Discovering the Secret
Few expect ever to own documents
that could change world history -- and neither did we. Yet
for decades below my brother’s bed lay ancient Asian maps
that we, our father’s seven children, inherited from him.
Some believe that they may contain a secret of the ancient
On seeing the first of his seven
old Asian maps in an antique shop in Korea in 1972 my
father, Baptist missionary Dr. Hendon M. Harris, Jr.,
immediately associated it with the Shan Hai Jing, a
Chinese classic reportedly written 2200 B.C. and quoted
throughout China’s history. The Shan Hai Jing told of
Chinese travel to the four corners of the world including a
beautiful land far to the east of China named Fu Sang. It
described Fu Sang’s terrain and animals in detail. Father
realized that the map showed the fabled Fu Sang where
America is today.
Father contended the maps
written in classical Chinese indicated that by 2200 B.C.
Chinese came to America by sea and were the founding fathers
of American Indians. He believed that early Chinese and
other Asians made many subsequent trips to the New World.
Determining the truth about an
event in history is like trying to piece together a crime
scene. One problem in this case is that several thousands of
years have lapsed. All the old evidence will never be
together again. However, by examining many different puzzle
parts one can piece together a clear enough picture to make
For almost 250 years some
European scholars have conjectured that Fu Sang, which many
ancient Chinese wrote about, was actually America. However,
without a map showing Fu Sang they could not prove it.
Father’s ancient map indicates where Fu Sang was. After
Dad’s initial find he located a few other copies of this
primitive world map in prestigious collections and museums
around the globe.
However, most believed these old
maps to be partly real and partly imaginary. Declaring the
maps imaginary denied the probability of Chinese travels
that far so early. For years the secrets these maps hold
have been hidden in museums in plain sight.
I never intended to be drawn
into solving the mystery of these maps. My family’s
collection was housed in California across the continent
from me, and I was a skeptic.
My first real job out of college
was as a social worker in Oklahoma. Several of my clients
were Indians who looked very Asian. But Chinese coming to
America 4200 years ago in boats sounded pretty far-fetched
In December 2002 my husband and
I retired, looking forward to a slower pace. Our home in
rural Virginia overlooks a pond visited by blue heron and
wild geese with backdrop of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Sunsets here are spectacular and we planned to have time to
enjoy them when we were not traveling.
One cold day in January 2003,
only a few days into our retirement, I had already read the
morning newspaper when a friend called and we discussed a
travel ad. When I retrieved the paper to check the ad my
eyes landed on a small article about Gavin Menzies and his
best-selling book 1421 - The Year China Discovered
America. That day I raced out to get my copy. Gavin’s
book caused me to reconsider whether my father could have
been right in his theories about the maps. Secret
Maps of the Ancient World is the result of five years of
research to help me answer that question for myself.
After locating much other
supporting evidence, by late 1973 Father wrote and published
a book of almost 800 pages -- The Asiatic Fathers of
America—which at that time had neither wide distribution
nor much acceptance.
Dad did some remarkable things
in his life. We, his children, were well aware of his
accomplishments. Yet in 1973 when he published The
Asiatic Fathers of America we, ranging in age from late
teens to early thirties, were preoccupied with starting our
own paths in life. Then in January 1981 we received a
call. Father had suddenly died of a stroke at 64. The news
As we gathered for Father's
funeral there was both grief and anger. In our childhood
we felt so close to him, yet beginning in our teen years an
invisible barrier stood between our hearts and his. We had
hoped that in his old age he would slow down and mellow, but
now that hope was gone and we felt cheated.
Father's estate included
numerous books and oriental antiques. When the seven of us
gathered to distribute his belongings, we held rounds of
drawings to divide everything fairly, but decided to keep
the seven map books as a unit and to take them somewhere for
study. Was it possible that Dad’s theories were true? If
so, they belonged not just to us but the world.
Just how does one authenticate
ancient Asian maps? And since most other people were not
accepting Father's theories then why should we? One year
passed, then another, and soon the maps were forgotten
documents in a box under my brother's bed.
In early 2003 with my interest
piqued by Gavin Menzies’ book I called my brother Hendon,
III in California. We met in Washington, D.C. and together
we and our spouses took the Hendon Harris Map Collection to
the Library of Congress. The collection remained at the
Library of Congress for three years while it was studied.
As I began researching in early
2003 I was pleasantly surprised to run across several books
that favorably mentioned my father and his theory. One book
was written in 1978 by Donald Cyr, who had read a copy of my
father's book and gone on extensive search but never found
father. Not realizing the immensity of my father’s
discovery, it initially amused me that anyone would go to
all that trouble to try to find the man I knew as “Dad.”
One chapter in Cyr's book was
written by Dr. Cyclone Covey and was about the ancient
Shan Hai Jing. I learned that Covey earned his PhD from
Stanford and is now History Professor Emeritus at Wake
Forest. Still thinking that my father had probably reached
incorrect conclusions, I called Covey to ask him directly
whether recent research had proved my father wrong. I
discovered that Covey quoted my father in four more books.
He told me that it was my father who was the first in recent
times to associate this particular map both with the Shan
Hai Jing and America. Covey also told me that there is
now MUCH more evidence that my father was right.
At the time of our first
conversation Covey had been studying for over 50 years about
ancient China’s association with America. He strongly urged
me to go forward with my father’s research. He volunteered
to help me and he has been my mentor throughout my research.
