified priest or holy man was in not known specifically, as only vague references to him can be found. However, whoever he was, he was important enough for Hui Shen to leave the comparable comfort and safety of his ship and hike 300 plus miles inland across the scorching desert to pay homage to him. The closest anything in English I have located that even comes close to narrowing it down is found in a rather obscure 1913 treatise by Alexander M'Allan (sometimes McAllan) titled Ancient Chinese Account of the Grand Canyon, or Course of the Colorado. Even then, for an answer, because of how it is written by M'Allan it can't be capsulized, but needs to be read, then extrapolated.
As for Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche's interest in seeing a potential ancient Buddhist temple deep in a cave high along the walls of the Grand Canyon it most likely was based on the Kincaid story, not traditional beliefs. My uncle offered no other alternative nor have I heard of the existence of such a cave prior to Kincaid's. In Native American and Grand Canyon lore of the desert southwest there are a number of stories related to mysterious caves and such as found written about so well in The Haunted Mesa by Louis L'Amour, but the foreshadowing of Buddha and Buddha images as it has come down into the hands of the Europeans and their descendants (i.e., white man) is pretty much limited to Quatu zaca. True, if you read M'Allen's account linked above, you will find, according to M'Allan, many similarities of words and nomenclature with many of the same sounds and meanings in the language of indigenous cultures of the desert southwest as compared to that of various Chinese syntax, but not always Buddha related specifically.
Personally I think there is more to the story than we have command of. So said, it is my opinion that there may be some sort of a connection between the potential existence of a Buddha Cave and the deified priest or lama said to have been living in a small house on an island near the Colorado River. It is just only I have not been able to make the connection.
There are strengths and weaknesses to all sides of the story, with the strength part, in my opinion, at least as it relates to Hui Shen, adding a whole other level of credibility to most of the concept as I have presented it. On the weakness side one could easily argue that the Chinese records are few and fragmented and easily open to interpretation or misinterpretation because of language differences and age of the manuscripts reaching so far back in history. Such is not the case with the Spanish manuscripts. The scribe for Francisco Vasquez de Coronado, Pedro de Castañeda de Nájera, recorded page after page, year after year of the explorer's travels. Since then scores of people have gone over and over what he has written. His descriptions and chronicles of the explorations have proven incredibly durable and accurate over the years, withstanding inquiry after inquiry. So said, there is no reason then to suddenly believe the following is suspect in its accuracy for some reason:
"(P)laced near the Colorado River, in a small island, a sanctuary of Lamaisra, or of Buddhism. He mentions a divine personage living in a small house near a lake upon this island, and called, as he says, Quatu-zaca, who was reputed never to eat."
Now true, Castañeda's original account, Relación de la jornada de Cíbola compuesta por Pedro de Castañeda de Nácera donde se trata de todas aquellos poblados y ritos, y costumbres, la cual fué el año de 1540, has been lost, but, like I have stated previously, a copy is still in existence that was made in 1596. Other portions of the copy has withstood the test of time as to its accuracy, so as with the above quote referring to Quatu-zaca there is really no reason to dispute it.
How a sanctuary of Lamaisra, or of Buddhism, clearly stated in the written accounts to be located in a small house near a lake on an island in the Colorado River, could be confused or transposed in some manner into a cave high on the cliff side is not clear. But, lets say it was. While it is possible the suspected cave location within the Grand Canyon is viable, I personally do not believe such a cave would be anything remotely comparable to what has been reported, that is being able to house 50,000 people for example. First of all, if conventionally created, the logistics of hand hewing such a cave from the living rock would require if nothing else, a great deal of manpower and there is nothing to suggest, archaeologically, that any large contingent of workers inhabited any area near the suspected location of the cave --- especially so considering the amount of time to make such a cave. Secondly, digging it out of the canyon walls would have created tons and tons of debris. If any of you have seen even a small mine dug into the mountains in the desert there are nearly always huge talus slopes outside the entrances or nearby. Can you imagine how much rock debris would have to be removed from the mountain to create a cave that could house 50,000? If one were to give in that the Colorado was able to wash away a good part of it there would still remain tons of rock along the base and of which over the years could still be recognizable as not being natural to the setting.
