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 Martinez 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 Martinez 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 :
BUDDHISM IN AMERICA BEFORE COLUMBUS
ANCIENT CHINESE IDEOGRAPHS IN NATIVE AMERICAN ROCK ART
PRE-COLUMBIAN EXPLORATION AND COLONIZATION OF THE NEW WORLD
THE NARRATIVE OF HOEI SHIN
Fundamentally, our experience as experienced is not different from the Zen master's. Where
we differ is that we place a fog, a particular kind of conceptual overlay onto that experience
and then make an emotional investment in that overlay, taking it to be "real" in and of itself.
ZEN ENLIGHTENMENT IN A NUTSHELL
30 MINUTES TO ENLIGHTENMENT
ON THE RAZOR'S
MAJOR HISTORICAL BUDDHIST MASTERS, ZEN ANCESTORS AND ZEN PATRIARCHS
Bodhidharma, Hui'ko, Hui Neng, Shih-t'ou Hsi-ch'ien, Zhaozhou, Moshan Liaoran, Mugai Nyodai,
Nagarjuna, Ganapati Muni, Kuan Yin, Miao Shan, Tung-Shan, Lin Chi, Te Shan, Dogen
THE FLYING MACHINE: CHINA, CIRCA 400 A.D.
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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.
THE FU SANG TRAIL
The Fu Sang Trail begins just north of present day Point Hueneme between Santa Barbara and Los Angeles, California where the Santa Clara River enters the Pacific. Following 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.
Hui Shen and a small entourage, after disembarking their ship moored somewhere around Point Hueneme but more specifically where the Santa Clara River exits into the Pacific, on foot with no animals of burden but most likely a few Indian guides, hiked eastward to and across the Mojave Desert for 300-400 miles. Why? The answer may well be because of five itinerant beggar-monks that were said to have preceded him. Nowhere has it been recorded how, when, or the amount of time any of the five monks had been in America before him, 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.
"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 D'couverte de l'Amerique, Vol IX, Henri Ternaux-Compans (1836)
In the above quote there is mention by the scribes of the Conquistadors of a small island in a lake placed in the Colorado River. That island is concluded to be the no longer in existent Cottonwood Island. Cottonwood Island was formed by a onetime lake created by a natural blockage some distance downstream that eventually became overcome releasing the main depth of the lake water to what became the more-or-less the normal outflow of the Colorado River. The island itself however still had sufficient water flow on either side of its banks to remain a viable intact island during the time of the Conquistadors and later European settlers. Today however, Cottonwood Island is completely submerged by Lake Mohave created by the manmade Davis Dam near Laughlin, Nevada. Lake Mohave in covering the island easily surpasses the width, length, and depth of the unnamed original lake that formed Cottonwood Island in the first place. As it was, none of the 1540s Spanish explorers, over land or by river, ever got much closer to Cottonwood Island than 40 miles if that. Anything they had to say was hearsay garnered from their Native American guides. It wasn't until the the white explorers, exploiters, miners, and settlers started showing up in the area that Cottonwood Island was actually accessed by them or began showing up on the radar. By then Quatu-zaca and any traces thereof were long gone.
Unlike the scribes that camp-followed the conquistadors and their later Spanish counterparts, be they explorers or otherwise and known for their travels northbound up the Colorado River from the Sea of Cortez, all or most of them often marching or sailing into sometimes unknown and uncharted territory, there was a person who had traveled south on the river some years distant in time of the Spanish but before the rise of the steamboats. The person in question, not an explorer, but only using the river as the most expedient method southbound to get out of the desert and the desert's stifling heat, had traveled downriver on the Colorado with a few companions using a raft after having started from an unknown region at least as far upstream as the Virgin River, and by all accounts even a great deal further --- the Virgin River itself being at least 590 river miles above the delta. After passing through the canyon where Hoover Dam would one day be built, again done long before the advent of steamboats, rather than passing Cottonwood Island he and his companions actually stopped and visited the place, apparently even staying several days. The traveler didn't write a book, but he did record a description of the island. Of his visit the following was written:
"The Colorado River, after spending most of it's long journey flowing miles and miles in a primarily southwest direction suddenly turns due south for the rest of it's trip to the Gulf of California. It does so in a spot where the last of the high canyon walls of the Grand Canyon suddenly come to an end with the river opening into plateau where it is bordered on either side by basically flat desert land. Exiting the last of those high canyon walls onto the plateau the river begins to slow, it's southbound pace spreading out into a relative large lake. Ten miles into that lake we came across an island that the eastern side hugged closer to the eastern riverbank, the immediate north end of the island covered with upstream debris such as logs and broken trees.
"Half the length of the island, starting at the north end, which was roughly five miles long and at the most one mile wide at any given point along it's north-south axis, was covered with a thick grove of fairly healthy cottonwood trees. As you moved south along the island the cottonwoods gave way to a gradual thinning out of other varieties and toward the south end, because of lack of water, the north end being flooded regularly, barely surviving low height tangled trees replaced by scrub brush and mainland desert species.
"Coming around to the southern end of the island we pulled the raft well up out of the water and in doing so, surprisingly enough, I discovered there was a fairly wide well cleaned dirt path that went from the boat landing area to a very well built permanent stone fire pit about three foot across and maybe a foot and a half high. Beyond the fire pit the path was paved with flat stones that led to a stone structure that appeared to be a onetime small house or a long time unfinished one. No Chichen Itza, but well done none the less, using readily available native stone quarried from across the river and built in the shape of a rectangle, it was completely open at the front with no facing forward wall. The right and left walls were stepped starting with an about one foot high block, reaching toward the back, eventually ending the same height as the back wall at about five feet. The structure had no roof but did have an added lean-to type covering with the poles holding it up stuck in the ground beyond the walls. The covering offered not much more than shade and surely no protection from any sort of inclement weather. Inside was a bench made of the same stone as the structure that stretched almost clear across wall to wall. Although the back of the bench was stone the seating portion was composed of lashed together small bark free round logs and easily as uncomfortable to sit on as it sounds. Attached to the other side of the back wall was a full length stone shelf built as a cooking mess area as well as a couple of rough hewn wooden tables and a second albeit more functional cooking-like fire pit."
MYSTIC AZTEC SUN GOD
TIME TRAVEL, THE CURANDERO, AND MEETING QUATU-ZACA
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