Cultural Diffusion by David Kelley
[ PDF Link for review article of Moran and Kelley’s book:
In this case the basic idea has been around for long enough. Donnelly speaks of it in his book on Atlantis on page 151: [Alexander Von] Humbolt, whose high authority cannot be questioned, by an elaborate discussion (“Vues des Cordilleras” p. 148 et seq., 1870), has shown the relative likeness of the Nahua (Aztec) calendar to that of Asia. He cites the fact that the Chinese, Japanese,Calmucks,Mongols, Manchu and the other hordes of Tartary have cycles of sixty years’ duration, each divided into five brief periods of twelve years each. The method of citing a date by sign and number is quite similar with Asiatics and Mexicans. He further shows satisfactorily that the majority of the names of the twenty days employed by the Aztecs are those of a zodiac used since the most remote antiquity among the peoples of East Asia.
Mayan Equivalents Below.
Chinese Animal Signs
In the case of the book involving Hugh Moran this same calendar is linked also to Mesopotamia and the ancient Mid-East, and to the origins of our (Phoenicia) Alphabet.
David B. Kelley
Showa Boston Institute
1997 by David B. Kelley. All rights reserved.
The following discussion addresses certain issues connected with the theory of cultural diffusion. Because my recent work has focussed on the problem of parallelism in the cultural artifacts of China and Mesoamerica, I emphasize those two areas of the world. However, much of what I mention is also meant to apply to similar issues, involving all cultural areas. I would also like to mention that, although the views expressed below are rather limited in their scope (and are all my own, except where other sources are noted), there are a number of web sites dealing with the same topic, in much more depth and with greater expertise. Among my favorites is the one maintained by Wallace Gray (Southwestern College, Winfield, Kansas, U.S.A.). You may wish to click HERE to visit his “Plott Project” site and read some excerpts from the writings of the philosopher, John C. Plott, as well as Prof. Gray’s own writings about diffusion. All of the analyses of Chinese, Aztec, and Maya data appearing on this page were originally presented in my 1996 paper. As in the original paper, the major source for the Chinese data is a Chinese-English dictionary by Mathews, with all reconstructed Chinese forms obtained from Gakken’s Chinese-Japanese dictionary. The major sources of Aztec and Maya data are books by Thompson; Kelley; Moran and Kelley; and Sharer. Unfortunately, in this limited discussion, I can present only a limited selection of my comparative data on the Chinese and Maya number symbols and words (in the Endnotes section), and no data on a possible correlation of the starting points of the Chinese and Maya calendar systems, which were presented and discussed in my 1996 paper. That 1996 paper followed the publication of a series of three other papers on the Chinese lunar mansion system and its possible relationship to calendrical and astronomical systems in various parts of the world.
The Roots of Mesoamerican Civilization Lie in Mesoamerica
After some years of comparing certain elements of the cultures of China and Mesoamerica, I have come to the personal conclusion that they are basically unrelated, with emphasis being placed on the word “basically.” The rather obvious differences in the languages, religions, systems of mathematics, writing systems, calendric systems, and numerous other manifestations of culture, have forced me to that conclusion. Such differences imply that the “bases” of the civilizations are completely different, as well. And so, at the very beginning of this section on cultural diffusion, I want to make myself perfectly clear. Not all people who consider themselves to be proponents of cultural diffusion, especially those whose research is focussed on Mesoamerican civilization, and the question of whether or not diffusion of cultural elements into the Americas from outside the Americas ever occurred, believe that the roots of Mesoamerican civilization lie outside Mesoamerica. Quite the contrary, to me and a number of other diffusionists, they can not but lie firmly in Mesoamerica, itself.
Now, this may seem to be a rather strange thing for a diffusionist to say, especially to specialists on Mesoamerian cultures who are used to thinking that one corollary of diffusionist theory is that the Mesoamericans were so backward that they could have never developed the splendid civilizations they did, without outside help. This is one of the accusations used by such people to justify their condemnation of much of the research of proponents of different kinds of so-called “diffusionist” theories. Of course, this has not been their only criticism — they have also questioned the methodology employed by certain diffusionist researchers, as well as the speculative nature of much diffusionist research (which will be discussed below). To get an overview of the sentiments of certain people who seriously question the value of specific examples of diffusionist research, you may wish to click HERE and visit a site with a section called: “Rebuttals of Unsubstantiated Claims of Pre-Columbian Transoceanic Contacts.” On the other hand, it must be recognized that not all Mayanists reject the possibility of diffusion from Asia to the Americas, or vice versa. Michael Coe and David H. Kelley are two examples of well-respected Mayanists who have seriously considered such possibilities. You may wish to clickHERE and visit a site where some of Michael Coe’s writings on the subject may be read. According to Coe, in his 1992 book, David H. Kelley has been interested in such possibilities at least from the time he was a graduate student at Harvard. In fact, “diffusion of the Mesoamerican calendar from west to east” was the subject of Kelley’s Ph.D. dissertation.From my reading of Dr. Kelley’s present research, I know that he still retains an active interest in such possibilities. And so, not all Mayanists view diffusionist research with the disdain seen recently in a certain Internet discussion group.<1>
In spite of statements to the contrary, generally by those who see no value in discussing even the possibility of cultural diffusion, very few diffusionists believe that the civilizations that arose in the Americas were in any way “inferior” to those that arose in other parts of the world; in point of fact, most diffusionists, including myself, have the highest regard for the abilities of the ancient Mesoamericans, and further, most adamantly contend, as I do, that they created their own highly sophisticated civilizations without any need for outside assistance.
Nevertheless, in regard to the last sentence, I must advise the reader to note carefully my use of the word “need.” In order to clarify my use of that word, let me use the example of Japanese culture. In spite of the fact that the Japanese of some 1,500 years ago did not “need” any input from China (or elsewhere) to achieve a high level of culture, nevertheless, they did receive it, through extended and extensive contacts with the Chinese. And, despite the hundreds of years of influence by China, neither can I say that the roots of Japanese culture lie anywhere but in Japan, and indeed, account for the significant linguistic and cultural differences between China and Japan. And, just as in the case of Japan, we can not exclude the possibility of contacts between the ancient Mesoamericans and other, non-American, peoples. Neither the Japanese nor the Mesoamericans (or any other group of humans) ever lacked the potential to develop a “high” culture. Yet, given the differences noted in the first paragraph, we can not assume that the possible contacts between the Chinese and the Mesoamericans were as extensive or as extended as were those in regard to the contacts between the Chinese and the Japanese. That Chinese culture has had a strong impact on Japanese culture is unquestioned, but this is obviously not the case with regard to any possible contact(s) between the Chinese and Mesoamericans. This can, indeed, be legitimately questioned because the manifestations of such contact(s) are much less evident, and therefore much more arguable.
And so, I hope that various specialists on Mesoamerica will reconsider their accusations of bias, on the part of all or most diffusionist research, and ignore the whole issue of possible outside influence — this can never lead to any answers. They should learn to approach this issue with an open mind and heart, just as is required of any diffusionist researcher. However, beyond the issue of whether or not a certain example of diffusionist research is in any way biased (and certainly, some of it is), isolationists also raise the issue of improper methodology and over-speculation. Just as certain of the methodologies employed by Mayanists in the pre-Knorosov era, especially those employed by J. Eric Thompson, even into the Knorosov era, were strongly questioned by David H. Kelley and others , and finally shown to be inappropriate (as noted by Coe), so too, should the methodologies employed by diffusionist researchers be questioned, and no less vigorously. I address some of the weaknesses in diffusionist research, in some detail, below. Still, not a few modern Mayanists, especially the epigraphers it seems, have forgotten that their criticisms of the methodologies employed by diffusionists, as well as the level of speculation found in much diffusionist research, cuts two ways.
