The land of Fusang : myth, history and the narrative of Hwui Shan


Historical mysteries concerning pre-Columbian trans-oceanic voyages have captured the attentions of archaeologists and historians-inspiring speculation and enduring criticism among both-and fired the imaginations of laypersons and professionals alike. One such mystery is the story of a Buddhist monk named Hwui Shan who, in A.D. 499, presented himself before the Emperor of China and there related the tale of a journey that took him across the Pacific Ocean to a place he called the Land of Fusang. Scholars and amateurs have researched and debated the possibility that his voyage took him all the way to the Americas. Had Hwui Shan indeed visited the American continents, he would have been the first person in recorded history not of Native American descent to do so.

With all that has been written concerning the Land ofFusang, Hwui Shan, and the possibility of prior and subsequent voyages to the Americas from eastern Asia, one could expect that the debate over the possibility of pre-Columbian contacts between Asia and the Americas would have been long resolved. Yet, the debate continues. Those who argue that Asian voyagers reached the Americas often overlook important information that does not support their conclusions. Likewise, those who deny any contact between Asian voyagers and Native American peoples often overlook information that strongly suggests that contact did occur.

This study will explore this issue by focusing on eight themes that the research has addressed: the degree to which fifth-century Chinese possessed the necessary seafaring skills to voyage across the Pacific Ocean; the most likely routes from Asia to the Americas; the historical figure ofHwui Shan; the origin of rumors about the Land of Fusang and the reasons for traveling there; the location of the Land of Fusang; the native populations with which Asians may have made contact; the impact of Asian contact on indigenous cultures, if indeed contact was made; the possibility that others followed up Hwui Shan' s discovery; the significance of such an event. Enough of these themes have been reasonably proven, suggesting that contacts did occur but the extent of that contact seems to have been extremely limited. The story of how historians and anthropologists have reached those conclusions, and consideration of the viability of those conclusions, is the subject of this thesis.


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Thesis Completion





Friend, Craig Thompson


Bachelor of Arts (B.A.)


College of Arts and Sciences

Degree Program



Arts and Sciences -- Dissertations, Academic;Dissertations, Academic -- Arts and Sciences;America -- Discovery and exploration -- Chinese;Huishen -- 5th cent







Access Status

Open Access

Length of Campus-only Access


Document Type

Honors in the Major Thesis

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