Make your own free website on

DongSon Bamboo Raft Across the Pacific DolpSwimAnima.gif (4112 bytes)

DongSon Voyage, Across the Pacific by Bamboo Raft

- The Scientific Expedition: A Proposal from VuHuuSan -

General Introduction.

People had been aware of the theory that long before Columbus reached the New World, mariners from Asia had visited America and influenced the early High Cultures there, notably those of Central America like the Mayans.

The evidence for cultural contact between early America and ancient Asia was inconclusive. For more than two centuries some unorthodox scholars had claimed to see similarities between early Asian and American architecture, art forms, calendars, language, and so forth. (Tim Severin, The China Voyage, Across the Pacific by Bamboo Raft, Addison - Wesley Publishing Company, Reading, Massachusetts 1994. p. 4)

The evidence they quoted ranged from the highly scientific - for example that there were similarities between the DNA structure of native Americans and Asian peoples - to the highly subjective and slightly bizarre. In a sensational case in the 1920s an eminent anthropologist traveler Sir Grafton Elliot Smith asserted that an eighth-century Mayan stone carving, found in Honduras in Central America, depicted the heads and trunks of two elephants ridden by mahouts. Elephants had been extinct in the New World for thousands of years, so it was claimed that the stone carvers could only have known about elephants if they had been in contact with Asia. A blazing row broke out between those who claimed to see long-nosed elephants in the carving, and their opponents, who scoffed that these were representations of long-beaked macaws, a perfectly normal American bird. The arguments kept flaring up and fading again over decades, and in the meantime the carving itself was so badly eroded by the weather that today it would be difficult to see either macaws, elephants or anything else cut in the original stone, and the debate depends on early sketches made of the mysterious sculpture. (The China Voyage, p.5.)

Geographer Clinton Edwards, a watercraft expert, writes: "The eastern shores of Asia probably have the greatest variety of watercraft to be found anywhere in the world. This is especially true of Southern China, Indochina, and the Bay of Bengal, suggesting the theory that this region was one of the great 'hearths' of original invention and elaboration of many features of watercraft technology." (a New World perspectives on pre-European voyaging in the Pacific. In "The proceedings of a symposium: early Chinese art and its possible Influences in the Pacific Basin," edited by N. Bernard & Douglas Fraser, New York.1969).


Narrowing the research on the East Coast of Asia, many scholars as Needham, Caso, Shao... have rejected the role of ancient Chinese. Some of them also suggested that the Viet (or Yueh) Refugee Boat-people have arrived to America in the time of China Expansion, 3 or 4 thousand-years ago.

The earliest suggested transpacific contacts between Asia and America are usually considered to have been effected via daggerboard sailing rafts (for example, Ling, 1956; Estrada and Meggers, 1961: 935). Richard Bowen (1953: 108; see also Doran, an expert on sailing craft, considers the techniques of raft sailing in Asia and in aboriginal America to be too much alike and too complex to have been developed independently... Log sailing rafts were once considered unseaworthy for long-distance voyaging, but this contention has now been definitively disproved by Heyerdahl (1950a: 25,.30;1950b) and others.

Edwards (1965: 101), who has carried out the most exhaustive study to date of the aboriginal watercraft of western South America, writes that "the argument that lengthy raft voyages are impossible is no longer acceptable." He further concludes ( Edwards, 1969a) that such sailing rafts would have been safer and faster for transpacific crossings than the Spanish ships that plied the Manila galleon route from the latter sixteenth century to the early nineteenth. Chinese documents indicate that sea going sailing rafts were in common use off China as early as the fifth century B.C. and perhaps more than two millennia earlier ( Ling, 1956: 47, 49, 51). According to Chang (19O9: 97), 'The [ancient] South eastern [Chinese] Culture is essentially maritime oriented and is historically known as the Pai- Yủeh, the navigators," in contrast to the more land-bound north Chinese." (Diffusion versus Independent Development: The Bases of Controversy, Jett, Stephen C. in "Man Across the Ocean: Problems of Pre- Colombian Contacts, edited by Carroll L. Riley, et al, University of Texas Press, Austin, 1971, p. 11)

Needham and many modern Scholars believed that rafts were so ancient in Southeast Asia, they were also the true ancestors of the East Asian junk, whose design still copied the raft's distinctive curve and blunt ends. Thus, a tiny drawing of what looked like a raft was one of the earliest Chinese pictograms for a boat.

We can trace the raft's appearance in Southeast Asian Sea back to the time of 60,000 or 70,000 years:

-Migrations from southeast Asia to Australia (by raft): A. G. Thorne, "Mungo and Kow Swamp: Morphological Variation in Pleistocene Australians," Mankind, 8:2(1971), 85 - 89; R. L. Kirk and A. G. Thorne eds., The Origins of the Australians, Canberra, Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies, 1976; Alan Thorne and Robert Raymond, Man on the Rim: Peopling of the Pacific, Sydney, Angus and Robertson, 1989.

-Ancient art in Australia may rewrite human history. (By John Noble Wilford, New York Times. John Noble Wilford is also the author of The Mysterious History of Columbus)

Out in the remote tropics of northwestern Australia, where a stark, 130-foot high sandstone monolith rises above the wooded plains, archaeologists say they have found evidence that thousands of circles engraved on the rock face and many surrounding boulders are the work of people 76,000 years ago.

It is by far the earliest known sign of artistic behavior and is at least 16,000 years older than any previous Australian rock art. The earliest known cave art, in France, is little more than 30,000 years old.

Digging deeper at the base of the stone monolith, the archaeologists made what may be an even more stunning discovery: red ochre and stone artifacts so old that they could triple estimates of the time humans have lived in Australia, from about 60,000 years to perhaps as much as 176,000 years.

If a bamboo raft or a junk built to ancient specifications could manage to cross the Pacific from Asia to America, then the possibility of cultural contacts during the golden age of the early American civilizations would be established (1974, Tai Ki: Die Reise zum Ort ohne Wiederkehr [Tai Ki: Journey to the Point of No Return], Molden: Wien. [English translation 1976, Tai Ki: To the Point of No Return, Little, Brown: Boston; and W. H. Allen: London].

BatMoonAnimated.gif (2725 bytes)

A Scientific Proposal from VuHuuSan:

The author plans an expedition of Vietnamese Bamboo Raft across the Pacific. Departed from the great 'hearths' of Hoa-Binh/ Dong-Son Civilizations (more precisely at Ninh-Binh/ Thanh-Hoa) the Raft will follow the path of ancient Viet (or Yueh) boat people 4,000 years ago, drifting along the Ocean Currents to reach the coasts of America (very probably, land in California).


Interesting Details:

-The Pacific is twice the width of the Atlantic, and can breed storm systems which are 3,000 miles in diameter.

-What sort of raft did the Author have in mind?'

'About sixty-feet. For a crew of five or six people, The Author would guess that our ocean-going raft is going to be in the order of sixteen to eighteen metres long and needs three layers of bamboo to provide the required buoyancy for the crew and all their kit.'

- 200-250 bamboo poles (60ft long) are enough, Chopticks' bundle design.

-The "easy" drifting trip may take 5 months long.


We need your help to finish! Thanks.

BeWeb.JPG (6894 bytes)


BeDongSon.gif (75030 bytes)