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Mertz, H., Pale Ink: Two Ancient Records of Chinese Exploration in America,  2nd ed. Chicago: The Swallow Press, 1972. ISBN 0-8040-0599-0. 22x14cm., xiv, 173pp., illustrated, cloth. (available from The Sourcebook Project, Box 107, Glen Arm, MD 21057, $14.95)

The family of the late Henriette Mertz is now disposing of the remaining stock of this controversial book.  This and the following book [editor: H,M Harris] deal with two ancient voyages supposedly made by the Chinese to North America.  One is related in the Classic of Mountains and Seas, supposedly dating from 2250 B.C., The other is Fu Sang from about 400 A.D., relating the voyage of the Buddhist priest Hwui Shan to a land across the Great Eastern Sea.  Various other theories of the "discovery" of America have been proposed.  Some say it was the Welsh, others the Irishman St. Brendan, the Italian Columbus, Bristol merchants, Basque fishermen, or the Vikings.  The standard put-down trundled out by defenders of orthodoxy is that proponents of such stories are racists promoting the heroic exploits of their forbears.  That will not do here since the author is not Chinese.  Thus we are forced to consider the work on its merits.  The author, who writes well, has amassed her evidence from several areas; geographical parallels between places mentioned in the legends and places in the American Southwest, similarities in religion, customs, pottery, architecture, and linguistic evidence.  To support her claim of Buddhist contacts, she notes that Maya is the name of Guatama Buddha's mother, Guatemala means place of Guatama, and that Seattle comes from ce acatl, the year of Quetzalcoatl's promised return.  Well, maybe.  Still the book is interesting, and contains many unusual nuggets of early history.  Whether they are fool's gold is up to the reader.

David C. Jolly, 1988

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