IT will naturally have occurred to the reader that the strongest proof which can be alleged in favour of the journey of Hoei-shin and his Buddhist predecessors to the Continent of North America is the demonstration of the ease with which it could be performed. This has indeed been largely shown by Professor Neumann, and I am happy in being able to state that more recent researches have thrown additional light on this very curious question. While writing the last pages of the foregoing chapter, I was so fortunate as to meet in London with Colonel Barclay Kennon, who is personally and practically familiar with every step which Hoei-shin and his mysterious five predecessors must have taken, he having been the navigating-officer in the North Pacific, China Seas, and Behring's Straits, of the United States North Pacific Surveying Expedition, 1853-56, Lieutenant John Rodgers commanding. This gentleman was so kind as to take an interest in my work, and obligingly communicated to me, in a letter which I subjoin, such facts as he could recall in reference to Professor Neumann's verifications. I trust that it
will not be out of place for me to state that Colonel Kennon, a graduate of Annapolis Naval Academy, United States of America, was the first person who ever made a cast of the lead for the first Transatlantic cable, October 4, 1852, and in 1857 was, as Lieutenant of the United States Navy, navigating-officer of the ship Niagara, by which the first Atlantic cable was laid--although it cannot be denied that, as is the case with too many beginnings, it came to grief. After the Civil War, Lieutenant Kennon entered the Egyptian service as Colonel. He is the inventor of the well-known Counterpoise Battery, for the protection of artillery in coast defence, and was decorated by the Khedive for the construction of a fort on this principle.
It should be borne in mind that, as regards the passage of the short distances between Asia and America by the Aleutian chain, where one is out of sight of land for a very short time, the vessels of North-eastern Asia were formerly built for long voyages and oceanic navigation, and actually did sail for weeks together out on the open sea; that the compass was probably used by them before the fifth century, and that at the present day Japanese vessels are still rigged in a much more sea-going style than Chinese junks, and are consequently capable of easier and more extended navigation.
The evidence offered in favour of the discovery of America by the Chinese Buddhists of the fifth century is very limited, but it has every characteristic of a serious State document, and of authentic history. It is distinctly
recorded among the annals of the Empire. At the time these journeys were undertaken, thousands of monks, inspired by the most fanatical zeal, were extending their doctrines in every direction; and this they did with such success, that though Buddhism has now been steadily declining for many centuries, it still numbers more followers than Christianity, or any other religion on the face of the earth, for they are literally counted by hundreds of millions. And as their doctrines urged propagandism, it would be almost a matter of wonder if some of the missionaries of the faith had not found their way over an already familiar route.
LETTER from COLONEL BARCLAY KENNON, formerly of the United States North Pacific Surveying Expedition.
"LONDON, April 3, 1871.
"DEAR SIR,--As regards the possible passage at an early age of Chinese to the North American Continent, I regret to say that I have devoted too little thought to such a subject to be of use to you, beyond giving a fair idea of the distances between point and point from China to Japan, and thence, via the Kurile and Aleutian Islands, to the Western Coast of America. I have at present unfortunately no map, chart, or notes to guide me or refresh my memory, and so must depend solely upon it. Thus far, however, it has not misled me in other respects, and it certainly should not in this case, if it be considered that I was the sailing-master of the
surveying schooner which was specially appointed to follow, examine, and map out this route.
"After leaving Shanghai direct for Japan, a vessel sights Alceste Island when about 200 miles from the mouth of the Yang-tse-kiang, upon a branch of which river, the Woo-sung, Shanghae is situated. From Alceste Island to the Gotto Islands, which are directly upon the Japanese coast, and two miles from its extreme western end, the distance is about 120 miles. In making this trip, a fair wind, with 'plenty of it,' will very soon take a vessel from point to point. The distance across from one point on the Chinese coast is still shorter, or about 100 miles S.S.E. from the Yang-tse-kiang. Many islands lie off this point, which, being lost sight of at a distance of twenty or more miles, will materially diminish the time for being in the open sea. In fact, no ordinary Chinese or Japanese fisherman would hesitate to make these trifling voyages for so short a time out of sight of land, and hundreds do make much more dangerous ventures every day along the coast. From the Yangtse-kiang direct to the coast of Korea the distance is less than a day's sail, or only eighteen hours by coasting it, till we reach the Straits of Korea, when a few hours take us over to the Straits of Krusenstern, separated by islands, and thence direct to the Gotto Islands. Or we may sail for the island of Oki, and cross the straits (which received in our survey, and on our map, the name of Rodgers' Straits), which are from ten
to twenty miles wide, and thus reach the coast of Japan. In either case, land is not long lost sight of, the open sea distances being very trifling.
