Rewriting History: Ancient Chinese Discovered America, Says Author

October 22, 2009 Updated: October 22, 2009
One of the ancient Chinese maps from Dr. Hendon Harris Jr.'s collection.  (Asiatic
One of the ancient Chinese maps from Dr. Hendon Harris Jr.'s collection. (Asiatic

It was in 1973 that the late Dr. Hendon Harris Jr. published a book documenting what he believed was proof that the Chinese discovered and colonized America thousands of years before Columbus arrived.

His proof centred on a world map he found in an old map book a year earlier in an antique shop in Korea.

Entitled “Everything under Heaven,” the ancient Chinese map not only showed known major land masses such as Asia, Africa, Australia, and Europe, but located China’s fabled Fu Sang—literally “land to the east”—in the region we now know as North and South America.

Harris, a third-generation missionary born to American parents in Kaifeng, China, knew he had stumbled on something big.

He was aware of Fu Sang from his knowledge of “Shan Hai Jing,” or “Collection of the Mountains and Seas,” a Chinese classic believed to be written over 2,000 years ago. The classic documented ancient Chinese travels and described the geography and legends of China and its neighbouring regions overseas.

Based on the map and about 30 similar maps that came from the original “Shan Hai Jing,” Harris theorized in his book, “The Asiatic Fathers of America,” that seafaring Chinese reached the Americas beginning approximately in 2,200 B.C., and were the ancestors of the American Indians.

An interpretation of the above map.  (Asiatic
An interpretation of the above map. (Asiatic
Only a few copies of Harris’ book were distributed, but by the time he died in 1981, he had collected seven similar map books and found 23 other maps in famous museums worldwide.

The oldest of the Harris maps are thought to be from the Ming dynasty (1368 to 1644), but the world map in each book is believed to have descended from a much earlier Chinese map.

Charlotte Harris Rees, one of Harris’ daughters, was initially skeptical of her father’s theory, and for years his map collection sat neglected under her brother’s bed.

But last year Rees published her own book, “Secret maps of the Ancient World,” which puts forward a compelling case that her father was right, that ancient mapmakers from Asia came to the Americas and documented the terrain of the New World long before Columbus arrived.

Secrets Hidden in Plain Sight

Currently on a speaking tour, Rees, who lives in Virginia, spoke on Tuesday at Vancouver’s Simon Fraser University.

“Up until now it’s almost like the Da Vinci Code—secrets that have been hidden in plain sight,” Rees told The Epoch Times.

“It’s not that [the maps] have never been seen before, but people have misunderstood, and a lot of books are saying these are part real and part imaginary because they couldn’t believe that people could have come to America that early.”

In 2003, Rees was prompted to earnestly examine her father’s theory after reading “1421,” a book by Gavin Menzies which sparked worldwide debate. Menzies maintained that the Chinese discovered America in 1421, 71 years before Columbus.

Rees sent an email telling Menzies about her father’s maps showing that the Chinese discovered America much earlier than 1421. She also brought her family’s map collection to the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., where it stayed for three years while experts came from China to study it.

Meanwhile, she embarked on a five-year research effort that convinced her that her father was right.

Throughout her research, she was mentored by Dr. Cyclone Covey, Professor Emeritus of History at Wake Forest University, North Carolina, who for more than 50 years has studied ancient American history and its association with China.

With Menzies’ help, Rees was invited to speak at the Library of Congress in 2005. And to help her father’s book reach more readers, in 2006 Reed published an abridged version of his 800-page volume.

Dr. Hwa-Wei Lee, retired Chief of the Asia Division of the Library of Congress, has called Rees’ research “a major contribution to the early history of the Americas and the relations to China and other parts of Asia.”

Abundance of Evidence

But Rees has also run into resistance. “There are a few people who are very much against this. Anytime you’ve rewritten history, it’s hard to change it,” she said.

For example, an international group of academics runs a Web site that disputes Menzies’ theory. And Rees said that although schools were still teaching in the early 20th century that the Chinese had been in America for at least 1,000 years, this information was removed from textbooks when Columbus Day was declared a U.S. national holiday.

However, Rees is undeterred.

“There is so much evidence coming in from so many different areas, including DNA evidence, finding [ancient] Chinese writing in multiples places in the Americas, and people who have been comparing the Mayan calendar to the Chinese ancient calendar.”

Many independent studies have been completed or are taking place, and her book cites over 200 works containing evidence from various disciplines including science, archaeology, oceanography, philosophy, anthropology, art, linguistics, and mathematics, Rees noted.

Greater Glory, New Respect

How did the Chinese cross the Pacific as early as 2,200 B.C.?

According to historical records, 4,000 years ago the Chinese were already very advanced, said Rees. “They had writing. They had silk. They were ocean going.”

She added that a warm ocean current exists in the North Pacific that actually “acts as a conveyor belt” and pushes objects east from Asia to the Americas and then down the coast, with a return current at the equator.

Rees said her father believed that ancient Chinese and other Asians made many trips to the New World, but a great deal of evidence has been lost. In particular, China began a policy of self-imposed isolation in the mid 1400s. “It became a capital offence to go to sea, and they burnt their maps and their ships,” she said.

For 250 years, some European scholars have speculated that Fu Sang was in fact America. But without a map showing Fu Sang, they couldn’t prove it. When Harris discovered the ancient map in Korea, he was the first in recent times to make the association, said Covey.

Evidence continues to grow. Meanwhile, Rees is content to let more people know about her and her father’s research.

“The final result of these revolutionary discoveries will be the greater glory of China, East India, Japan, and Korea and a new respect for and the appreciation of the Indians of North, Central, and South America,” wrote Harris in his book.

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