The kind and degree of speculation seen in numerous non-diffusionist articles and books, as for example in Freidel, Schele, and Parker’s book,Maya Cosmos, is no less a part of the “scientific” method than the kind and degree of speculation seen in Paul Shao’s book, The Origin of Ancient American Cultures. I have enjoyed reading both books, and have learned much from them, but in spite of the plethora of endnotes of the former book, it is no more “scientific” than the latter book, in my opinion. Along with their speculations, both attempt to present evidence in support of their respective hypotheses, in as convincing (i.e. “scientific”) a manner as possible. But, are the writers of the two books using the same, or different, definitions of this much discussed method?
Well, to begin with, we all know that, according to the scientific method, NO theory or hypothesis can ever be proved; it can only be disproved. We also know that the evidence which corroborates a particular hypothesis may very well accumulate until it seems overwhelming (to one or another group of researchers, at least). And lastly, we all know that a single piece of contradictory evidence may ultimately serve to negate that hypothesis, and call for either a new version of the old hypothesis, or a completely new hypothesis to be devised. This situation helps explain why it is not at all unusual to see researchers use every means at their disposal to denigrate that contradictory piece of evidence. We all know these things, and as proper researchers we should all strive to use methodologies that generate and elucidate supporting evidence of the highest quality. But, what about the role of “speculation” in scientific research.
With all its checks and balances, the scientific method seems to work most efficiently when speculation, of the very kinds seen in the cases mentioned above, is not only allowed, but encouraged. In Judson’s book, dealing with the use of the scientific method by some of the greatest scientists of our time, one can not escape the conclusion that the kinds of joyous speculation seen in the thinking of these great scientists (and in the works of Freidel, Schele and Shao, as well) are an absolutely essential component of useful research. In fact, in the case of Maya Cosmos it was in those instances when Schele reveled in her discoveries and insights, and showed us how exciting such research could be, that I was most impressed by her research. The very same kind of enthusiasm was shown by Shao in his work. And so, we should be aware that this excitement in our research goes hand in hand with the freedom to speculate, with both, quite possibly, leading the researcher to potentially useful discoveries.
And so, I am throwing out a challenge to both groups (diffusionist and isolationist) not only to use some degree of caution in their work and comments, but also to allow others to have the same kind of freedom of thought that they demand for themselves. In my view, diffusionists who assume a completely non-American source for Mesoamerican civilizations are being just as narrow-minded as isolationists who assume that civilizations developed without any outside influence(s) whatsoever. And, whether they be proponents of diffusion or not, researchers must always fight the (almost natural) instinct to preserve the status quo by rejecting their opponents views out of hand, and by restricting discussion and speculation. Who knows, it may turn out that one or the other group is right (or, both groups, to some extent). But, at this point, all types of “extreme” views only cripple the process of finding any answers. In the end, our goal as researchers should be to seek the truth about these, and all such matters.
Facing the Lack of Concrete Physical Evidence
If there are, as I mentioned in the first paragraph, “rather obvious differences in the languages, religions, systems of mathematics, writing systems, calendric systems, and numerous other manifestations of culture,” then one might reasonably ask, “Why bother to bring up the whole issue of cultural diffusion at all?” But the most damning question of all, it seems, is “Why is there no physical evidence which might serve to substantiate a claim that the Chinese, or any other “outside” group, had visited the Americas in pre-Columbian times?” To my knowledge, not one piece of physical evidence, of Chinese origin, had ever been found which can serve this function. In answer to both questions, I merely say that I am a diffusionist because I have found what I believe to be sufficiently abundant evidence of parallelism in certain cultural artifacts to warrant the assumption that contacts may have occurred between the Chinese and certain peoples of Mesoamerica. This answer, I realize, seems to fly in the face of logic — if there are no physical artifacts, then how can there be cultural artifacts?
In spite of a wealth of data which substantiates a claim that Western European Christianity is derived from a Middle Eastern source, what physical evidence of Middle Eastern culture is there to substantiate a claim that there were ever Middle Eastern proselytizers living in Western Europe? Or, in spite of a less obvious, but large, collection of data which substantiates a claim that Chinese alchemists had a profound impact on Western medieval science, what physical evidence is there that there were ever any Chinese in Europe? In the former case, we assume that the number of Middle Easterners who were proselytizing were relatively small, and so the spread of Christianity was dependent on a core of Europeans who had been converted, in Europe, by the small group of Middle Easterners, or that Europeans living in the Middle East brought the idea back to Europe. In the second case, we assume that there was an intermediary group (primarily the Arabs) whose function it was to pass on the Chinese learning. In both cases, however, an effort was made to find an explanation for the presence of (1) Christianity or (2) Chinese-style science in Western Europe, in spite of the fact that there is very little, or no, physical evidence of Middle Easterners or Chinese in Europe. Of course, there is every possibility that there were real, living Middle Eastern and Chinese people in Europe, but why would one even worry about that, if there were no cultural artifacts (such as a religion, or a particular approach to science) to make one wonder?
In the same light, there is even no physical evidence of the Native Americans ever having come from Asia. The physical anthropologists very well may tell us that the physiognomy of ancient Asians and Americans were so similar that they are quite likely related, but there is no direct physical evidence of even one Asian being in the Americas in ancient times. And so, I do not base my assumption that there may have been Chinese in pre-Columbian America on direct physical evidence, but rather, on the cultural artifacts of the Mesoamericans that point to some influence from beyond the Americas, in much the same way as cultural anthropologists (and historical linguists) do.
Why Even the Cultural Evidence is Obscure
As I mentioned above, I am a diffusionist because I have found what I believe to be sufficiently abundant evidence of parallelism in certain cultural artifacts to warrant the assumption that contacts may have occurred between the Chinese and certain peoples of Mesoamerica. But, one may also ask, “If such cultural evidence exists, then why is it so difficult to identify? Why can’t most people see it?” My usual answer to this involves asking two or three questions of my own. The first is, “Are you aware of the extent of cultural diffusion from China to the West, and evidence thereof?” The second is, “Have you read Chinese Contributions to the World, or the series of volumes, entitled: Science and Civilisation in China, all by Joseph Needham?” Or, if I happen to be talking with a specialist on Mesoamerican cultures, who might be aware of those two books, but might not be aware of Needham’s research involving Mesoamerica, I might ask, “Have you read Needham and Lu’s book: Trans-Pacific Echoes and Resonances: Listening Once Again?”
The usual response is “No,” to all three of my questions. And so, if it is possible to be unaware of the research on cultural diffusion from China to the Middle East and Europe (the underlying thesis in the first two of Needham’s books, just mentioned), then it is equally possible for people to be just as unaware of research on cultural diffusion from China to Mesoamerica (the main thesis of the third book mentioned). People often do not see things, not only because they do not want to, or have not tried, but also because the process of adaptation involved with borrowing cultural elements often obscures the point of origin of the elements to such an extent that it becomes virtually invisible. This, I believe, may explain the general lack of awareness of cultural diffusion, in both cases (China to Europe, and China to Mesoamerica).
