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For more than 250 years, scholars have been debating whether Buddhists from Asia may have visited North America long before Christopher Columbus arrived from Spain in 1492. 

The debate started around 1763 when French orientalist, Joseph de Guignes translated the Book of Liang (Liang Shu) which includes an account of a missionary trip Buddhist monk Hwui Shan took to Fu Sang in 458 CE.

De Guignes argued that Fu Sang was in fact ancient North America, an opinion that was widely accepted by the academic world for approximately 75 years. Alexander von Humbolt, the famous German naturalist and explorer, believed de Guignes’ findings. However, in the 19th century, some German and North American sinologists vigorously opposed de Guignes’ theory and, by the beginning of the 20th century, it was largely discredited.

Turret Arch
Turret Arch seen through the North Window Arch at sunrise in Arches National Park near Moab, Utah.

Today, several researchers continue to believe that significant evidence of Chinese (or Asian) influence in ancient North America has been overlooked and should be seriously considered. Some of that evidence is presented here.

The name of the sacred gateway arch used in all major religions of ancient India, including Buddhism, is torana. Its primary purpose was to provide a shield around a sacred image, such as a Buddha, that was placed on the ground underneath the arch. Therefore, the most revered part of the torana was the ground immediately below the arch because that was in direct contact with the image to be worshiped there.

The modern Puebloan people (Native American tribal people of the Four Corners region) have such an arch which is known as Rainbow Bridge. Within the last few years, these tribes have appealed, but so far failed, to get the U.S. government to stop the 300,000 plus tourists who annually visit Rainbow Bridge from walking across the ground immediately underneath the bridge.

Previously, Rainbow Bridge had been in a remote area of Utah far from the reaches of casual tourists. However, that changed when the Colorado River was dammed, creating a reservoir for Las Vegas, Nevada, called Lake Mead. Owing to the resulting flooding of the Colorado River, the banks of Lake Mead now extend to the base of Rainbow Bridge making it easily accessible to everyone who wants to see this spectacular site. This has caused great distress to those First Nations people who consider this a holy site.

 

Rainbow Bridge Arch in Arches National Park of Utah.
Rainbow Bridge Arch

Rainbow Bridge is not unique. It is one of the 16 largest land bridges scattered (unequally) around the world. Fourteen of these rock wonders are either in China or in the Four Corners region (Google: The Tour of the Big 16, for images and locations). One of the remaining two is in Afghanistan, in the ancient Buddhist kingdom of Gandhara which was on the Silk Road trade route connecting China with Greece, Rome and the Mediterranean. The last one, called Aloba Arch, is located in Chad, Africa (Google: Forgotten Wonders in the Dead Heart of Africa).

Given the similarities of these land bridges, the surrounding rock formations, their locations on ancient trade routes, as well as records of early Buddhist missionary trips, it is my belief that these amazing rock formations are not merely random acts of erosion. I believe they were carved by the same religious groups that have carved numerous other beautiful rock formations around the world. Ancient Buddhist missionaries may have left North America a long time ago (in 499 CE according to Hwui Shan) but the distinct influences they left remain here to this day (Google: Buddhist Symbols and Customs North America).

Rainbow Bridge, in my opinion, is a huge example of a Buddhist torana in North America. Numerous other smaller examples of this religious symbol have also survived. There are over 2,000 arches remaining in Arches National Park, Utah. The most famous example is Delicate Arch, the symbol of the State of Utah. Delicate Arch, commonly believed to be an eroded rock, is located on the lip of a cliff with a spectacular view to be seen between the arch supports.

Delicate Arch

Delicate Arch in Arches National Park of Utah. Its base is clearly cut and the shape is identical with other arches in North America. This lends credence to the hypothesis that it was created by mankind during ancient times.

There are several almost identical rock arches, such as Anasazi Rock, New Mexico, which like Delicate Arch have horizontal cuts completely across both arch legs within a few feet of their bases. It is well known that ancient Buddhists were highly accomplished stone carvers. Evidence of this ability is visible at the Ellora Caves, India, the recently destroyed Giant Buddhas in Afghanistan, as well as the early rock-carved Buddhist stupas (temples) also found in India.

Balanced Rock Arch

Balanced Rock Arch depicts an Asian Woman looking toward her homeland, which may have been China. The connecting piece between the neck and head is very similar to other arches within the Arches National Park of Utah.

Buddhism, from its earliest days, also sent out missionaries to spread the faith and gain new converts. Evidence of this is seen in the strength of Buddhism in ancient Greece. This was called Hellenistic Buddhism and occurred shortly after Buddhism originated between the 6th and 4th centuries BCE. Rock carved evidence of Hellenistic Buddhism remains today in 

Greece in the form of the world-renowned monasteries now occupied by Christian monks. These beautiful and rugged mountain top monasteries look exactly like Buddhist monasteries found throughout the Far East and South East Asia (Google: Greek Mountaintop Monasteries or The Meteora Monasteries).

 Ancient Greece Buddha Status

Ancient Greece Buddha Status

Some say that these structures were made by Christian monastic orders but what are their sources? Why assume Christian monks would replicate a traditional Buddhist architectural style, when there is solid proof of the strength of the Buddhist religious culture in Greece prior to the arrival of Christianity. Early Buddhists not only carved huge rock projects, but they also travelled great distances to do it.

In my opinion, after examining the evidence of early Buddhism in North America, a body of proof is emerging that supports the existence of Asian, and possibly Chinese, influences in pre-Columbian America (Google: Mandalas Mantras Manjis and Monuments and Dimensions of Dine and Buddhist Traditions).

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