Below is a sample chapter from Charlotte Harris Rees' new book

Did Ancient Chinese Explore America?
My Journey Through the Rocky Mountains to Find Answers

This exciting book is available now on our Purchase page!

(The following content is Copyrighted Material! Copyright © 2013


The purpose of this book is not to help one find gold or gems, though those who read it may decide to go on that treasure hunt. Neither is it to discuss my father’s maps, nor to decide who arrived first in the Americas.

The purpose of this book is to determine whether the Chinese Shan Hai Jing (Classic of the Mountains and the Seas) is truth or fiction, and if truth, try to determine when that trip took place. If the Shan Hai Jing is true, it shakes the foundations of current world history texts.

The journey we took followed written instruction in the Shan Hai Jing which stated: “Go so far and you will see….” It should have been fairly easy to disprove.

In 1953 Henriette Mertz, a Chicago attorney, after studying topographical world maps, stated in Pale Ink that detailed descriptions of the Eastern journeys in the Shan Hai Jing fit nowhere else on earth other than North America. She charted four routes and contended that those trips took place about 2250 BC.

In 1972 Random House republished Pale Ink, with a few minor additions, under the new title Gods from the Far East: How the Chinese Discovered America.

However, neither Mertz nor anyone else in recent times actually completed any of the journeys that she charted to see what was there. Therefore, we went.

This book is my travelogue of one of those four journeys. That trek follows the eastern slope of the Rocky Mountains from Wyoming all the way down through Texas to the Rio Grande for 1100 miles.

Along the way I briefly weave into the text some of the written history of areas we covered. The maps that we followed are Mertz’s maps, not those of my father. My father’s maps are part of the story, but are world maps and do not give the detail afforded by Mertz.

My basic premises:

o  In 2000 an exhaustive five year study was completed to determine the start date of China’s early history. That study involved hundreds of scholars from numerous disciplines. It concluded that China’s first dynasty (Xia) started around 2070 BC. Therefore, in this book I do not go back earlier than that. For convenience I round it to 2000 BC. 

o  By 2000 BC China was an advanced culture. Western scholars such as Dr. Joseph Needham and Dr. John Hobson have verified that for most of world history China was the most advanced culture on earth. 

o  The Shan Hai Jing claims to be a survey of the entire world done at a very early date. Some believe it is the world’s oldest geography.

o  Some scholars contend that the Shan Hai Jing grew out of notes that originally accompanied maps. However, those maps have long been separated from the text. 

o  According to The History of Cartography, 72 percent of the locations shown on world maps of the ch’onhado (tian xia) style are from the Shan Hai Jing. My father, Dr. Hendon Harris, Jr., believed that the tian xia world maps in his collection, and the few others worldwide like them, descended from the map that originally accompanied the Shan Hai Jing.  

o  My father and now others identify Fu Sang on the far right side of these world maps as the Americas. In the travels in Fu Sang, the Shan Hai Jing mentions a few scattered tribes of people already there.

According to another Chinese source, some people had been sent to Fu Sang earlier by the Yellow Emperor to study astronomy.

o  The Shan Hai Jing was held in high regard throughout much of China’s history. For many years knowledge of the Shan Hai Jing was part of China’s civil service exams.  

o  Some small parts of the Shan Hai Jing may have been slightly altered during the many times it was copied over thousands of years. Some commentary was later inserted and is now embedded in the text. This is shown in brackets. The few parts which seem fictitious may have been inserted by copyists or perhaps we just do not yet understand them.  

o  In the AD 5th century an edict was issued in China to condense all books. Therefore, the account we now have of the Shan Hai Jing may well be an abridged version. 

o  Currently the origin date of the Shan Hai Jing is debated. It was quoted many times through China’s history. Chao-shi, who lived during the Han Dynasty (202 BC – AD 9) attributed the Shan Hai Jing to Yu, the first ruler of the Xia Dynasty. If Chao-shi is correct, that would date it to 2000 BC. At a minimum we know that the Shan Hai Jing was in existence when quoted by Chao-shi. 

o  The Shan Hai Jing implies arrival to the Americas by sea.  

o  In 1885 the portion of the Shan Hai Jing thought to apply to North America was published in English by Edward Payson Vining in An Inglorious Columbus. For my studies I used Vining’s English translation. Mertz wrote that she consulted with a person from the Library of Congress concerning this translation. I also had Vining’s translation reviewed by the National Library of China for accuracy and was told that it was “mainly correct,” but I have been unsuccessful in getting them to tell me what parts of the translation may be incorrect.