One of my favorite examples of the shrouding that often accompanies borrowing and adaptation involves loan-translations from English into Japanese. In my Ph.D. dissertation on the historical development of the Japanese language, I noted the obvious nature of loanwords from English into Japanese. Such words are written in the Katakana script (used especially for the purpose of writing words of foreign origin), and are easily recognized by the Japanese people as such. This is not the case in regard to loan-translations from English into Japanese. Because such words are written in Chinese characters, the visual clues as to the original English sources are completely obliterated, with the result being that very few Japanese are aware of the English sources of the words. And, as it turns out, there are many more loan-translations than loanwords in Japanese. Many examples can be found in Kenkyusha’s Japanese-English dictionary, including such a loan-translation as Japanese, JIN-KEN ‘human-right’, the English source of which is HUMAN RIGHTS. Still, a Japanese would have to possess some knowledge of English in order to realize this, just as an English speaker would have to have some knowledge of Arabic (or a copy of Klein’s etymological dictionary) to know that the ultimate source of the English medical term, CLAVICLE (bone), was an Arabic word used by the great Persian scholar and physician, Avicenna, for ‘small key’, which was translated into Latin CLAVICULA ‘small key’, and subsequently Anglicized into CLAVICLE. In both cases of borrowing, we can see how the source of borrowing was obscured, owing to the fact that the Japanese used the medium of (Japanized) Chinese, and the English speakers used the medium of (Anglicized) Latin, in the process of adapting the words to their respective languages. And so, the adaptation that occurs after, and along with, borrowing often obscures, or completely obliterates, any obvious evidence of borrowing. With the passage of relatively great periods of time, things become even more obscure, which I think is the case in regard to any possible evidence of contact between the ancient Chinese and Mesoamericans. If we wish to investigate cases of Chinese and Maya parallelism, we must be ready to dig deep, and consider intermediary cases of borrowing, and the media of transmission involved.
Possible Non-diffusionist Causes for Parallelism
A further complication involves the fact that not all cultural parallelisms are the result of contact and borrowing (i.e. diffusion). They can also arise because of (1) commonality in the environment, (2) commonality in the cognitive and other processes inherent to our species, and (3) just plain coincidence. For example, how can we know whether the parallelism in the name of the constellation of Scorpius in both the Middle East and Mesoamerica is the result of (1), (2), or (3)? Certainly, that part of the sky where Scorpius is found is similar enough to allow for (1), given that such an animal is known to both groups of people. Neither can we disallow (2), because there is no reason why two peoples, both familiar with the scorpion, could not both interpret the arrangement of the stars in that constellation as forming the outline of such an animal. Just as certainly, we can not disallow (3), because many peoples have, indeed, come to identify those same stars with other animals and objects (the Chinese identify several animals, including the rabbit and the tiger with that area of the sky). To exclude coincidence is perhaps the most serious mistake a researcher can make. And so, any and all of the three possibilities may possibly explain such parallelism, as well as the fourth possibility, i.e. diffusion.
So, it is sometimes not possible for researchers to say that their investigation of certain cultural features falls only into one or another of those categories. The development of all civilizations has involved such a complex mixture of borrowed and independently developed cultural features that it is not possible to analyze such things with complete assurance. If so, then, just how does one, such as myself, ever develop the courage to think that this or that example of parallelism may result from contact and borrowing, particularly, in cases involving cultural elements from China and Mesoamerica? And further, how can one possibly determine the direction of borrowing?
Superficial Cases of Parallelism
Let me attempt to answer the first question. A possible answer involves the selection of data. For example, if I choose to compare Chinese and Mexican pyramid design, or hieroglyphic writing, simply on the basis of the fact that there are pyramids and hieroglyphic writing in both areas that seem to look alike, I’m asking for trouble. Even though there are superficial similarities, they may too easily be accounted for by non-diffusion categories (1), (2), or (3), listed above, and so, until such time as we know much more about contact and diffusion, involving China and Mesoamerica, I will remain very cautious about such cases of parallelism; they are just too obvious. To tell the truth, parallelism which is too obvious, serves more to disinterest me than interest me, because I tend to expect significant difference when dealing with cultural material from areas that are so separated, geographically, historically, and otherwise. Yet, if I do choose to deal with Chinese and Mesoamerican writing systems, I like to delve into the inner workings of both, not the superficial similarities, because it is there that we may find more interesting cases of parallelism, which may indeed hold some interest for me.
For example, I find the fact that Mayan hieroglyphs do not utilize a system of determiners, as the Chinese system so often does, to be interesting and reasonable. Yet, when I go a little deeper, and see, for example (as noted by MacLeod) that the Mayan phonetic sign for KO is a bone, and (as found in Mathews’ dictionary) that the modern Mandarin word for ‘bone’ is KU (< *KUET), my curiosity is peaked. Likewise, the fact that (Mayan) Chorti and Mandarin (Chinese) are such different languages did not keep me from looking deeper; and so, when MacLeod noted that there is a phonological connection between the Cholan words meaning ‘rat’ and ‘child’ (C’O?K and C’OK), and further, as noted by Justeson et al, that the word for ‘rat’ or ‘mouse’ may represent loanwords from Mixe-Zoque TSU:K, it was interesting to find that not only does Mandarin TSU (< *TSIEG) mean ‘child’ (or ‘master’), but also ‘rat’ (as in the name of the zodiacal sign). This last case, involving a set of meanings that is associated with two different, but similar sound sequences, leads me to an expansion on the first answer. The Use of Parallel Sets of Data If one examines the present “diffusionist” literature, one may happen to see such works as Paul Shao’s Asiatic Influence in Pre-Columbian American Art, or The Origin of Ancient American Cultures. It was through reading the former book that I first became interested in the topic of cultural diffusion, and I still read both books with great pleasure. Yet, perhaps to most Mayanists, the evidence he presents is less than convincing. And, I think the primary reason why is because Shao presents only isolated cases of parallelisms to draw his conclusions upon. No matter how excellent his parallels are (and I think they are excellent), they do not constitute the kinds of sets of data that are less-controvertible, and therefore, more likely to be accepted and believed. It is indeed possible to identify SETS of data which reflect parallelism. The diagram presented on my home page presents two such sets, involving the 28 Chinese mansion animals, and the 20 Aztec day names, 10 of which denote animals and 10 of which denote non-animals.<2> Throughout the pages devoted to my research, I attempt to utilize such sets, including sets of number symbols, number words, day names, etc. The reason for this is simple. It is much less likely that any parallelism found in such sets is the result of coincidence, than it is when isolated forms are compared. Any possibility of coincidence being the cause of such parallelism is certainly not reduced to the vanishing point, but it is nevertheless considerably reduced, with the actual probability of chance parallelism being the cause depending on the size of the sets involved. Such probability calculations are rightly left to mathematicians to perform, because I have no expertise in that area.