Even if I were to cede existence of such a cave as so described, more than likely it would not have been made by coming through from the sheer face of the canyon wall but from above by punching through from the overlaying plateau. That is to say, some distance back on the plateau above and back from the suspected cliff-side cave opening, a fairly long low angled ramp-like hole in the direction of the cliff wall could have been dug. Using the ramp the dirt could easily be removed and spread all over the plateau surface. As the centuries passed the debris would just get intermixed into the regular soil and natural overgrowth would take over. Once the cave was completed the ramp entrance could be filled in, sealed, covered over, or hidden in some manner. Then, closer to the main complex, a straight up-and-down vertical entrance shaft could be dug into the cave proper. That way access up the cliff walls would be eliminated or unnecessary as well as making it easier for water and supplies to be transported into the cave interior.
People are just too taken by the mystique and grandeur of the Grand Canyon. If I was searching for the cave I would be looking for evidence of an entrance or air shafts somewhere on the plateau. If the interior of the cave is as large as they say, any inhabitants or workers would have needed air and illumination. Most likely any conventional illumination device of the era would have required as much oxygen if not more than the inhabitants would have consumed, hence the need for airshafts. Kincaid himself, the so-called discoverer of the cave as outlined in the 1909 Arizona Gazette article is quoted as saying himself, after having entered the cave:
"The perfect ventilation of the cavern, the steady draught that blows through, indicates that it has another outlet to the surface."
Regardless of the size of the cave, for me much greater things are in the works. Kincaid said the cave was on the 'east' wall of the canyon which would mean the cave opening faced west, that is with the rising sun behind it in the morning and the setting sun facing it from sometime after mid-day on. Although nobody ever brings it up except me, there is most likely a major significance to the specific location of the cave and the face-direction of the opening relative to some outside phenomenon, most likely equinoxes or solstices or the setting of a specific star or constellation --- otherwise it could have been built anywhere along the myriad of canyon walls facing in any direction. I only say so because when I was around ten years old, on one of my excursions with my uncle I came across just such a scenario --- that is, where a cave created by the ancients of the desert southwest was carved facing west so that on a certain day the sun set directly over a distinct peak. The following is what I write about the experience from the source so cited. There is a footnote associated with the quote that is well worth reading as well:
"The cave was perfect for the two of us to sit in side by side out of the sun. My uncle's head nearly touched the top of the cave and our backs fit almost perfectly along the cool surface of the curved rock wall. When I commented on how nice the cave was my uncle told me it was man-made, having been carved out by ancient people thousands of years ago and that animals and insects and even people shied away from it because it had been infused with something that made living things feel ill at ease. Even so, I didn't feel it. At first, except for being tired from the climb, I felt quite comfortable there, I even liked it. Something about it gave me a good feeling inside. However, as time passed and in that we had no food or water and the sun began to drop low in the sky flooding the cave with heat and light, that feeling of good and comfortableness began to wane. Still we sat. The sun finally reached the top of the mountains across the valley. The very second the sun touched the mountains in its downward path I could clearly see it was centered exactly behind the point of the tallest mountain peak along the chain and perfectly aligned with the cave. I had watched the shadow of the peak and that of the wedge shaped sides from the mountain slowly crawl cross the valley below and upward along the foothills like a giant wave engulfing everything in its path until the very tip of the shadow touched into the cave. Then suddenly like an explosion of light it was gone, the black of the mountain glowing with illumination of the setting sun going down behind it leaving nothing but a slight glow along the horizon. With the sun gone it got very dark and cold."(source)
It just so happens there is a very high-profile promontory, an outcrop peak of sorts, on the west side the river located about a quarter of a mile downstream from mile 57 called Malgosa Crest that would be a perfect candidate, mimicking in effect the Heel Stone, albeit in an opposite way in that it would mark the setting sun rather than the rising sun, at Stonehenge. In theory, barring physical changes that may have occurred over the centuries, one would only have to position oneself in a direct line across from the promontory on one or the other equinoxes to see where the tip of the shadow fell --- in theory, Malgosa Crest being only one example of a potential Heel Stone among many, of course.
So too, there is a possibility a reflection device of some sort may have been constructed and placed across the canyon on the west plateau or cliff walls to focus a beam from the rising sun directly into the cave opening to brilliantly illuminate the interior. If so, remnants of such a device or evidence where it stood may still remain. Archaeologically speaking, the remnants of such a device could help in narrowing down the location of the cave without the need to physically scour miles of surface area. As well, the use of thermal imaging, aka infrared thermography (IRT), from the opposite side of the canyon might be considered as a method to locate the cave entrance as the interior of the cave would be noticeably cooler than the cliff walls.
