History-Onyx Index

Early Words and Sermons: An Internet Ministry of Rev. Marilyn A. Riedel

       Hello fellow Internet surfer and welcome to a gem of a site dedicated to illuminating the onyx-like parallels unearthed from an otherwise beclouded and boring American and world historical perspective into its many hues and flavors, a spectrum inclusive of most light that makes up the untold histories, fascinating stories and journeys not quite attached or put together in this theatrical or holistic manner as you will find!
        We bring many years of personal and unique historical research, reading, collaboration, living, and writing  experiences. One of us is a published historian, journalist, and genealogist, whose roots are in the Central Oregon Coast, the primary though not exclusive gathering or focal point of these stories. And her co-author is more centered, though not exclusively so on the personal-spiritual journey as a former Lutheran minister, and how this has come into play to reinvigorate her own philosophical historical understanding of faith and her questions of the world-church professional Christian training, vision and cultural paradigms, relying upon her common sense and also the expertise and critique of those historically disinherited, disenfranchised, and despised.
     Neither of us is professionally enamored by historicism in the classical sense, or any particular intellectual chains, other than the challenge to loosen the usual grip of white western european, heterosexist and masculinist elitism! And yes, we believe in being politically correct, and are proud of it, that we still name the names! We are students and practitioners of folk and established history, and are expanding our understanding of story, wishing to share some of those exciting findings and perspectives. We plan to update this site regularly with the little known gems and connections to "the rest of the story" usually relegated to footnotes we have uncovered from the current draft of our mammoth, interconnected, well documented history saga, Sovereigns of Themselves: A Liberating History of Oregon and Its Coast. We would welcome and appreciate hearing from you, comments, questions, suggestions, corrections, or other resources and we hope that you'll stick around long enough to get to know just a little bit more about what these two cyber-historians have to offer.

Maracon Authors M. Constance Guardino III and Rev. Marilyn A. Riedel

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The North American Kingdom of Fu-Sang

         It began with a myth. According to legend there was a passage or strait on the north coast of North America, which connected the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, that is, that long-sought-after advantage, a direct  sea route from Western Europe to Asia. Around this central myth clustered others. "Marine plying reached the climax and borders on the heroic," wrote American historian Hubert Howe Bancroft (1832-1918). For example, somewhere on the Oregon Coast there flourished the Kingdom of Fu-Sang, founded by a Buddhist monk, Hui-Shen, and his disciples from Afghanistan. Here they had created a great civilization centered on the Fu-Sang tree and its magic powers.
     Like everyone else who reads about them, Chinese historian  Jack Chen was fascinated by the stories of the first Chinese who had come to North America. He discusses the legend of Fu-Sang:

      Chinese records (in the Liang Shu and in Volume 231 of the Great Chinese Encyclopedia compiled by Ma Tuan-Lin relate that Hui-Shen, one of five Buddhist priests, arrived in a country they called Fu-Sang in 459 CE (common era or AD), which seems to have been the West Coast of America from British Columbia southward. Although some scholars dispute this story of the early arrival of Chinese on the North American continent, the reported discovery of ancient Chinese artifacts in Victoria, BC, and in Mexico seems to support it. Hui-Shen's party appears to have traveled down the California coast to Mexico. This tallies with the description of Fu-Sang given by Hui-Shen and with the Mexican stories of the legendary arrival of Quetzalcoatl. More recent research by the archaeologist James R. Moriarty of the University of San Diego, California, has unearthed Chinese stone anchors near Palos Verdes Peninsula and off Point Mendocino. In the latter  case, the anchor was encrusted with manganese, which showed that it had been lying on the seabed for 2,000 or 3,000 years (San Francisco Chronicle, November 25, 1979). The Fu-Sang plant that gave the country its name was evidently the century plant, a cactus-like agave commonly used for food and clothing in ancient Mexico. (The Chinese of America, Harper & Row 1980, pp. 5, 6)

 North American Dragons

     Regardless of the validity of Hui-Shen's story, and the fact that some scholars dispute this account of the early arrival of Chinese on the North American continent, a number of scholars are convinced that contacts between the Far West and Western hemisphere did in fact occur in the first millennium.
In his book, Columbus Was Last, freelance science writer Patrick Huyghe discusses further proof of the existence of Fu-Sang, and cites Chicago patent attorney, Henriette Mertz' research and conclusions:

     Mertz' interpretation of Hui-Shen's adventure is easily the best, and though perhaps not completely satisfactory, it is, at the very least, inspired. She believed that the descriptions of the people and places Hui-Shen encountered on his travels corresponded quite well with what we know of America during the 5th century. And though well aware that the tale had likely been colored and condensed, Mertz believed nonetheless that it was possible to retrace the path of the vagabonding 5th-century Buddhist priests. If the story contained any truth, she said, then the places he mentioned could be located geographically, just as she had done for the earlier Chinese classic, the San Hai Ching.