But if, for example, Paul Shao had isolated 10 patterns within a particular Chinese image, and found 10 exact matches (i.e. parallels) in a Maya image, does that constitute the kinds of sets that will allow for statistical validation of parallelism? My answer to that is, “Perhaps not.” The reason being that he can easily select any two Chinese and Maya images he wants to achieve the 10 exact matches. For evidence of diffusion to be most convincing, the two sets being compared must consist of a series of “natural” subsets. They may, as the example below exemplifies, consist of a differing number of elements, but if so, these elements must be arranged in a “natural” sequence, that the researcher can not alter. Other sets, for example involving a comparison of discrete Chinese and Mayan words may also be investigated, but only if each of the two words have an unalterable set of meanings, or, as in the previous example involving two words, one meaning ‘rat’ and the other meaning ‘child’, the pronunciations are perhaps close enough to warrant the assumption that they might have come from a common source in Chinese.
The following sets of data all consist of a “natural” sequence of elements, and include the double sets of: the 28 Chinese lunar mansions and their associated set of 28 Chinese lunar mansion animals, along with the double sets of: the 20 Aztec day names and the 20 Maya day names.
First, let me explain the use of the red reference numbers in the Chinese data. They merely denote the standard order of the 12 Chinese zodiac animals, all 12 of which have referents within the set of 28 Chinese lunar mansion animals. Below the red reference numbers, I have also repeated the names of those 12 animals, in order to show their proper orientation (the necessity to squeeze all the names of the 28 mansion animals into a compact space tended to warp that orientation, somewhat). Besides the information on the English meanings of all the Chinese characters, I have also included the standard reference numbers for the mansions and mansion animals. The numbers (1-28) are found between the two sets, and are used for both sets. These numbers, as do the reference numbers (1-20) used in the Aztec and Maya data sets, determine the “natural” or “intrinsic” order of all the elements. I have also presented the standard astronomical abbreviations of the Western constellations in which each of the lunar mansions are found. Note that the standard ordering of the 28 lunar mansions and mansion animals runs counter to that of the 12 embedded zodiac animals, with the order of the latter 12 elements being in agreement with the direction of ordering the 20 Aztec and Maya day names. Lastly, in the Maya set of data, I have included 13 numbers in red. These numbers are known for their graphic associations with their respective day names. Why, or how, they were used is not yet known. I have included them because a relationship might be established between these numbers, their associated Maya day names , and the Chinese data, at a later point in my research. Next, I would like to draw some general conclusions, based on the data presented so far.
The first such conclusion is that there is a systematic relationship between the Chinese, Aztec, and Maya elements, with that relationship forming the basis of my form of presentation of the data. All data are placed within 12 columns, with those 12 columns, themselves, falling into two half-sections (containing 6 columns to the left of center and 6 columns to the right of center). Of course, the 12-column divisions of the data is based on the 12-column division of the Chinese data. However, within the 6 columns to the left of center, please note that 6 Aztec and Maya day names fall within those columns, with one day name per column. Within the six columns to the right of center, note that 14 Aztec and Maya day names fall within those columns, with two day names per column, except for one column in which I placed four Aztec and Maya day names. Another basis for the 12-column arrangement, was, of course, the meanings of certain Chinese, Aztec, and Maya elements. In this section, it is not my intention to go into a detailed comparison of those meanings, but I will present a few examples below, and leave it up to the readers to draw any further conclusions on their significance. At any rate, there appears to be enough similarity in the Chinese and Mesoamerican data to come to the conclusion that it is improbable that coincidence is the primary cause. And, as one considers more Chinese data, coincidence becomes less of a possibility still. But, before I go into the analysis, I would like to present the Aztec and Maya day names in a more conventional manner, along with their respective glyphs.
The Aztec and Maya day name meanings are identical to those presented in the first table, but in the second table, both sets are presented in groups of five day names each. Because I already presented the Chinese characters (i.e. glyphs) for the Chinese data, in the second table, I also present the standard Aztec and Maya glyphs found in texts. Also, note that the day names on the far right and on the far left are the same as in the previous table; I have merely distributed the day names evenly across the second table. I have also included the same thirteen red numbers under the Maya data. And lastly, please note that I refer to both arrangements as “calendric” configurations. I do so in order to distinguish this arrangement from the “astronomical” configuration of the Aztec data in the first table. Such a distinction implies that the “astronomical” configuration is directly related to the clearly, astronomically-related, Chinese mansions and mansion animals. This implies, further, that the original astronomical associations were lost among the Mesoamericans, perhaps because of the greater emphasis placed on the calendrical use of the day names, at some point in the development of their calendar systems.
If one examines the data in the first (Chinese-Aztec) table, column by column, one will discover that three basic types of Chinese reptiles match three Aztec reptiles. The three Chinese reptiles include two mythological DRAGONS (#1 is hornless, #2 is horned), which fall in the same column as the Aztec LIZARD; the mythological Chinese HSIAI-CHAI (a single-horned, 4-legged reptilian), which falls in the same column as the Aztec CROCODILE; and the Chinese SNAKE, which falls in the same column as the Aztec SNAKE). We can also see that three Chinese birds (PHEASANT, CHICKEN, and CROW) fall into the same column as two Aztec birds (EAGLE and VULTURE). The fact that the birds may represent different species is not so important as the fact that they represent the same class of animal. The same is true of the Chinese HORSE (with ROEBUCK and STAG) falling into the same column as the Aztec DEER. In the case of the agreement between the Chinese and Aztec MONKEY or (wild) DOG, this is perhaps not so great a concern, because the names are more generalized. However, in the case of non-animal elements, such as the Chinese WELL and Aztec WATER, it may seem that I am stretching things a bit. I do not think I am, because the Aztec DOG and WATER seem to be related to each other through a unified “complex” of cultural and mythological motifs which is based on the association between a cur-like dog and the assistance it gives to the dead across a body of water in the Aztec underworld. If we look within the same column, we not only see the WELL, which is associated with water, but also, reference to a GHOST and a WILD DOG. And lastly, in the case of the Chinese and Aztec (non-animal) HOUSE, no such argument is necessary. But, what is necessary is an explanation for the gaps or discrepancies in the comparative data.
For example, we see that Chinese and Aztec RABBIT fall into completely different columns. “Why is that?,” one might reasonably ask. This is where the Maya data helps. The Aztec day name, RABBIT, is equivalent to the Maya day name, Lamat, which refers to Venus. This does not seem to help very much. But, this particular day name is also called Kan’al, among a certain group of Maya, and Kan’al means ‘star’ or ‘planet’, just as does the meaning of the 25th Chinese lunar mansion (in the same column). Mayan data is also helpful in another case. In a certain group of Maya, the equivalent of the Aztec name of HOUSE, is Uotan, which means ‘heart’, and completely agrees with the meaning of the 5th Chinese lunar mansion (in the same column).
There is another kind of gap in the data, involving the fact that there appears to be no Chinese equivalent for the Aztec JAGUAR, at least which falls in the same column in Table 1. This can be resolved by the fact that the 20th and 21st Chinese lunar mansions represent two asterisms which both fall within the constellation of Orion, and that Orion, according to Feuchtwang, is considered to be the home of the White Tiger (the name of one of four Deities of the Four Quarters, noted in Table 1).<3> That this area of the sky (i.e. Orion) is associated with the White Tiger has even been suggested as evidence of Middle Eastern influence, given the lion’s skin draped over the Hunter’s shoulder. As for the 6th Chinese lunar mansion animal, TIGER, and the seeming lack of an Aztec equivalent, this can be resolved by the fact (as also noted by Feuchtwang) that the Tiger is the prototypical “wind” animal in Chinese metaphysics, and the harbinger of autumn, with its unpredictable westerly winds. That the Chinese closely associate the TIGER with both the wind and the constellation of Orion helps to explain the Aztec data found in two columns in Table 1, including Aztec WIND (falling under the Chinese zodiacal TIGER) and JAGUAR (falling in the column under Orion).
