The unheard of theory that suggests the visit of Japanese Buddhist monks to the Zuni Indians in 1350

A couple of days ago we discussed here the story of Abubakari II, the meek from Mali who organized a transatlantic expedition from Africa and which some volunteers believe may have reached the coast of Brazil.

The truth is that there is no proof that he succeeded because his fleet was never heard from again. But, in this line, today we are going to see another pre-Columbian theory that is based on a series of indications and cultural similarities between the japanese buddhism and the Zuni Indians from New Mexico who, however, are not attached to any known or planned trip from the Asian country.

The Zuni are part of the Anasazi Indians, also known as Towna group that is divided into several tribes such as the Hopi, the Kere, the Jemez and the Tañoanos, and that inhabits a territory in historical dispute with the Navajos.

Zuni people in 1879/Image: public domain on Wikimedia Commons

They all had intense contact with the Spanishwho came there on various expeditions between the 16th and 17th centuries, such as those of Fray Marcos de Niza and Vázquez de Coronado, because they had heard of their built cities (they live in stone and mud houses, not in shops) and hoped to find civilizations comparable to Mesoamerican ones.

What they actually saw was people engaged in agriculture in half a dozen locationsrather poor. The contact was not peaceful and after a series of clashes, the newcomers founded a mission there.

It was the beginning of a new stage of encounters and disagreements that, however, would henceforth link the region to Hispanic culture. The Seven Cities of Cíbola They did not appear anywhere, but the Viceroyalty of New Spain greatly expanded its borders.

However, the resemblance between various elements of the zuni cultureboth linguistic and religious and even social, and the japanese. This has led to the hypothesis of a Contact between both civilizations, prior to the arrival of the Spanish, by buddhist missionaries displaced to the North American west coast at the beginning of the 14th century. Of course, the thing does not go beyond the plane merely theoretical and it will probably stay there, but it may be interesting to take a quick look at the reason for that approach.

At the time when the events occurred, the Zuni were more numerous. They constituted a dozen settlements with probably several thousand inhabitants in total. They had arrived at that place, the Zuñi river valley, three or four millennia before, settling down thanks to their knowledge of the corn crop and establishing a relationship with other surrounding peoples such as the Mogollon or the Anasazi, with whom they crossed paths.

The arrival of the Japanese would be placed in this context. Some will wonder how they ended up there; the defenders of that hypothesis believe that they were looking for the Itiwanathe center of the universe, a point of origin of Buddhism, a calm, peaceful and stable place that contrasted with what they left behind.

The truth is that, at that time, that religion was in full swing. proselytizing expansion and the political vicissitudes, combined with a series of natural catastrophes, would give an extra boost to the adventure. It would be around the year 1350.

Zuni river area/Image: Shannon 1 on Wikimedia Commons

So a group of monks would have managed to cross the ocean and, thanks to the current that the Spanish would later baptize with the name of turntripdisembark on the coast of present-day San Francisco, starting from there on foot towards the interior of that new world and encountering the Zuni in an area that occupies what is now the center-west of New Mexico and the east-central Arizona.

The result of this cultural exchange would be various facets that today characterize these indigenous people. The first is strictly material and verifiable with the naked eye: the decorative motifs on the ceramics are extraordinarily similar, especially the flower-shaped ornament that for the Zuni is the sacred rosette and for the Japanese the imperial seal, the chrysanthemum; It is clear that the representation of a flower admits multiple possibilities and critics believe that they actually represent different species. Furthermore, each of the eight clans he has his own symbol and decorates his pottery production with it.

There is also linguistics. The Zuni language is different to those of other surrounding towns and of the whole of America, with the extra particularity that it has probably been preserved that way for seven thousand years. Specialist philologists say that some structures are resemble Japanesesuch as the syllables formed by the vowel A and the consonants K and Y or certain conceptually and cacophonically very similar terms (bitsu=indigenous god/Butsu=Buddha, kwe=clan/kwai= society) or many words with the same meaning and almost the same meaning (mountain, for example, it is said Yet the Y yama respectively).

Apart from this, there are two vocabularies differentiated by sex, being the oriental contributions the ones conserved by the women while the men were nourished by contributions from other peoples of the environment. In fact, contact with other tribes such as the Hopi, the Keresan or the Pima made them have some words in commonespecially when it comes to religion.

But even his faith has its own characteristics. Faced with a certain generalized monotheism – tinged with multiple natural deities – the Zuni believe in a kind of trinity composed of Mother Earth, Father Sun and Mother Moon, plus other lesser sacred figures.

It is a mythology based on the kachina, common to other neighboring towns, according to which everything existing in Nature -including abstract concepts- is capable of possessing a divine aura; they identify four hundred kachinas.

And it is worth noting the reverential character granted to the dragon-fly in both cultures, as explained by Luis Pancorbo in the incredible gods: beneficent goddess associated with maize for the Zuni, symbol of victory for the Japanese (who called their country akitsu shimuDragonfly Islands).

A priorithere is no trace of Buddhism in it and that would perhaps be the main lameness of the theory, because, if the objective of the Buddhist monks was to propagate their cult, in barely two hundred years it had spread. lost or diluted, as the Spaniards were able to verify, who began to do the same with Christianity, obtaining better results.

However, the Zuni ritual of uwanagawhich is held in January and is based on scare children to make them behave with the threat of a masked monster that will eat the naughty has an unusual correlation with the Namehage Japan, of similar development. Of course, the skeptics say again, Christianity and other religions also have similar traditions to end the year and start the new one.

Finally, there are social relations and the anthropometric question. Kinship relations among Native Americans are basically matrilineal, but among the Zuni they are combined with patrilinealthe latter typical of Japan.

Measurements of skulls were made, analysis of a frequent renal ailment in both places and a study of dental crowns of several tribes of the southwest, revealing this one differences between the Zuni analyzed and the others, and finding concomitance only with the Indians of the Californian peninsula.

In this case, the comparison with Japanese individuals did not coincide in more than one trait, the presence of the call Carabelli’s cuspthe others being much further away.

Zuni reserve map/Image: Kmusser on Wikimedia Commons

Also, the dominance of blood group Bthe majority in the American aboriginal peoples, turned out to be practically testimonial in the Zuni, rising to just over ten percent in Japan.

So that everything is not so adverse, the defenders of the Japanese contact hypothesis emphasize that in the archaeological record they appear peach pits, a fruit that was introduced to Europe from China and that the Spanish would take to the New World, so the explanation for these vestiges would once again look directly to the East; The Zuni word to refer to the peach is mo’chigasimilar to Japanese momo.

In short, there is no clear evidence of anything and the theory, originally proposed -and alone- by the anthropologist Nancy Yaw Davishas been in the spotlight for thirty-three years (since its publication in 1994) without being able to confirm it in any way and with all the scientific community against.

Surely the DNA would be his final judgment if anyone even bothered to test it. Of course, the hypothesis is curious where there are.


Original towns/the incredible gods (Luis Pancorbo)/The zuni enigma (Nancy Yaw Davis)/Ashiwi. Pueblo of Zuni / Wikipedia.