In each chapter of this book which outlines this journey I quote Vining and Mertz then give my own commentary. In bold I have highlighted key words in Vining’s text. The reader will find the same words in bold in my commentary as I mention each topic.

The premises listed above are discussed in more detail in my books: Secret Maps of the Ancient World (2008, 2009), Chinese Sailed to America Before Columbus: More Secrets from the Dr. Hendon M. Harris, Jr. Map Collection (2011), in my 2006 abridgement of my father’s 1973 The Asiatic Fathers of America, and on my web site

Chapter 1 – An American Mystery 

I started the trip of the eastern slope of the US Rocky Mountains with a few travel books. However, because of interesting new materials gathered on the way, my backpack became very heavy. As we checked in at the airport on our way home my suitcase was overweight. To satisfy the airline, another large book was moved to my backpack. However, I did not care. I tingled with excitement because of all that we had learned and uncovered on the trip.

It was the day before the first Presidential Debate of 2012 which was to be held in Denver. The long line through security at that airport stretched on and on so Dave reached over to carry the backpack for me. I had to chuckle when he grumbled: “You brought along the whole Library of Congress!”

Several weeks later I confessed to Dave that there had also been a few small stones in the bottom of that backpack that I had collected during my travels.

“Why?” He asked with puzzled consternation.

“Because they’re pretty.”

Before I settled into my seat on the plane, I took out The Archaeology of Colorado at which previously I had only glanced. In my original scan of that text, it caught my eye that Olivella shells were found in some ancient graves in Colorado. They were thought to have come all the way from the Gulf of California and were one of the first trade items of Native Americans. Olivella shells look strikingly similar to tiny cowrie shells, found in some of the most ancient Chinese graves. The Chinese geography, the Shan Hai Jing, even mentions cowrie shells off the coast of what has been charted as California. I had no idea about the exciting information ahead.

The Archaeology of Colorado told about an unexplained people group, who for lack of a better name were called the McKean Complex. They visited that area around 4000 years ago.  

I was struck with how much the McKean Complex paralleled the Chinese of the same era. The McKean campsite structures were circular and three meters in diameter with packed down earth floor. Their signature was that they contained a basin shaped hearth. They were typically built on river terraces.  Some were pit houses.

The houses of the Chinese Yang-shao villages of that time were also typically three to five meters in diameter and were square, oblong, or round with plastered floors. Each house was furnished with a gourd-shaped pit for a hearth. They were also built on river terraces. Some were pit houses. Archeological drawings of reconstructed Chinese houses of that era look similar to Native American tipis.1

The McKean people collected seeds and vegetable products, trapped small animals, and hunted bison. In seeking quartzite, they dug many pits up to thirty feet deep and fifty feet in diameter.2  At some sites there were mortars and pestles of stone used for processing food. It is a mystery how the McKean people could have been so advanced.

The University of Manitoba stated concerning the McKean Complex:

Bone implements that were possibly used for gaming, decorative beads, and basket fragments suggest a complex and elaborate cultural tradition.3

The University of Manitoba’s map of the northern stretches of the McKean complex showed that this culture spread in a swath from Wyoming north through eastern Montana, western North Dakota, through the southeastern corner of Saskatchewan, and to the south western part of Manitoba, Canada.  

The outline of the McKean habitation area shown on the map looked strangely familiar. Where had I seen that layout before? Then it dawned on me that it matched one of the journeys of the Shan Hai Jing as charted by Mertz. One could almost trace one map from the other.

Most likely Mertz had no knowledge of the McKean Complex when she drew her sketch of that journey. Most of the information for this complex was gathered since her book was written and to my knowledge she never mentioned McKean Complex in her writings.

It was noted that only one McKean burial site was found in Canada. That would be typical of a survey group. They would have only taken those who were young and physically fit and would not have stayed a long time.

