Search This Blog

Monday, November 20, 2017

Southern California Vol. 2 - Ancient Chinese Explorers

There may be nothing I love more than hearing about an odd discovery or a weird mystery that either hasn't been explained yet or has turned accepted facts upside down.  There have been plenty of times that I've used those as jumping off points for a story.  More often than not though, I just love to think about them and wonder just how much we don't know about the stuff we think we know.

One of my favorites comes from my adopted home state of California and it happened to be discovered less than an hour away from where I live.  It also involves diving, which is always a big draw for me.  

Back in 1975, a couple of guys who ran a scuba equipment shop were diving off Palos Verdes.  The area is a beautiful place to dive.  There is plenty of reef available to find lobster and abalone which these two gentlemen were doing at the time.  Instead of finding dinner though, they found one of these.

Now, obviously Mother Nature doesn't usually make donut shaped rocks and she definitely doesn't make them over 300 pounds each.  The two men got one of the rocks to the surface and back to their shop and over the course of a few weeks of diving found many more.  It was a pretty strange phenomena and as word of it got around in the diving community it was eventually brought to the attention of Professor James Moriarty III at the University of San Diego.  He and an associate Larry Pierson studied the rocks and determined something groundbreaking.  

They were approximately two thousand years old and were part of a shipwreck.  That's right!  Somewhere around the time of Christ a large man-made sailing vessel had cozied up to the shoreline near Palos Verdes and gotten a little too close to the reef.

This was a major find, mostly because the accepted history up to that point was that no ancient civilization from another continent had ever set foot in what is now Southern California.  In fact, the commonly accepted theory was that the Spanish were the first non-native people to explore this area of North America and that was only about 500 years ago.  

So who were these ancient sailing explorers?  A lengthy study of the stones revealed they were anchors and ballast and that the sandstone they were made from originated from Southern China.  

History books still don't recognize that Chinese explorers visited California centuries before the Spanish but there are other clues that point to that being the case.  Aside from these stone anchors and others discovered along the coastline, there have been rock carvings of Chinese origin discovered in Nevada and even a small idol with Chinese characters uncovered in Colorado. 

Fascinating, huh?  

It gets better although this next part is heavily disputed and should be read with an open mind.  Twenty years before the anchors were discovered, a well traveled attorney named Henriette Mertz wrote a book called Pale Ink: Two Ancient Records of Chinese Exploration in America.  

In it, she dug into the writings of Chinese explorers who documented their visits to a mysterious land called Fu Shang.  The texts are extremely old.  One is from 500 AD and the other from 2200 BC.  Mertz drew some interesting parallels between their descriptions and major landmarks in the western United States. Now, be aware that Mertz made some mistakes in her research, mostly by misidentifying some texts and making a few assumptions when she probably should have let the facts speak for themselves. 

However, if you just look at the facts presented, she makes a strong case.  For one, she converted the old Chinese units of measures into miles and when she did, she found that they indeed would have placed the Chinese explorers in California. She also pointed out descriptions of landmarks that sound very much like Mount Shasta and the Grand Canyon among others.

We may never end up knowing for sure who came to California originally and perhaps recorded history will always stick with the Spanish being the first explorers, but it sure is fun to think about there being a hidden history behind the accepted one.

If you're looking for other fun stories, check out my author page over at Amazon.  There you'll find my book The Wash and a couple of other items.



Lisanne Harrington said...

This is fascinating. I had no idea. Imagine how brave those people had to be to make such a journey at that time. Did they believe the world was flat, or were they more scientifically advanced? You gotta wonder...

And I'll bet it never makes it into the history books. What a shame.

Cary said...

Imagine getting all the way here and your ship sinks. Even if they made it to shore, they're in danger from a ton of strange predators, weird plants, uncertain food sources, etc. There's a fantastic story there. I'll race you to it. :)