And lastly, the seeming lack of correspondence between the Chinese RAT and Aztec FLOWER can be rectified by the fact that the sign for the Chinese zodiacal Rat also means ‘child’ (or ‘master’), and is strongly identified with the ideas of fertility and conception, just as Aztec FLOWER is, by way of its association with the Aztec fertility goddess, Precious Flower. Apart from that, the Maya equivalent of the Aztec day name, FLOWER, is LORD (or CHIEF), which not only agrees with the Chinese meaning of ‘master’, but also with the name of the Chinese Deity of the Four Quarters in charge of that area, called the Black Warrior. It is also interesting to see McNelly drawings of the following family relationship terms: Mayan: U NICHIN/NICHIL can mean either ‘my flower’ or ‘my child’. McNelly’s drawings also clearly show the glyph for the 20th Maya day name (Ahau) as an element of the more complex glyphs having those meanings. And so, although the Maya day name data may not be directly equivalent to the Chinese zodiacal or mansion animal of RAT, other Maya and Chinese data do, indeed, suggest a connection. Other examples of apparent discrepancies can be resolved in much the same way, either by going deeper into the significance of either the Chinese or Aztec data, or by a consideration of equivalent Maya data.
Another example of a unified “complex” of cultural motifs involves that very division where we see four Mexican elements, instead of two, centered on the (Chinese) location of the constellation of Orion. In discussions of the Maya zodiacal Turtle, which is placed in Orion by several researchers, such as Linda Schele in Maya Cosmos, and a whole “complex” of motifs, including: the three creation stones of the first creation, the monkeys of the second creation, and the turtle shell opened by lightning and the emergence of the Twins (one of them Yax Balam -“First Jaguar”), of the third creation, have been noted. In fact, this complex of motifs is comparable with a Chinese complex of associations, involving the 28 Chinese lunar mansions and the 12 Chinese zodiacal animals. One of the two mansions in Orion is simply called “Three” (in exactly the same location as the three fire stones), the other mansion is called “(Tortoise) Beak” (sometimes the “Tortoise” part is left out of the name). Also, as mentioned above, Orion is the home of the Chinese White Tiger, one of the four Deities of the four directions. This area of the sky also falls within the domain of the Chinese zodiacal Monkey. Further, this particular area, is indirectly associated with the “center” of the Chinese calendar.<4> All that seems to be missing is the “lightning” element (if you accept the Chinese White Tiger as being close enough to First Jaguar). It is there, in the form of the oldest meaning of the Chinese character for the zodiacal Monkey, which originally meant “lightning.” It is important to note that 10 of the 12 Chinese characters for the 12 zodiacal animals originally did not refer to animals.
The last piece of information is not only useful for explaining why we see no explicit Chinese calendric element which is equivalent to “lightning,” but also, why we see no explicit Chinese calendric element in the column where I placed Aztec KNIFE and Maya KNIFE BLADE, both possible instruments of war or sacrifice. In fact, this column is reserved for the Chinese mansion animals: WOLF and DOG, as well as the Chinese zodiacal DOG. A possible explanation lies in the fact that the original meaning of the character for the Chinese zodiacal dog was ‘battle axe’; only later did it acquire the meaning of DOG, perhaps, as noted by Mayers, under the influence of the Mongolians or other nomadic peoples. Further, a direct linkage of the basic idea of “weapon” is provided by the Mongolian lunar mansion system, which is related to the Chinese, sporatically. In a book by L. Terbish, we find that the 28th Mongolian lunar mansion (which is equivalent to Chinese mansion #16) is SHIIDEM, and means ‘cudgel’, another instrument of warfare. This would place it in the same column as Aztec KNIFE.
And so, given careful selection of data for comparison, plus the use of sets, one may hope (NOT trust) that the three non-diffusion categories can, to some degree, be discounted, and that contact and diffusion is the primary cause of any parallelism seen in Table 1.<5> This is my goal, at any rate. Now, on to the second of the two questions, concerned with the direction of possible diffusion and borrowing.
Trying to Determine the Direction of Borrowing
This is probably the most difficult aspects of diffusionist research, but obviously, of great importance. Because the mechanism of cultural diffusion is so similar to (as well as tied to) linguistic borrowing, I think a slight modification of the same guidelines used to suggest (not prove) the direction of linguistic borrowing may be used to suggest the direction of cultural borrowing. Perhaps one of the clearest presentations of these guidelines can be found in the Introduction section of Justeson, Norman, Campbell, and Kaufman’s The Foreign Impact on Lowland Mayan Language and Script. The authors of that book discuss five concepts which may facilitate a determination of the direction of borrowing, including: (1) transparency, (2) reconstructibility, (3) anomaly, (4) identity, and (5) chronology.
Transparency (1) involves determining whether one of two elements in a case of parallelism can more easily be analyzed into constituent parts, compared to the other. Recontructibility (2) involves determining whether one can more easily be reconstructed from an earlier form, compared to the other. Anomaly (3) involves determining whether one is less exceptional, in the cultural context in which it is found, compared to the other. Identity (4) involves determining whether one is more closely associated with related cultural and linguistic features, compared to the other, as well as determining whether one can more easily be included within accepted classificational systems (of various kinds), compared to the other one. And lastly, Chronology (5) involves determining whether one can more easily be included within accepted timelines, compared to the other one. Greater transparency and reconstructibility, as well as less anomaly, closer association with other cultural features, and easier inclusion in already accepted classification systems and timelines, all imply a greater likelihood that the element in the set of two which shows these characteristics to the greater degree is more likely to be the source of the borrowing than the other. But of course, this approach has its inherent weaknesses, just as the other approaches do.
If one considers the Chinese lunar mansion and mansion animal system, along with the Aztec and Maya day name systems, in terms of their relative Transparency (1), one may conclude that the Chinese system can more easily be analyzed into constituent parts. What this means is that, not withstanding the fact that the Chinese and Mexican systems may easily be divided into sets of either 28 or 20 elements, respectively, we can go no further than that with the Mexican elements, given their distribution patterns in the second table. Contrastingly, the Chinese system may be evenly divided into 4 sets of 7 elements each. Granted, the Mexican day names may be roughly divided into 6 sets of 1 element each and 6 sets of 2 elements (with the exception of one set of those latter sets, with 4 elements), just as the Chinese elements may be unevenly divided into 4 sets of 3 elements and 8 sets of 2 elements each. However, it is clear that the Mexican divisions are simply not as systematic as the various Chinese divisions. In regard to my use of a Chinese framework to create the table in the first place, which, given the meanings, tends to warp the Mexican divisions, I must mention that the Chinese data represent 28 asterisms, rather evenly distributed near or on the ecliptic, and so, given the lack of any such “physical” justification for the distribution of the Mexican day names, I used the astronomical distribution pattern of the Chinese system as the basis for my table.