A few paragraphs back I write that I personally think there is more to the story than we have command of, implying there exists a possible connection between the Buddha Cave and the deified priest or lama living in a small house on an island near the Colorado River.
In 1540 AD when the expedition under Francisco Vasquez de Coronado marched north from New Spain (Mexico) into what is now Arizona and New Mexico their main goal was in locating the Seven Cities of Cibola, said to be filled with gold and riches. Basically all they ended up doing was ransacking all of the major pueblos starting with Hawikuh, the southernmost of the Zuni pueblos in western New Mexico, and leave a year or two later with neither gold nor treasure.
During the time Coronado was holed up in the general area he was told of a great river some distance north. In September 1540 Coronado sent one of his Captains, Garcia Lopez de Cardenas, in command of about 30 men and led by Hopi Indian guides, to locate and report back what he learned of such a river.
After about 20 days the expedition eventually came across the south rim of the canyon, most likely somewhere between Moran Point and Desert View. Easily seeing the river in the distance, Cardenas sent several of his men into the canyon in an attempt to reach it. After climbing down to a point about a third of the way and finding no way to descend any further they were forced to return. There is a good chance the Hopi guides purposely took Cardenas to one of the most difficult areas of the canyon to traverse down to the river from the rim. All the centuries their people inhabited the area they most certainly knew or were familiar with a variety of viable routes to the river or canyon floor, as for example the ancient and oft used Hopi Salt Mine Pilgrimage Trail, but selectively chose not to reveal any to the Spaniards.
Around the same time Coronado heard about the river he also heard another rumor about a great city to the north called Quivira where the chief supposedly drank from golden cups said to hang from trees as plentiful as fruit on a fertile tree --- which was enough of an incentive to send Coronado looking for it. After an initial ruse by his guide in the wrong direction, Coronado sent most of his slow-moving army back to New Mexico and continued on with only 30 mounted soldiers and a myriad group of camp followers. All he found was villages of thatched huts and sticks.
The common theme that runs through the above, except for NOT finding any gold or treasures, is how the Spaniards were duped by the Indians. It wasn't that way in all cases --- and if it was a continuing theme it was much more subtle. Generally, Coronado and his men, like a good deal of the conquistadors, were not known for their compassionate treatment of the indigenous peoples they came in contact with. For two under his command the story was much different, and as it were, for the most part, so were the results.
A captain under the command of Coronado by the name of Melchior Díaz was one that typically got good results, primarily through trust and humane treatment. Diaz was sent on a scouting party toward the Gulf of California in search of three ships under Hernando de Alarcon that were to meet up with Coronado --- with nobody knowing it would never happen because the distance between the inland city or Cibola and the gulf continued to widen as Coronado's army marched north eastward. Diaz, traveling basically west-south-west from Cibola and thinking he would eventually come to the gulf, and, although some reports have him arriving south of the delta he actually reached the Colorado River well over a 100 miles north the delta. He was told by Indians of the area that some days before, what they described as ships, had been seen on the river basically staying in the same location for two or three days. When Diaz reached the spot where the ships had been seen, he found a stash of supplies left by Alarcon who had sailed up the Colorado thinking he could meet up with Coronado. Alarcon, also known for gaining trust and humane treatment of the Indians he came in contact with, after waiting several days and with no sign of Coronado's army, offloaded the supplies, but what he did next is not clear.
How far up river Alarcon traveled and where the location of the supplies were stashed is not known with any amount of certainty. The two however, are not necessarily tied together. Lewis R. Freeman, in his book The Colorado River (1923), not talking about where the supplies were left, but how far Alarcon traveled up river, cites the work of Frederick S. Dellenbaugh who determined he got as far as the Blythe Canal. He also cites Dr. Elliott Coues who felt that Alarcon was even farther north, reaching clear to present day Needles, California. Freeman himself suggests that Alarcon offloaded his supplies somewhere along a 15 mile gap between the present day ghost town of Picacho located some 35 miles north of the Gila River and Lighthouse Rock, which is 50 miles north of the Gila River, with Freeman really never getting into how far up river Alarcon may have really gone.