The journey described in Shan Hai Jing Book 4 section 2 for which Mertz had drawn the map similar to the one for the McKean Complex, probably came after the journey described in Shan Hai Jing Book 4 section 1, that my husband and I had just followed. However, at some points those two journeys covered the same ground.

Possibly there were different Chinese survey groups for those two journeys who unwittingly crossed paths.  The journey similar to the McKean Complex worked south from Manitoba, but on the way also came close to Casper and Medicine Bow Peak in Wyoming and Longs Peak, and the Collegiate Mountains in Colorado. Both surveys seemed to follow the rivers and the mountain ranges.

In Wyoming’s Big Horn Mountains, through which Mertz charted this journey, is now a mysterious US federally recognized historic landmark, Big Horn Medicine Wheel, which some refer to as the “American Stonehenge.” In the past some tried to explain it by comparing it to an Indian medicine lodge. However, there are several dissimilarities.  

Astronomer, Dr. John Eddy, wrote in Science Magazine:

The word ‘medicine’ was used by Indians to mean ‘magic’ or ‘supernatural’ and the Medicine Wheel is associated in most accounts with religious use.4

Eddy discovered that solstice and stellar alignments are indicated by Big Horn Medicine Wheel. When he tested his hypothesis at the summer solstice in June 1972 and again in 1973, he encountered boot deep snow both times. However, though snow was deep at lower elevations, wind cleared the actual circle on both of those occasions. Eddy stated that only at the summer solstice would there have been practical access.

Stanford University describes it:

an 80’diameter wheel-like pattern made of stones. At the center of the circle is a doughnut-shaped pile of stones, a cairn, connected to the rim by 28 spoke like lines of stones. Six more stone cairns are arranged around the circle, most large enough to hold a sitting human. The central cairn is about 12 feet in diameter and 2 feet high.5

It may be of great significance that Big Horn Medicine Wheel is divided by 28 spokes, not equally spaced apart, with each spoke going out from a hub.

According to Needham, in the early second millennium BC Chinese divided the night sky into 28 sections to mark the 28 days of the lunar calendar. The spokes on those Chinese star charts were around a hub and purposely were not equidistant.

A photo of one of the Chinese astronomical devices can be seen in the Genius of China.6  It is very similar to the Wyoming model.

It is not possible to carbon date stone, but attempts to date Big Horn Medicine Wheel by objects found nearby gave a date of around AD 1700 – before Caucasians reached that region. However, a problem arises concerning the possibility of Native American construction of it. On its discovery by Caucasians no native group could tell about its origin other than to say that “the Sun built it” or that it had been there from “before the light came.” The Crow Indians said it; “was made by people who had no iron.”7 All those statements imply great antiquity.

Centuries later people from India adopted the same lunar system with 28 spokes, but it was the Chinese who initiated it. Chinese astronomical methods were later adopted by the world and are used today. Using the stars Chinese were able to navigate and then return home at early dates.

In fact, Edward Vining in quoting Kuan-Mei reported that one reason that Chinese first came to Fu Sang (America) was for astronomical studies. “It is in Fu-sang that Hwang-ti’s astronomers resided (who were charged with the observation of the rising sun).”8 Hwang-ti mentioned here was the legendary Yellow Emperor who preceded the earliest Chinese dynasty.

Even if nomadic Native American tribes, not known for buildings or monuments, did construct Big Horn Medicine Wheel, how did they gain such complicated knowledge of astronomy which enabled them to build a structure that charts not only the progress of the sun but also that of at least three different stars?

In the Big Horn Basin in Wyoming is found some of the oldest rock art in North America – believed to date back thousands of years. Perhaps that should be considered in dating Big Horn Medicine Wheel. Legend Rock, which is downstream from Big Horn Medicine Wheel, has been linked by technique and imagery to sites around the world including Ningxia, China.9 Similar rock art in China also dates back thousands of years to their early dynasties.10

If per chance the Chinese built Big Horn Medicine wheel in Wyoming in the second millennium BC, is it possible that an unsupported structure made of loose stones could survive all those years?