As for a consideration of Reconstructibility (2), involving the same data, the very fact that the Chinese data represent asterisms, allows for reconstruction of earlier positions of the asterisms, as well as earlier division patterns. For example, given what we know about precession, it is rather easy to assign locations to the asterisms/mansions. This is just not the case in regard to the Mexican data. Because the Mexican day names have not yet been equated with specific asterisms (to date), the day name systems of the Aztec and Maya are much less easily reconstructible.
As for the issue of Anomaly (3), we find that there are several cases involving the Mexican data, but none involving the Chinese data. For example, in regard to the names of the Maya day names, Justeson et alpresent evidence that the Maya were strongly influenced by the Olmec culture, and not a few researchers have found clear evidence of lexical borrowing, as well as cultural borrowing, from this Mixe-Zoque (i.e. Olmec) group, as well as several instances of borrowing from an early form of Zapotec. For example, the Mayan day names: Oc (#10), Ix (#14), and perhaps Chuen (#11), are considered to be anomalous, in terms of their etymologies, from the standard Mayan lexicon. For the same reason, the Maya day names: Manik (#7), Lamat (#8), and Ben (#13) are considered to be anomalous. A possible source in Mixe-Zoque is suggested for the former group, and a Zapotec source is suggested for the latter group. And so, unlike the names of the Chinese mansions, whose etymologies all fit very nicely into the standard Chinese lexicon, we find that certain Maya day names have been considered, for many years, to be loanwords, due to their anomalous nature. But then, one may ask, “Why would a consideration of Chinese as a possible source be necessary?” My answer to this very reasonable question is that the source words supposedly borrowed from Mixe-Zoque and Zapotec may, themselves, be loanwords or loan-translations from Chinese. For example, in reading Justeson et al, I found their discussion of the supposed Zapotec source for Mayan MANIK (day name #7) to be very interesting, because the posited source, MANI?, was itself anomalous, and so, Justeson et al suggested a “foreign” source (an Oto-Manguean language was one possibility). And yet, the Oto-Manguean data presented in the article does not seem to fit the case. To me, the suggestion that Mayan MANIK may be derived from proto-Zapotec *MANI? or *MA? (meaning ‘deer’, or more recently ‘horse’) makes more sense, but, because “there is no native M in the Zapotecan sound system” the word could not have developed in Zapotec, itself. My solution to this quandary is to suggest that the ultimate source of the Zapotec words may be Chinese MA (< *MA/*MBA) ‘horse’ or MI (< *MIUI/*MBIUI) ‘deer'<6>. This assertion is also supported by the table presented earlier in this discussion.
A consideration of Identity (4) seems to indicate that the Chinese lunar mansions are more deeply integrated into the Chinese calendrical and astronomical system than either the Aztec or Maya day names are into their equivalent systems. While it may be quite true that Mesoamerican day names are integrated into both the astronomical and calendrical systems of the area, the day names serve, exclusively, as simple day “markers” in Mesoamerica. Contrastingly, the Chinese lunar mansion names serve both as the names of descrete asterisms AND day markers. That is to say, in the Chinese calendar system, every single day is associated with one of the 28 mansion names, occurring sequentially (from the 1st through 28th mansion), just as the Mexican day names so function. It is interesting to note that, as day names, the 4th, 11th, 18th, and 25th Chinese lunar mansion names always correspond to a Sunday in the Western calendar. And so, because the Mexican day names have not been shown to serve as names of any asterisms (this has been suggested by several researchers, but never proved), I suggest that they are not as deeply integrated as the Chinese mansion names are.
In terms of linguistic identification, the Chinese mansions appear to be more easily included into the linguistic classification systems of their part of the world than either the Aztec or Maya day names. I have already discussed some of the difficulties stemming from the fact that it is very likely that the Maya borrowed, linguistically, from its neighbors, notably from Mixe-Zoquean languages and from Zapotecan languages. This being the case, it is equally likely that it borrowed in other ways from those two groups. In particular, it has been suggested that much of the Maya calendar system was borrowed from the Zapotec area, including the system of 20 day names. Presumably, the Aztecs borrowed elements of their calendar system, too. This is simply not the case in regard to the Chinese data. Linguistically and culturally, the position of the lunar mansion system of China is very secure, with China considered the major “donor,” not the “recipient,” in the cultural sphere to which it belongs. It is well known that the Chinese system, along with the names of the mansions, was borrowed by several non-Chinese peoples, including the Japanese and Koreans, to mention only two examples. Given the great age of the Chinese system, there are researchers who have tried to demonstrate that it is not only the source of the Indian mansion system, but also the source of even the Middle Eastern system(s) of 28 lunar mansions (but, in both of the latter cases, there appears to be no linguistic borrowing involved).
And lastly, in terms of Chronology (5), it appears that the earliest documented use of the Chinese lunar mansion system preceded the earliest documented use of the Mesoamerican day name system. Pankenier, and others, such as Nivison and Pang, have demonstrated the significance of two “massings” of four and five planets over China, in 1953 and 1059 BC, as indicators of “Mandates of Heaven” for the start of two dynasties. And so, it appears that the use of lunar mansions in China, as elements of a full-blown system, dates from at least 1953 BC, thus providing evidence of the relatively great age of the Chinese “timeline.” The reconstructed Chinese date (February 9, 1953 B.C.) is much earlier than the oldest use of a Mesoamerican day name (1 Earthquake), noted by Marcus, which was found on Monument 3 at the San Jose Mogote site (in the Oaxaca valley) and has been dated to between 604 B.C. and 504 B.C. It is interesting to note that the day name is thought to represent the name of an individual who lived outside both the Maya and Aztec territories; and further, that it implies the existence of the 260-day ritual cycle, given that it was/is a common practice to name someone in accordance with the day name combination of their date of birth (but, not among the Maya).
And so, in regard to the sets of data considered in this section, it appears that, in every case, the Chinese data satisfies all the requirements for the position of “donor” in regard to any possible contacts. However, this in no way demonstrates, or proves, that contact and borrowing occurred. Rather, it serves only to demonstrate, in regard to the Chinese lunar mansion and the Aztec and Maya day name data, that any borrowing that might have occurred was more likely to have involved borrowing FROM China.
In this very informal discussion of cultural diffusion, I hope I have demonstrated that proponents of diffusion have the highest respect for the peoples and cultures of Mesoamerica. We do not pursue our research because we assume that the civilizations that arose in that part of the world could not have developed on their own. Admittedly, there are cases of diffusionist research which may suggest just that, and clearly cross the border of common sense and sensitivity. On the other hand, I have seen instances of insensitivity by those who oppose any such research. Such people perhaps feel that any ancient influence from outside the Americas is simply impossible, and accordingly, are insensitive to one of the most fundamental facts of cultural development, which, as stated by Charlton Laird in The Miracle of Language, is “The great fact of both ethnology and history is that almost everything that any person or people owns at any one time has been taken from somebody else.” Beyond that, I feel it is almost equally certain that people will always find a way to go wherever they want, no matter what obstacles present themselves, including mighty oceans. And, whether those oceans were crossed through their widest parts, or by skirting their edges, they were dealt with, from the most ancient times, for a variety of reasons. And so, “sensitivity” should be the watchword of all serious researchers, as well as a basic appreciation of the capabilities and impulses of human beings, everywhere. I sincerely hope that there will come a time when such titles as “Diffusionist” or “Isolationist” or “Anti-diffusionist,” or any other term that serves to divide the research community in opposing camps, will become obsolete. We should learn to be satisfied with just the term “Researcher” and strive for the highest standards. Nevertheless, I must apologize for touching on these very sensitive issues. However, for those of my readers with a “pure” heart and conscience, it should cause no problems.