The uncertainty of Alarcon's travels rests on the fact that he never got around to submitting the required formal report on his expedition. In lieu of the report he sent an exhaustive multi-page letter to the Viceroy of New Spain, Don Antonio De Mendoza, implying that the formal report would follow. If it did, it has never shown up in any archives or files that anybody knows about. Years later Alarcon's letter fell into the hands of an Italian, Giovanni Ramusio, who translated the Spanish of the letter into Italian and published it in 1556. In the letter are continuing references of days and days travel up the river.
Complicating matters, overlapping endeavors along the Colorado River, Diaz and Alarcon just missed each other. So too, as fate with have it, before Diaz could return to Coronado's command he was severely injured in a freak accident wherein he fell from his horse onto his own lance, penetrating his thigh into his groin. He died 20 days later, and all before he too had written and submitted his formal report. So taken together, between Diaz and Alarcon there is a big unofficial blank on their travels.
Because of Alarcon's return to New Spain and disappearance in the mist of time and the death of Diaz, Coronado's scribe Pedro de Castañeda de Nájera did not get to interview each of them personally nor was he traveling with either contingent. He did however, because there was no formal report on the expedition, interview Diaz's men and it is from those interviews that word of Quatu Zacca came to light. The thing is, in Diaz's case, as Castaneda presents it in his works, he does not make it clear IF Diaz's men actually claimed to have made contact with Quatu Zacca.
Interestingly enough, Alarcon's letter, in a stand alone verification separate from Castaneda's interviews of Diaz's men, mentions Quatu Zacca. After many days journey upriver interacting with various tribes along the way an old man, through Alarcon's interpreter, told him basically the same thing that Castaneda reports. He regaled Alarcon and his men with tales of grand rivers, mountains of copper, and seemingly ancient traditions of bearded white men. The old man told Alarcon it would take many, many days to reach the point Quatu Zacca lived, but it is not clear if the old man meant sailing or marching overland. It is assumed the old man would know how much distance a typical Indian could cover walking in a day, but most likely not have the same knowledge when it came to how much distance a boat could cover. He did say, after seeing various metal fixtures on the boat, that those in accompaniment of Quatu Zacca used the same color and type of material to make things that made sounds (i.e., bells, presumably made of metal). Indigenous tribes working in metal during that era was unheard of. When asked where they got the material, the old man said deep in the mountains. I just find it interesting and an incredible coincidence that the two main people to have garnered personal knowledge of Quatu Zacca, and of which one or the other or both, may had made contact, thus becoming privy to information that was never passed down, are the only two to have NOT delivered required formal reports, whose diaries and notes disappeared, and both seem to have died under unusual or unknown circumstances.
As stated previously, except for not finding any gold or treasures, there seems to be a common theme that runs through the narratives provided by the Spaniards, and that is how they seem to have been duped by the Indians. And that is what I think we are dealing with when it comes to the existence of the cave and the Buddhist on the island in the Colorado.
When Juan Cabrillo was exploring along the Pacific coast of California in 1542 he was told several times by various Native Americans he came in contact with, especially so the Chumash Indians near Santa Barbara, that they knew of "men like them," (i.e., Spaniards) five days to the east, identifying them with having beards, helmets, swords and crossbows --- and that they had killed some of the natives. More than likely they were making reference to Coronado's men. If it was Coronado's men they were at least as far east as New Mexico, quite a distance to cover in five days. It took Cardenas 20 days to reach the Grand Canyon rim from Cibola a distance of about 200 miles, or about 10 miles per day. According to reports found in The Coronado expedition, 1540-1542 by George Parker Winship (1896) Alarcon was told by a Native American he came in contact with that he had only just got back from Cibola and had seen who he assumed to be Coronado and his men and that it had taken him a month after leaving Cibola to reach the river. I think the old man was setting Alarcon up when it came to Quatu Zacca, albeit after the fact. He had let out of the bag all the riches and splendor, then, realizing what he had done started citing many days distance in the hopes that Alarcon would pass.
