Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 54.djvu/10

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POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

volume by Mr. Edward P. Vining entitled An Inglorious Columbus. Under this unfortunate title one may find the most painstaking col- location of the many memoirs written upon this subject, with the Chinese account of the land of Fusang in Chinese characters, and appended thereto the various translations of the document by De Guines, Williams, Julien, and other eminent sinologues.

To the French Orientalist, M. de Guines, we are indebted for our first knowledge of certain ancient records of the Chinese, which briefly record the visit of Chinese Buddhist monks to the land of Fusang in the year 458 of our era, and the return of a single Buddhist monk from this land in 499. De Guines's memoir appeared in 1761, and for forty years but little attention was drawn to it. Humboldt says that, according to the learned researches of Father Gaubil, it appears doubtful whether the Chinese ever visited the western coast of America at the time stated by De Guines. In 1831, Klaproth, the eminent German Orientalist, combated the idea that Fusang was Mexico, and insisted that it was Japan. In 1844 the Chevalier de Paravey argued that Fusang should be looked for in America. Prof. Karl Friedrich Neumann also defended this idea. In magazine articles in 1850-1862, and finally in book form in 1875, Mr. C. G. Leland supported with great ingenuity the idea of Chinese contact based on the Fusang account. In 1862 M. Jose Perez also defended the idea. In 1865 M. Gustave d'Eichthal published his memoir on the Buddhistic origin of American civilization, and in the same year M. Vivien de Saint-Martin combated the theory, and since that time many others have written upon the subject in favor or in opposition to the idea of Asiatic contact.

These hasty citations are only a few of the many that I have drawn from Mr. Vining's encyclopedic compilation.

It is extraordinary what a keen fascination the obscure paths of regions beyond history and usually beyond verification have to many minds, and the fascination is as justifiable as the desire to explore unknown regions of the earth. In the one case, however, we have a tangled mass of legendary tales coming down from a time when dragons were supposed to exist, when trees were miles in height, when people lived to a thousand years, when every unit of measure- ment was distorted and every physical truth, as we know it to-day, had no recognition, while in the other case we have at least a con- tinuity of the same land and sea extending to the unexplored beyond. This impulse of the human mind finds an attractive problem in the question as to the origin of the American races. Dr. Brinton has insisted on the unreasonable nature of the inquiry by asking an analogous one: " Whence came the African negroes? All will reply, 'From Africa, of course.' 'Originally?' 'Yes, originally; they

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