Perhaps one of the primary conclusions one may draw from this discussion is that there is a wealth of evidence that has simply not been considered. And, one of the primary reasons why it should be considered is because of the fact that so much has been lost, because of, and since the time of, the “conquest” of the Americas, some 500 years ago. Monuments have been destroyed, and books and ideas have been lost, perhaps irretrievably. And yet, I firmly believe some of the information can, in fact, be retrieved. For example, whether or not one comes to accept any research that demonstrates Chinese influence in the Americas, one can still take advantage of the fact that, due to the continuity of Chinese culture, there are calendar records extending back many hundreds of years. At this very moment, there are researchers who are attempting to establish a firm timeline of lunar and solar events, based on those data. For the Mayanist who seeks an understanding of the Maya calendar, such records may prove to be of great utility. For the same practical reasons, we see that a number of Mayanists, who are not necessarily proponents of any kind of “outside” influence, are actively investigating not only the Chinese, but also the Egyptian and Sumerian (or other) scripts, for insights into the workings of the Maya script. The same is true of Mayanists who actively investigate “outside” religions, mythologies, languages, customs, social systems, or whatever they think useful to them. To me, it only makes sense to do so, because the insights are useful not only for understanding the meaning and function of, for example, a Maya text on calendrics, but also in reconstructing the social or other framework in which the text was intended to be used. Of course, such researchers sometimes see things that give them cause to consider other things — such as the possibility of cultural diffusion. This is what happened to me, when, as a (very amateur) Sinologist, I went “outside” the usual sphere of Chinese cultural influence, to Mesoamerica, for insights into Chinese culture. What I found was very interesting, indeed.
Coe, Michael D. Breaking the Maya Code. New York: Thames and Hudson Inc., 1992.
Coe, Michael D. “A Question for Every Answer.” Americas Magazine. Organization of American States, April 1996.
Feuchtwang, Stephan D. R. An Anthropological Analysis of Chinese Geomancy. Taipei: Southern Materials Center, 1974.
Freidel, David A., L. Schele, and J. Parker. Maya Cosmos: Three Thousand Years on the Shaman’s Path. New York: William Morrow & Co., 1993.
Fujido, Akiyasu (Ed.). Gakken Kanwa Daijiten [Gakken’s Encyclopedic Chinese-Japanese Dictionary]. Tokyo: Gakushu Kenkyusha, 1978.
Judson, Horace Freeland. The Search for Solutions. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1980.
Justeson, John S., William M. Norman, Lyle Campbell, Terrence Kaufman.The Foreign Impact on Lowland Mayan Language and Script. New Orleans: Tulane University. Middle American Research Institute, Publication 53, 1985.
Kelley, David Byron. A Study of the Influence of Chinese and English (and Other Western Languages) on the Japanese Language. Ph.D. dissertation: Indiana University, 1990.
Kelley, David Byron. “The Twenty-Eight Lunar Mansions of China.”Reports of Liberal Arts, Hamamatsu University School of Medicine. No. 5, 1991.
Kelley, David Byron. “The Twenty-Eight Lunar Mansions of China (Part 2: A Possible Relationship with Semitic Alphabets).” Reports of Liberal Arts, Hamamatsu University School of Medicine. No. 6, 1992.
Kelley, David Byron. “The Twenty-Eight Lunar Mansions of China (Part 3: A Possible Relationship with the Ancient Central-American Calendar).”Reports of Liberal Arts, Hamamatsu University School of Medicine. No. 9, 1995.
Kelley, David Byron. “Possible Evidence of Contact Between China and Mexico in Ancient Times.” NEARA Journal. Vol. XXX, No. 1 & 2, 1996.
Kelley, David Humiston. Deciphering the Maya Script. Austin and London: University of Texas Press, 1976.
Klein, Ernest. A Comprehensive Etymological Dictionary of the English Language. New York: Elsevier Scientific Publishing Company, 1971.
Laird, Charlton. The Miracle of Language. Greenwich, Connecticut: Fawcett Publications, Inc., 1953.
MacLeod, Barbara. “The 819-Day-Count: A Soulful Mechanism.” Word and Image in Maya Culture. William F. Hanks and Don S. Rice (Eds.). Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1989.
Marcus, Joyce. “First Dates.” [The Internet source of these data can be found HERE. The article originally appeared, under the same title, in Natural History’s series “The Maya Rediscovered.”].
Mathews, Robert H. Mathews’ Chinese-English Dictionary. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1966.
Mayers, William F. The Chinese Reader’s Manual. Shanghai: American Presbyterian Press, 1874.
McNelly, Nancy. [The Internet source of the drawings and meanings used to be available on-line.].
Moran, Hugh A., David H. Kelley. The Alphabet and Ancient Calendar Signs. Palo Alto, California: Daily Press, 1969.
Needham, Joseph. Science and Civilisation in China. 7-Vol. Series. London: Cambridge University Press. [The series began in 1954 and continues to expand. A complete listing of the volumes, titles, and publication dates can be found HERE].
Needham, Joseph. Chinese Contribution to the World. Tokyo: Kinseido Ltd., 1973. [An abridged edition of Clerks and Craftsmen in China and the West. London: Cambridge University Press, 1970].
Needham, Joseph, Lu Gwei-Djen. Trans-Pacific Echoes and Resonances: Listening Once Again. Singapore and Philadelphia: World Scientific, 1985.
Nivison, David S., Kevin D. Pang. “Astronomical Evidence for the Bamboo Annals’ Chronicle of Early Xia.” Early China. Vol. 15, 1990.
Pankenier, David W. Early Chinese Astronomy and Cosmology: the ‘Mandate of Heaven’ as Epiphany. Ph.D. dissertation: Stanford University, 1983.
Pankenier, David W. “The Bamboo Annals Revisited: Problems of Method in Using the Chronicle as a Source for the Chronology of Early Zhou, Part 1.” Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies. Vol. LV, Part 2, 1992.
Shao, Paul. Asiatic Influences in Pre-Columbian Art. Ames: Iowa State University Press, 1976.
Shao, Paul. The Origin of Ancient American Cultures. Ames: Iowa State University Press, 1983.
Sharer, Robert J. The Ancient Maya. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 1994.
Takenobu, Yoshitaro (Ed.). Kenkyusha’s New Japanese-English Dictionary. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1942.
Terbish, L. XVII Jarni Modon Gahai Jiliin Tsag Tooni Bichig [Calendar of the Year: Wood-Pig, in the 17th 60-Year Cycle]. Ulan Bator: Eson Erdene Co., 1994.
Thompson, J. Eric S. Maya Hieroglyphic Writing. Norman, Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press, 1960.