"Starting from Hong Kong Island, farther south, a run of thirty-six hours takes us to the island of Formosa. To the eastward of it, and in sight from each other, are the Madjico Sima Islands, and to the eastward of them are visible those of Amakirima. In full view with these, again, the southernmost of the Loo-choo Islands, dependencies of Japan, of which Shapa is the capital, heaves in sight. Running north through this group to the coast of Japan, one island is hardly below the horizon before another makes its appearance, or in a very few hours, the last being ii. sight when close to the south-west end of Niphon, the largest of the Japanese Islands. These latter lie N.E. and S.W.; so that by following either coast-line until the Kuriles are reached, land will always be in sight. The Kurile Islands, stretching between the island of Matsumai (the northernmost of the Japan group, and upon which Hakododi, the chief port and town, is situated), and Cape Lapatka, the southern extremity of Kamtschatka, are in sight from each other, excepting possibly in the 'Boussole Passage,' which is forty or more miles in width. A vessel in the centre of it will have the islands marking its boundaries in sight; so that as soon as the voyager passes from one land, he immediately perceives the other. Kamtschatka, once seen, is not easily lost sight of, as its high mountains
are visible for more than a hundred miles. The highest peak, just north of Avataka Bay, containing the harbour and remains of the town of Petropaulski, is a volcano; and, if my memory does not mislead me, it is more than 18,000 feet in height, the line of perpetual snow beginning some distance below the crater, and terminating at a point some thousands of feet above the sea-level. This line, of course, offers a mark which can be seen farther out at sea than would a mountain of the same height, if entirely covered up to its summit. Proceeding along this coast to Cape Kronotski, which lies north of Petropaulski, the distance to Behring's Island is about 150 miles--course, east. Fifteen miles only from it is Copper Island, and about 150 miles south-west of it is Attou Island, the most westerly of the Aleutian group, which is an almost unbroken chain, connecting with the American Continent at the peninsula of Aliaska.
Attou Island, situated in latitude 53° N., longitude 173° (in round numbers), has the pretty little harbour of Tchitchagoff, which we surveyed with much care, believing that it might prove useful at some future day. Owing to the trouble and care with which this work was done, the three islands standing off its entrance were named after the vessel, Cooper; the captain, Gibson; and myself. It may not be out of place to state, that the schooner Fenimore Cooper was originally a small New York pilot-boat of seventy-five tons, and that for two years in these stormy Northern Seas I
spent a happy life on board of, and sailed upwards of 40,000 miles in her. After leaving New York she went to Africa, Java, China, Japan, California, and back to Japan, where she finally 'laid her bones to dry.'
"Next to Attou Island, and close to it, is Agattou and Semichi; and before losing sight of either of them, Boulder Island, distant forty-five miles from Agattou, heaves in sight. Kusha, the Island of the Seven Mountains--all of which are volcanoes, either extinct or active--and Amtchitka come next. These are the Krysi or Rat Islands. Next to Amtchitka, in the Andranof group, is Tonago, volcanic, Adakh, Atkha, and Ammnak, with other smaller islands between them, all in sight one from the other. Adakh has a fair harbour for small vessels, but is not inhabited. We were three weeks there. In Atkha there is a not inconsiderable settlement, and good anchorage. Here we found a Greek priest, whose wife, a Georgian, was really beautiful, as were their two daughters. At this time the Russian War was at its height, and the supplies of these poor people being exhausted, and themselves in great distress, we found it a great pleasure to relieve them--particularly the ladies, who were the first we had seen for many months. I need not say how delighted they were to receive a good stock of sugar, coffee, tea, medicines, and 'canned fruit.'