The Southwest Kingdom of Women

     Mertz assumed that the Buddhists had begun their journey in the south of China, the place where Hui-Shen returned to tell the story, and that it ended up on Southern California, the place they called Fu-Sang. She believed the monks landed on the coast in the vicinity of Los Angeles, Point Hueneme, to be precise. They then went east 350 miles and arrived on the Mogollon Mesa of Eastern Arizona and Western New Mexico, the area Mertz identified as the "Kingdom of Women." She found that some 300 miles south, as per Hui-Shen's account, lay the noted black canyon in Western Colorado called "The Black Canyon of the Gunnison." North of this canyon stands majestic Mount Gunnison and still farther north is the snowcapped mountain Hui-Shen mentioned, snow mass.
     To the south of the Mogollon Mesa in Mexico are two well-known smoking mountains, according to Mertz, Popocatepetl, whose name means "smoking," and Volcan de Colima. Mertz thinks Hui-Shen's "smoking mountain" in the Kingdom of Women was Volcan, which is located near the coast. West from the kingdom, noted Mertz, are innumerable springs, including Warner Hot Springs and Palm Springs. And right in the heart of Los Angeles are the La Brea Tar Pits, which sounds suspiciously like Hui-Shen's sea of varnish. Mertz could not pin down which California lake Hui-Shen called a "sea the color of milk," as many California lakes have dried up over time and all that now remains of them is the salt solution on their bottoms. These beds of salt and borax glisten snow white under the desert sun.

     Mertz believed that Hui-Shen's Fu-Sang plant was ancient corn which was sometimes pear-shaped and reddish and could be kept for a year without spoilage. Other researchers have suggested that the Fu-Sang plant might be a reference to the prickly pear or the cactus apple. Still others viewed it as as reference to the century plant, which is known as maguey in Mexico. The sprouts of the century plant do resemble bamboo and are eaten, and cloth and paper are made from its fibers. The plant also resembles a tree, as its tall branching and flowering candelabra-like stalk often reaches as much as 30 feet in height. But it does not bear red pear-shaped fruit.
     When it came to the circular living quarters of Hui-Shen's Kingdom of Women, Mertz found an answer for this as well. She thought they resembled the adobe houses among the Indians of Central Arizona. Their burrow-like entrances were just as he had described. She also thought that the dog's heads on their men might be a reference to the Kachina ceremonial masks, which were made of wood, feathers, furs, and skin and looked like cows, eagles, snakes, and dogs. They were worn by the men when praying for rain and during other spiritual occasions.
     While some have interpreted Hui-Shen's Kingdom of Women with its hairy ladies and precocious children as a reference to Central America's monkeys, Mertz saw a reference to a matrilineal people such as the Pueblo of the Southwest. Among the matrilineal Hopi, for instance, houses were owned by women, and their clans were related through the females. A child was born into his mother's clan and was named by his mother's sister. Such a matriarchal system in which the women exercised control over persons or property would certainly have seemed quite odd for the Chinese.

The Chinese Notion of Snakes as Husbands

     Mertz also found a reasonable explanation for Hui-Shen's outrageous notion of snakes as husbands. Hopi men belonged to a Snake Clan and considered themselves one with the snake. The Hopi legend of the Spider Woman tells how the Snake Clan came to be. One day the son of a chief and the Spider Woman  encountered a group of men and women who, after dressing themselves in snake skins, turned into snakes. The Spider Woman helped the son's chief catch a beautiful young girl who had been turned into a yellow rattler. He eventually married her, but the children she bore him were all snakes. Not happy with this situation, the tribes sent them away to another pueblo. The couple then had more children, but this time their offspring were human. This made the male children blood brothers of the snakes and explains how the Snake Clan came to be.
     Mertz even came to understand the odd nursing behavior Hui-Shen observed. The monk said that the papooses carried on the backs of their mothers were fed by a white substance that came from the hair at the nape of the mother's neck. But Native American women customarily gathered their long hair at the nape of the neck and tied it with white ribbons. What could be more natural, said Mertz, than for a baby strapped to his mother's back to be attracted to this white ribbon? The baby with the ribbon in its mouth would look to a naive observer from a distance as though the baby was feeding.
     Mertz also found a myth held by the Pima Indians of Arizona to explain why Hui-Shen said that children became adults by the age of three or four. The legend of Ha-ak says that the daughter of a chief gave birth to a strange-looking female creature who grew to maturity in three or four years. But because she ate everything in sight, she was eventually killed. This event was celebrated with a great feast, and the Pima eventually built a shrine in honor of this day five miles north of Sacaton, Arizona. Mertz speculated that Hui-Shen might even have passed by this shrine and been told of this legend. And the salt plant these people ate, Mertz has identified as Anemonopsis californica, a plant with a large root and a strong medicinal scent that grows in salt-bed depressions in Southern California (Columbus Was Last, Hyperion 1992, pp. 119-121).

M.Constance Guardino III Reverend Marilyn A. Riedel
This Page Last Updated By Maracon December 1, 2005

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