HIKING THE FUSANG TRAIL
First of all, there isn't a Fusang Trail per se'. I invented it by basically retracing the nearly vanished trail(s) shown on the map at the bottom of the page that were meticulously carved out of the harsh prehistoric landscape by the Colorado River dewelling Mojave Indians centuries ago to trade with the Chumash along the Pacific coast near Ventura. Isabel Kelly writes in Southern Paiute - Chemehuevi Trails Across the Mojave Desert:
"It is known that several major trails were developed at various points in the past for the shell trade and other trafficing between the Pacific Coast and the interior, and then continuing on across the Colorado River into the Southwest. Although some suggest that they may date back 5,000 or more years, there is clear evidence that some date at least pre-900 A.D. In the contact period (1770s), several of these major routes were still in use by the Mohave, River Yumans and Chemehuevi to furnish trade goods such as shells, food stuffs, rabbit-skin blankets, salt, pottery and basketry to each other as well as the Cahuilla, Pai groups, Southern Paiute, Navajo, and reciprocally to various groups along the Pacific Coast. Stories of small groups of Mohave men running across these desert trails, often traveling at night to avoid the desert heat, and guided by reflective white stones as markers, are among the most impressive of southern desert travel narratives. They often ran 100 miles a day, reaching coastal destinations in three to four days."
As to the Fusang Trail as I call it, if you begin where the Santa Clara River enters the Pacific, then follow the stream eastward to the mountains you can easily continue right on up to the high desert floor picking up and following basically the same route as the Southern Pacific Railway tracks use today through Soledad Canyon, coming out just south of Palmdale. From there it is possible to cross the desert heading directly east hugging the base of the east-west transverse San Gabriel and San Bernardino Mountains until reaching the Mojave River where it exits onto the desert plain. Following the Mojave River north it eventually starts making a huge sweep toward the northeast. About 40 miles from your first contact with the river you reach a point near Yermo where it and an ancient trail used by Native Americans to traverse from the Colorado River to the sea, now called the Mojave Road, run side-by-side. Roughly 20 miles farther northeast and the trail turns more eastwards away from the Mojave River, eventually, after somewhat over a 100 miles across open desert, reaching the Colorado near present day Laughlin, Nevada.
ON THE LEFT OF THE MAP IS THE WORD CHUMASH. ABOVE THAT SANTA CLARA R. AND A DOTTED LINE LEADING
TO SOLEDAD PASS THEN TO MOJAVE RIVER. THAT IS THE BASIC ROUTE USED BY HUI SHEN TO THE COLORADO.
A lot of people start jumping up and down pooh-poohing the route, but I know the area and have done it, so know it can be done. It just that in doing so you can't go off half cocked. The time of year has to be taken into consideration, enough water needs to be carried for unforeseen circumstances and the conservation of the water you do have must be adhered to. Also, the number of miles you can safely travel in a day needs to be divided into the number of miles to ensure you have sufficient supplies. It wouldn't be easy, but the five Buddhist monks did it circa 458 AD not to mention hundreds if not thousands of Native Americans over the centuries.
NOTE: If you have not read or gone to all of the footnotes please scroll down toward the bottom of the page.
vered America Before Columbus
Happy Columbus Day -- but, let's not get carried away. After all, Cristoforo Colombo was johnny-come-lately in the American discovery business.
The riddle of who really, really, discovered America continues to fascinate scholars. You can get even money on Columbus (1492), Leif Ericson (1000), Saint Brendan (545) or Hwui Shan (458).
Hwui Shan who? That is not his true family name but is a Chinese term meaning Very Intelligent. Shan was born in land-locked Afghanistan and became a Buddhist monk. He was among 40 other young monks who set out to carry the words of Buddha to the ends of the earth. They spent a few years in China which at that time navigated the open oceans with the aid of an instrument then unknown elsewhere -- the compass. We know that early Chinese ships sailed on regular schedules with ships capable of carrying 300 passengers.
Shan heard tales by sailors about countries beyond the "Eastern Ocean" -- a vast body of water the Spanish explorer Balboa would "discover" fifteen-hundred years later and name Pacific.
Chinese navigators knew there was land on the other side of the "Eastern Ocean" -- just as Columbus knew the earth was round and that eventually he would reach land across the Atlantic.
The young monks were intrigued by accounts of a fabulous land where "trees grew a mile tall, silk worms were seven feet long, and birds had three legs."
A third-century Chinese poet, for example, had written of far eastern lands:
"East of the Eastern Ocean lie
The shores of the Land of Fusang.