"Between Ammnak and Unalashka are, I believe, eight islands. This group bears the name of the Fox
[paragraph continues] Islands. The whole chain, from Attou to Unalashka inclusive, is called the Aleutians, the easternmost of which is very near the American mainland, or peninsula of Aliaska. A few of these islands are inhabited, the people bearing a strong resemblance to the Kuriles, who, in turn, are like the Nootka Sound Indians, 1 whose country is on the mainland to the eastward of the peninsula of Aliaska, but which may actually be reached either in a vessel or on foot by following the coast-line.
"You wish to know if I can adduce any proofs or probabilities that during the great period from the fifth to the seventh centuries, when the world was so abundantly busy in making converts to its several religious, Buddhist priests passed by these islands. If they did, they certainly could not have remained long in them, and must have hurried to the more hospitable shores of America. For there is literally not a tree on these islands--in fact, nothing resembling one, unless I except a few very small bushes, the tallest not more than three feet high, with no branches larger than a man's finger. From Aliaska a vessel could take the roundabout course of following the coast-line to reach
[paragraph continues] Sitka; but a run of three or four days would, with a good breeze, make the trip on a much more direct course--and likewise a more sensible one--by running down among the islands of the group in which Sitka is situated.
"From this place Vancouver's Island is soon reached; that is to say, in three or four days, with land in sight nearly every hour of the time. Oregon is but a few hours' sail after this; and by keeping in with the land, any lubber of a navigator can see his way down the coast to Cape Saint Lucas, the southern end of California, which is distant about 200 miles west of Mazatlan, Mexico. The prevailing winds are from the northward, or from the north-westward, with a current (Kuro-suvo) setting to the southward. Vessels bound down the coast, to the southward, make the run quickly by keeping just outside the influence of the land-breezes; while those bound up the coast should profit by them by sailing near the land. A small vessel, being able to run close in, could anchor when the sea-breezes set in during the day, but should lift her anchor at night, to make her northings with those from the land.
"From what I have written, and from the result of the most accurate scientific observation, it is evident that the voyage from China to America can be made without being out of sight of land for more than a few hours at any one time. To a landsman, unfamiliar with long voyages, the mere idea of being 'alone on the wide, wide sea,' with nothing but water visibly, even
for an hour, conveys a strange sense of desolation, of daring, and of adventure. But in truth it is regarded as a mere trifle, not only by regular seafaring men, but even by the rudest races in all parts of the world; and I have no doubt that from the remotest ages, and on all shores, fishermen in open boats, canoes, or even coracles, guided simply by the stars and currents, have not hesitated to go far out of sight of land. At the present day, natives of many of the South Pacific Islands undertake, without a compass, and successfully, long voyages which astonish even a regular Jack-tar; who is not often astonished at anything. If this can be done by savages, it hardly seems possible that the Asiatic-American voyage was not successfully performed by people of advanced scientific culture, who had, it is generally believed, the compass, and who from an early age were proficient in astronomy.
"But though this voyage from the oldest portion of the Old World--historically speaking--to the newest portion of the New, eau be made by remaining almost constantly in sight of land, I do not recommend it; and I am sure that any man in any kind of a boat, who had sufficient enterprise and patience to undertake it, would have easily found the shorter route. But there is a still stronger argument for the voyage across having been undertaken, in this, that Chinese sailors had long been travelling in a route of which this was a mere continuation, and that not a very difficult one. For, in reality, from Singapore in Malacca to Batavia
in the island of Java, and to Shanghai in China, the trip is almost an actual coasting one, the steamers nowadays running from point to point. To a landsman it is doubtless pleasant to see fresh islands every day, but a sailor greatly prefers the open sea, until he makes the land near his port. From Hakododi, Japan, the arc of the great circle joining it with San Francisco passes almost exactly beside the central island of the Aleutians. This distance is about 4250 miles. One objection to the route is this, the fogs about those islands being actually ten times worse, in every way, than those of London, they are avoided as much as possible by steering farther south, or rather by running more directly to the east. I may mention in this relation, that I had a Kamtschatka dog on board the schooner, and found him more useful as a "look-out" than a shipload of sailors could have been, since they could have done literally nothing, while the dog seemed strangely attracted towards the land, and when smelling it, invariably stood with his head towards it, barking aloud; so that we were more than once thereby warned of its too close proximity.