<1> The Internet discussion group, AZTLAN, in January of 1997, forbade its membership from even mentioning “diffusionism”, under the threat of cancelling the subscription of any member who did. As a member of that discussion group, I was shocked by that ban on the free exchange of ideas, and partially as a result, came to write this particular WWW page. The excuse given by the moderator was that diffusion is considered to be “off topic” and that there had been altogether too much (disruptive) discussion of the topic already.
In this September 1997 update of my page on diffusion, I should mention that the ban on discussion mentioned above has been effectively removed. When that ban was lifted, the moderator of the group, in effect, denied ever having imposed it. What was intended, he said, was just to neutralize the disruptive (and abusive) comments by certain members of the discussion group, not to ban any discussion of the topic of cultural diffusion. Nevertheless, the topic still appears to be looked on, by a number of members, with a kind and degree of disfavor which does little to highlight their open-mindedness. Return
<2> Other sets of data I have investigated include the number words and number symbols employed by the Chinese and certain Mesoamerican groups. The following table, discussed in another page of this WWW site (in the “About My Research” section), is related to another such table I discussed in my 1996 paper and deals with a comparison of Chinese and Mesoamerican number words. The table below compares Mayan and Zapotec data with various kinds of Chinese and Chinese-related number data. Of great interest, but not included in the table, are the Sino-Tibetan number words, especially from Manyak (a member of the Tibetan group), which are very similar to the Zapotec forms. More information on the (huge) Sino-Tibetan family of languages can be found HERE. You may also wish to consult W.W. Hunter’s (1976) book, A Comparative Dictionary of the Languages of India and High Asia (pp. 33-46), or George A. Grierson’s (1928) series, Linguistic Survey of India (Vol. 1, Part II, pp. 3-21). The Manyak data are included in both books. As for the data presented in the table below, the Hokkien data include the colloquial and literary forms (left and right, respectively), while the Sino-Japanese data include the GO-ON and KAN-ON forms (left and right, respectively, unless they are the same, or when there are three forms, in which case, the form to the right is another variant).
Note that there are no examples of first order (i.e. ‘0’ through ’19’) Mayan number words shown in the above table, although Zapotec number words are compared with first-order (i.e. ‘0’ through ‘9’) Chinese number words. Because I have come to think that their relationship to Chinese is quite different from the Zapotec number words, they are not included. Please refer to Endnote 5 to see how the Mayan words may be related to Chinese.Return
<3> Feuchtwang notes that the “home” of the Blue-Green Dragon is in Scorpius. This is supported by evidence that the original form of the Chinese character for the zodiacal DRAGON represented the figure of a scorpion. [Noted by Richard S. Cook, in an early announcement of a paper to be available in the near future. The abstract and preface for that paper may be found HERE]. If this is true, then it is of some significance, owing to the fact that the Scorpion is not otherwise directly represented among either the 28 Chinese lunar mansion animals or the 12 zodiacal animals. However, as I noted in my 1992 paper, it may very well be possible that it is represented, indirectly, in the names of the 28 Chinese lunar mansions. Neither do I think it is merely by chance that mansion #5 means ‘heart’ and mansion #6 means ‘tail’, and that they lie within the heart and tail of Scorpius, respectively, nor do I think that the great graphic similarity between the oldest forms of the Chinese characters meaning ‘heart’ and ‘10,000’ (< ‘scorpion’) is mere coincidence. It is also interesting to note that the 18th Arabian lunar mansion, AQ-QALB, is located in the heart of Scorpius, and in fact, means ‘the heart’. The scorpion of Scorpius is well recognized among several Mesoamerican groups. Return <4> In the Chinese calendar, the formal Start of Autumn occurs around the 7th of August. This is very near August 13th, which, as I noted in my 1996 paper, marks the midpoint of a 260-day Chinese period, running from April 5th (Ch’ing Ming, meaning ‘Clear [and] Bright’) through December 21st (Winter Solstice). This period is joined to a period of 105-106 days, running from around December 21st through April 5th. And so, August 13th may be considered the midpoint of the very short season between summer and autumn, and the midpoint of the Chinese seasonal calendar. This particular point in the solar year falls within the solar month of MONKEY. Now, here is where we meet one of the complexities of the Chinese calendar, and why I used the word “indirectly” in the text. Even though the seventh solar month is MONKEY, it is associated with Chinese mansion #15, in Andromeda and Pegasus, not with mansion #20 and #21, which are both associated with Orion. Another table, which can be found HERE,notes the relationship between the lunar mansion MONKEY and the solar month called MONKEY. Please notice that the Vermillion Bird of the summer and the Dark Warrior of winter have lunar mansion #11 and #25 falling at their midpoint, respectively, not the reverse, as might be expected. The reason for this is that around 11:00 PM, on the date of the summer solstice, we find that mansion #11 rises in the east just as mansion #25 sets in the west, with the handle of the Big Dipper pointing due south. Likewise, on the date of the winter solstice, we find that mansion #25 rises in the east just as mansion #11 sets in the west, with the handle pointing due north. Precession has altered the time (which traditionally should have been near midnight), but the general system still holds. At any rate, at the present time, the formal “center” of the Chinese calendar is associated with the beginning of the solar (or seasonal) month of MONKEY. However, it is my assertion that the lunar mansion MONKEY, at one time, marked the astronomical “center” of the Chinese calendar. I must note that the lunar months are also denoted by the 12 animal terms, but should be considered as a third case, and completely separate from the use of the 12 solar and astronomical terms discussed above. Lastly, I should mention that, in Mesoamerica, a 260-day ritual period also exists, and is of great significance. Return
<5> The comparative arrangement, involving 12 Chinese zodiacal divisons and 20 Mesoamerican divisions is also supported, indirectly, by comparative data involving certain Chinese and Mesoamerican number symbols. The following table is related to another such table I discussed in my 1996 paper and deals with a comparison of Chinese and Mayan number symbols. The Chinese number symbols are based on a combination of two elements: a bar having a value of ‘3’, and a broken bar having a value of ‘2’. As noted in the I-Ching (), “The number three was assigned to heaven [i.e. the bar], two to earth [i.e. the broken bar], and from these came the numbers” . The better known Mesoamerican number symbols are also based on a combination of three elements: a bar having a value of ‘5’, and a dot having a value of ‘1’, and a symbol for a complete set of ’20’. The table below reflects a range of values from 2 to12 and 2 to 20, in the Chinese and Mesoamerican data, respectively, which mirrors the situation involving the 12 Chinese zodiac elements and the 20 Mesoamerican day names.
Yet, a more complex relationship may exist between the Chinese I-Ching number symbols and at least one Mesoamerican number symbol system. The table below reflects a more complex, but regular, relationship between the Mesoamerican and two Chinese number symbol systems. In addition to the so-called (by me) I-Ching number symbols, another system, involving the symbols associated with the Chinese counting board, exists. There is another Chinese number symbol system, which simply links a number of “balls” together, in exactly the same way that Aztec numbers may be indicated by a series of linked balls. However, that variant Chinese system will not be discussed further in this paper.
A more detailed presentation and discussion of the data shown in the above table can be found HERE.It also presents some examples of Chinese and Mayan number word comparisons, involving first-order numerals (not presented in Endnote 2) Return< A>
Mandarin MI, meaning ‘deer’, is not as common as LU. The Chinese character for the latter consists of only the upper part of the character seen to the left ().