If, after landing there, you travel
East for 10,000 li
You will come to another ocean, blue
Vast, huge, boundless." (The Atlantic?)
The Chinese were among the earliest boat builders and navigators. Archeological discoveries in California and Central America bear out ancient contacts with Orientals.
The Japan Current -- a strong river within the Pacific -- speeds along at 70 to 100 miles per day in the initial stages of its course eastward to the southern reaches of Central America before swinging west. It is certain that pre-history sailors used this current as an aid in going to and coming from America.
Several of the adventurous monks charted a sea-going junk to take them east until they reached a new land where the teachings of Buddha should be established. Shan, the apparent leader, kept careful records of the directions and distances they traveled. His descriptions of the people, animals and plants encountered make it easy to trace the journey.
His journal indicates the mendicants sailed northeast of Japan to the Land of Ta-han (the Kamchatka Peninsula of Siberia). From there they traveled 20,000 li (6,600 miles) east and south to the "wonderful land of Fusang." If you trace this route, you end up at Acapulco, Mexico. Shan related that on the way to Fusang he saw a people who raised herds of "trained reindeer" (Siberia), and other natives with "marked bodies" (tattooed Eskimos). He marveled at giant trees (Oregon and California redwoods).
Finally he arrived at the Land of Fusang and described it thus:
"That region has many fusang trees, and these give it its name. The fusang's leaves resemble those of the t'ung, and its first sprouts are like bamboo shoots. The people of the country eat them. The fruit is like a pear but reddish. They spin thread from the bark and make coarse cloth from which they make clothing, and from it they also make a finer fabric. The wood is used to build houses, and they use fusang bark to make paper."
The word "Mexico" means "land of the maguey" -- or century plant.
Professor Charles Chapman points out that in no other country is there a plant put to such uses as those described by Shan.
Sprouts of the maguey resemble those of the bamboo, and Mexicans eat them. When shredded, the plant furnishes both coarse and fine fibers from which cloth is woven.
The plant often reaches a height of 30 feet and was cultivated in regular groves in ancient Mexico. Its trunk was used for the beams and rafters of buildings. Its broad leaves were woven into roofs and walls.
The maguey does not have reddish pear-shaped fruit, but a similar cactus sometimes mistaken for it does.
Shan also said:
"They have a system of writing, but they have no fortresses or walled cities, no military weapons or soldiers, and they do not wage war in that kingdom.
"The ground contains no iron, but it has copper. The people do not value gold and silver," wrote Shan.
When Cortez conquered Mexico, he also remarked at the natives' respect for copper and disinterest for gold except as decoration.
Shan stayed 40 years in the Land of Fusang. This was during the classic period of Mayan rule throughout Central America. Those ancient people had a system of hieroglyphic writing. Their calendar was more accurate than ours. They had a sophisticated knowledge of mathematics that included a symbol for zero centuries before the concept was known in Europe.
Mayans mined copper for tools but did not know how to smelt iron. They built cities that were unique in the ancient world because of the lack of fortification. They were a peaceful people who had no enemies until the fierce Toltecs, and later Aztecs, came down from the north and introduced the arts of war.
At age 90, Shan returned to china in 499. There, in a tearful reunion, he presented Emperor Wu Ti with 300 pounds of "silk" from the fusang tree and a mirror made from volcanic glass.
The old priest's account was recorded by the court scribe and entered in the imperial records as an outstanding event of the year. It was published in the year 600 by Li Yan Chu whose books are recognized as the foundation of Chinese history.
Inasmuch as our history today is so strongly oriented to European events, we know little about early Chinese explorations. However, they were widely read and discussed in the 1880's. California was being extensively developed at that time, and evidences of ancient Chinese influence were unearthed.
Chinese junks, probably not much larger or stronger than that of Shan and his companions, occasionally put into San Francisco with miners during the Gold Rush. Chinese coins, some dated before the Christian era, were found in several places.
From an historical point of view, Shan's discovery came centuries before there was trade between East and West to stimulate permanent contacts.
Columbus' epoch voyage in 1492 opened up a new world at a time Europeans were ready to settle and exploit it systematically. He was at the right place at the right time. Thus, honor is rightfully due him.
Author: Lindsey Williams
cutline -- chinese figures.