"We have on our own coast, or that of the United States of North America, the Gulf Stream, which, flowing off to the eastward, and striking the shores of Europe, falls on them, and on those of Africa, down to about the equator, then running west to the coast of South America, passes its northern shores up through the Carribean Sea to between Yucatan and Cuba, and
renews its course through the Straits of Florida, and again up our coast. Now in the North Pacific there is another stream, called the Kuro-suvo, or Japanese Current, which, passing up the south-east side of the Japanese coast, flows off to the eastward until it reaches California; then running down that coast, and that of Mexico and Central America, to latitude 10° N. (more or less), meets the Peruvian or Humboldt Current, when both bear away to the west and form the Northern Equatorial Current, which, extending to the Ladrone Islands, in latitude 18°, longitude 145°, turns towards the northernmost, of the Lorchas Islands, and finally completes the circuit on the coast of Japan. It is much like the Atlantic Gulf Stream in many particulars, and its current is quite as strong in certain places, though the water in it is not so warm. This current is of great utility to vessels bound to the eastward, its counter-current being of course of corresponding advantage to those sailing westward.
From what I know of the track across from Asia to America, and from what I have seen of the Japanese and Chinese, I have no doubt whatever that from very early times they occasionally visited our American shores. Assuming that they took the route which I have described, they would have been constantly in sight of land; and there is something in the nature and appearance of the frequently-recurring islands which would naturally tempt farther exploration, and lead them on. The weather is, it is true, cold at Behring's Straits
even in summer, but not one-fourth so cold as at Matsumai, Japan, in winter. A Japanese vessel, running up the Kamtschatka coast to the Bay of St Lawrence in Siberia, would have, at the utmost, only a day's sail, but probably less, to reach America; and by going that distance farther north, her crew could see land across Behring's Straits through the whole passage during the summer season, it being then free from ice, with an open sea and a moderate degree of cold. Nothing is more likely than that such visits were made by fur-hunters in former years; and as so many foreign countries lay within such easy sailing distance, it is probable that the Chinese and Japanese Governments--especially the latter--issued edicts for the building of all vessels upon a model which should very much limit their navigation, and confine them to short cruises.
"Few would believe, who are familiar with the Portuguese of the present day, or with their marine, that this people once supplied the adventurous navigators who found their way to India by the way of the Cape of Good Hope; and yet it is less than three hundred years since Vasco di Gama made that famous cruise. He coasted, as the records of the voyage show, and as the time spent would of itself prove; and it is quite likely that Chinese and Japanese did the same thing until the sterns of their vessels were 'stove in' by order of their Governments, to restrict them to cruising nearer home.
"Columbus had a very different kind of work to do,
for during the long cruise of many weeks which he spent at sea, he saw nothing whatever until the end of his journey. Two of his vessels were much larger than the little schooner in which I sailed so many thousands of miles, and the Japanese junks with which I am familiar were generally five times larger, and with eight times the capacity of the little Fenimore Cooper. There is certainly no reason why they could not keep the sea as long as any other vessel. Columbus had 'caravels,' which were more or less open, but this is not the case with the Japanese junks, which are entirely closed.
"It is of some importance in this connection to observe, that when surveying the coast of Japan in 1854, I found the Japanese charts to be invariably very correct; their latitudes, which came directly from observations of the heavenly bodies, being particularly so. Their longitudes, of course, did not agree with ours, for we were ignorant of their starting-point or primary meridian. The relative bearings and distances of places one from the other, with the outlines of the coast, were singularly accurate.
"The Japanese have doubtless very often made involuntary voyages of much greater extent, and far more dangerous, than this from continent to continent. In 1849, when I was in the Sandwich Islands, I learned that an American whaler had picked up a Japanese junk about, 2300 miles south-east of Japan, and had sent her people to China on board a passing vessel, from which
country they doubtless found their way back to their home. And I can distinctly remember that five years ago, and two years since also, Japanese junks were found among the Aleutian Islands, having been drifted thither by the Kuro-suvo Current, and impelled by westerly gales of wind. One was picked up on Adakh, which is nearly half-way over to San Francisco. Had these vessels been supplied with provisions, with such a trip in view as that of crossing the Pacific, there was nothing whatever to prevent their making it to and fro. In 1854 and 1855, when I was last in Japan, I often saw both women and children on board junks in which they had been to the Loo-choo Islands. Those I met with in the latter islands seemed to be as much the habitual homes of their owners and families as are the Chinese river-boats homes to those who inhabit them. In China one sees many families which have for generations been born and reared on board these little boats. And at present the actual floating population on the Canton river alone is estimated at over a million of souls.