If this were New Mexico, in which Spaniards and others repeatedly explored and warred starting in the early 16th century, probably not. But in Wyoming, which the white men did not reach until the 19th century and in a remote location at almost 10,000 feet altitude on a mountain covered with snow for most of the year, the possibility exists. This is on a well worn trail, but technically very much “off the beaten path.”

There are other similar wheels in the area. University Regina, Saskatchewan reports:

Boulder monuments are patterns traced upon virgin prairie utilizing glacial till boulders to define a desired outline pattern. The boulders most commonly used range from 10 cm (4 inches) to 40cm (16 inches) in diameter.….Currently 167 of these monuments have been recorded in Saskatchewan….examples include 11 medicine wheels, 10 ceremonial circles, four human effigies, five animal effigies, and three geometric designs… An additional 200 - 300 have been recorded on the Northern Great Plains.11

The oldest of those monuments in Saskatchewan has been tentatively dated at 1600 years old. Northern Great Plains locations which they listed include Montana, South Dakota, Wyoming, Minnesota, and Iowa. Again note that these were mainly locations on which Mertz charted Shan Hai Jing journeys.

In Chinese Maritime Activities and Socioeconomic Development, c. 2100 B.C. – 1900 A.D. Dr. Gang (Kent) Deng of the London School of Economics cites many different authors who illustrate that Chinese had gone to sea by this early period.

Dr. Kwang-Chih Chang of Harvard wrote in two of his books about peanuts (Arachis hypogaea), native to the Americas, found in archeological sites in two different provinces in China that dated to before 2000 BC.12 Dr. Nasir El Bassan, confirms that Arachis hypogaea is native to tropical and subtropical South America.13 That is further indication that Chinese crossed the Pacific at early dates.

However, the mysteries seemingly remain. Who were those advanced McKean Complex people? Who built the medicine wheels and when? In the early and mid 20th century American archeologists went to Europe to try to find answers to mysteries about Native Americans. Still today, many will not show the same interest in looking across the Pacific for the solution. 


Chapter 1 – An American Mystery

1 Kwang-Chih Chang, The Archaeology of Ancient China, New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1972, pp. 97-99.

2 James Duguid and Gabriel Bedish, “An Analysis of the Spanish Diggings Region of Wyoming During Paleolithic Inhabitation” WyAr 11(1) 1968 Part 2 Wyoming Archaeological Society.

3 “The McKean Complex,” University of Manitoba n.d. Web 4 October 2012 <>.

4 John A. Eddy, “Astronomical Alignment of the Big Horn Medicine Wheel,” Science, 7 June 1974, Vol. 184, No. 4141, pp. 1035 – 1043.

5 “Ancient Observatories Timeless Knowledge: Bighorn Medicine Wheel” n.d. Web. 18 October 2012 <>.

6 Robert Temple, The Genius of China, Rochester, Vermont: Inner Traditions: 1986, 1998, 2007, p.37-39.

7 I.S. Bartlett, ed., History of Wyoming Vol. I, Chicago: The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1918, p. 41.

8 Edward Payson Vining, An Inglorious Columbus: Evidence that Hwui Shan and a Party of Buddhist Monks from Afghanistan Discovered America, London: D. Appleton and Company, 1885, p. 221.

9 Michael FitzGerald, “Portals to Other Realities,” Wall Street Journal, 18 September 2010 Web 8 June 2013 <>.

10 Paola Dematte, “The Rock Art of Inner Mongolia and Ningxia” n.d.Web 12 May 2013 <>.

11 “Boulder Monuments” n.d. Web 19 October 2012

12 Kwang-Chih Chang, Early Chinese Civilization: Anthropological Perspectives, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1976, p. 45 and Chang, The Archeology of Ancient China, p. 157.

13 Nasir El Bassan, Handbook of Bioenergy Crops: A Complete Reference to Species Development and Applications, Oxford, UK: Routledge, 2010.

I hope this sample reading has sparked an interest my journey through the Rocky Mountains in search of answers.

If you would like to be added to my email list follow this link to my contact page and send me a quick email. When new information concerning the topics on this site become available, you will be one of the first to know!

Charlotte Harris Rees

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