Without his patience and encouragement I am sure that I
would not have survived this complicated subject.
On one of my many research trips
to Washington, D. C. I discovered
Dr. Robert Schoch’s 2003
book Voyages of the Pyramid Builders. Schoch earned
his PhD from Yale and teaches at Boston College. He has
studied pyramids all over the world. When he reached the
pyramids of South America he concluded that since they were
so much like the pyramids in China of the same era that they
had to have been built by someone supervised by the Chinese.
He also presented evidence that whoever built them had to
have come by sea. Subsequently, Schoch and I have
corresponded several times. He endorsed my 2006 abridgement
of my father's book The Asiatic
Fathers of America.
Dr. Betty Meggers, Director,
Latin American Archeology Program, at the Smithsonian, has
written since at least 1961 on the subject of very early
Asian influence on the Americas. She said that she was
“taught in graduate school that cultural development in the
Americas was independent of that in the Old World” so was
surprised when she repeatedly came upon evidence to the
Meggers commented, “Aside from
cultural evolution, no theory has provoked more violent
dissension among anthropologists than transpacific contact.”
I was privileged to correspond with Dr. Meggers by e-mail
and then met her when she came as my guest when I spoke at
the Library of Congress in May 2005. She wrote numerous
articles and chapters in books on this subject but stated
that her work was "mainly ignored."
I have also talked by phone and
by e-mail with Dr. H. Mike Xu (educated both in China and
America) who identified ancient Chinese writings on Olmec
celts in Mexico and on other rocks in the United States. He
wrote Origin of the Olmec Civilization (University of
Central Oklahoma Press). The Olmec culture began
about 1200 B.C. Xu contends that the Olmec were transplants
from China. The U.S. News & World Report, November 4,
1996 reports that the incisions on these Olmec celts have
been verified by other experts from China as being Shang era
The late Dr. George Carter wrote
that he was indoctrinated in college to believe that
everything in the Americas developed separately from the Old
World. He later became a spokesman for early arrival of
Asians to America. He recalled years later the "wrenching
impact of the challenge to my firm beliefs" when he first
came to grips with the evidence. He said that at that
realization his body literally shook.
Then I came across a book by PhD
microbiologist, Simon Southerton from Australia, whose book
Losing a Lost Tribe compiles DNA studies of Native
Americans. In 2004 when that book was written all 175
Indian tribes then tested showed founding DNA from Asia. (He
now tells me that 200 tribes have been tested with the same
results.) Southerton's book was written not to prove
anything about Asian influence but to answer questions of
his own faith in the Book of Mormon. Because
Southerton was convinced the evidence he found disproves
Mormon doctrine, he left his position as bishop in the
Mormon Church. Subsequently he was excommunicated.
Although author Gavin Menzies
and I live on different sides of the Atlantic he has been an
ally. I first made contact with him through his web site in
2003 shortly after I read 1421, The Year China Discovered
America. I told him about our maps and we corresponded
briefly. Almost two years later he re-contacted me. We met
then at the Library of Congress where he viewed the maps.
By that point he had come to realize that the Chinese
reached America long before 1421. I will always be grateful
for his perseverance on this topic and his support. I
regard him a gentleman. Numerous times Gavin has experienced
bitter hostilities and personal attacks by others. I must
admit, he and I have not agreed on everything. We have had
a few lively debates but we always walk away with mutual
I began to see one common
thread. Many of the people who presented ideas similar to my
father’s have faced rejection or hostility from others who
were not ready to re-examine history. If after research I
reached their same conclusions was I just setting myself up
to be the next one attacked? Would it not be easier just to
watch sunsets? Should we just leave well enough alone?
Should we not be able to debate without being hateful? I am
very proud of my American heritage but I also want truth.
In recent years DNA evidence has
reopened old crimes. In many cases previous verdicts have
been overturned. In the same way, DNA coupled with other
evidence allows us to re-examine ancient history.
It is one issue if information
was never available before. It is something entirely
different if facts were purposely withheld from us. I have
been in countries both East and West where information was
blocked but prided myself in thinking there was freedom of
information in my country, America. However, in my research
for this book I have run across multiple situations of
One of the first questions a
child asks is "Why?" As long as we are alive we should
continue to ask questions. It might seem shocking that
perhaps the teachers that we loved and trusted in school
were not always teaching truth. (Probably because they
themselves were misinformed.) Our respect for them should
not preclude us from stepping through the door of
I came to
realize that I would have to dig out America’s true history
for myself. The journey has not been as easy as I originally
hoped. It has involved not just American and Chinese
sources but also those of other nationalities. Answers were
discovered not just in history or map books but also in the
fields of science, archeology, oceanography, philosophy,
anthropology, art, linguistics, and mathematics.
One television newsman asked me
“If this is true, why have I never heard this before?” Just
remember that because you never heard something before does
not keep it from being true. Which one of us knows
everything there is to know?
Imagine that this is a courtroom
and you are the judge of a case that is being re-examined.
Follow our arguments, keep an open mind, and then come to
your own verdict. I approach the subject as an
investigative reporter, bringing in the work of many others
who have spent years studying this. I have included end
notes so that those who wish to do so may check my sources.
I hope this sample chapter has
sparked an interest in reading an exciting adventure about
ancient Chinese voyagers coming to the Americas.
If you would like to be added to my
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Charlotte Harris Rees