"I have always regarded the Sandwich Islanders as cousins of the Japanese. There is quite enough in the general appearance of the two races to justify one in believing it. To me it seems as if some other blood existed there, very largely mingled or alloyed with Japanese, and the difference in manners, customs, religion, and other forms of culture, is owing to the Japanese element being in the minority. But supposing
them to have altogether descended from the Japanese, and this is far from being improbable, 1 the few who first landed there, and from whom the whole group was peopled, found, in organising, voluntarily or involuntarily, a new form of government and new institutions, no more necessity to copy after their old types than did the early settlers of America in framing theirs. In fact, if they were exiles, like the first settlers of Iceland and many other countries, their natural impulse would be to avoid forming anything like the tyranny from which they had fled or were banished. The Japanese have always had a highly-organised religion, while the Sandwich Islanders had as nearly none as was possible, and the melancholy history of their degradation and decay under European culture seems to indicate that they are incapable of receiving any. As to the difference or non-existence of customs, we have only to go to any of the 'new countries' of the present day to see that the so-called habits and peculiarities of mankind, which once gave such interest to
elementary works on geography, are everywhere vanishing as guides to help one in tracing the origin of races; in fact, if civilisation at the present day, unlike the ancient, were net accompanied by the spirit of antiquarian research, and a passion for recording all that it learns, the past would soon vanish as regards all races without a written history. The differences in the mode of life, and in many other things, between the United States and England, are very marked. The Loo-chooese also vary in many respects from the Japanese, although their islands are in sight of each other, and the former are dependencies of the latter. Napa-kiang, in Loo-choo, is built of stone, while all the large Japanese cities are of wood. Again, the manner of dressing the hair varies entirely in these provinces, a matter which, while small in itself, constitutes a very serious difference in a race with which such trifles are of almost radical importance. The Loo-chooese and Japanese are the same people, but they build their houses differently, simply because one country abounds in wood and the other in stone; and the difference in the arrangement of the hair has doubtless been determined by some law of climate, or caprice on the part of a ruler either in fashion or politics--the two being in this country generally combined.
"The islands of the Pacific are remarkably alike, both as regards size and general appearance; and as Oceanica is to the leeward of Japan, and the resemblance between their respective populations has occurred
to every sailor who has been in the two countries, it is a very rational conclusion that these places have been settled from the mainland by mariners blown out of their course. Such mishaps occur every two or three years at the present day, and such have occurred for hundreds, and it may be for thousands, of years. The ancient and confirmed habit of both Japanese and Chinese, of taking women to sea with them, or of traders keeping their families on board, would fully account for the population of these islands, even if they had been originally deserts. We have only to suppose the same impulses and causes acting in the more easily-travelled eastern direction, along the Aleutian chain, in seas abounding with fish and easily navigable, to conjecture whether such adventurers, voluntary or involuntary, ever reached America from Asia. The mere resemblance of immense numbers of North American Indians to the so-called Mongolian tribes is a sufficient answer to such a question. Respectfully and truly yours,
70:1 I have verified by many inquiries the assertion that there is a continuous line of likeness between the natives from the North-west Coast of America to the Asiatic Continent. "I find myself more and more inclined to believe," says John D. Baldwin, in his "Ancient America," . . . . "that the wild Indians of the north came originally from Asia, where the race to which they belong seems still represented by the Koraks and Cookchees found in that part of Asia which extends to Behring's Straits."--C. G. L.
78:1 It is a well-established fact, and one within my own observation, that the children of Irish parents in America, even in the first generation, change materially from the ancestral Celtic type. This is especially remarkable in the girls, even when born and bred in the backwoods. The face becomes more oval, and the eyes darker (when not Galwegian, or naturally dark), and softer in expression. The pure, unmixed Pennsylvania German stock retain the broad shoulders and heavy figure of their ancestors; but the hair is generally much darker, and the eyes, which are often very beautiful, are, as in the Irish instance, larger. The same holds good, but in a less degree, I believe, of the children of English parents. The child of "Boston people," born in New Orleans, often becomes in the first generation a creole, pale, sallow, and with constantly cold hands.--C. G. L.