Before the age of exploration, a good number European scholars speculated about the Atlantic beyond the Iberian peninsula, whether it was the location of Atlantis, or whether or not Japan could be reached by sailing west. Was there any analogous discussion in China and/or Japan about what lay across the Pacific Ocean?

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    – MCW
    Feb 7, 2021 at 12:48
  • According to the Book of Liang, the mythical land Fú Sāng (扶桑) was somewhere East or North East of Japan, about 1500-2000 km into the Pacific Ocean. The Buddhist monk Huì Shēn claimed to have traveled there in 499 AD. Modern scholars have speculated whether this might be North America or part of Siberia. However, please note that our mindset ("if there's an ocean there must be something on the other side") would have seemed alien to ancient peoples in both China, Japan, and elsewhere.
    – 0range
    Feb 17, 2021 at 15:11
  • Not directly relevant to this question, but relevant to the topic: Zheng He sailed to Africa with a huge fleet of ships in the early 1400's Feb 17, 2021 at 21:17
  • Considering that the Chinese and the Japanese were not aware that the globe is round, it makes sense the Europeans were more interested in “what is on the other side?”
    – Greg
    Feb 19, 2021 at 16:06

1 Answer 1


Xu Fu, the most famous explorer in Asia to answer this question, DID have some voyages in the Pacific, but for a strange reason, and some superstitions, too!

In 219 BC, Xu Fu was sent with three thousand virgin boys and girls to retrieve the elixir of life from the immortals on the Mount Penglai, including Anqi Sheng, who was purportedly a magician who was already a thousand years old. Xu sailed for several years without finding the mountain. In 210 BC, when Qin Shi Huang questioned him, Xu Fu claimed there was a giant sea creature blocking the path, and asked for archers to kill the creature. Qin Shi Huang agreed, and sent archers to kill a giant fish. Xu then set sail again, but he never returned from this trip. The Records of the Grand Historian says he came to a place with "flat plains and wide swamps" (平原廣澤) and proclaimed himself king, never to return.

  • It would help to have some supporting sources for the assertion that Xu Fu had voyages in the Pacific and some evidence that these lead to speculation about what lay across the Pacific (which is what the question asked).
    – Steve Bird
    Feb 17, 2021 at 23:20
  • The source states he went in search for mythical island such as Penglai, which are supposedly located around and beyond the Bohai sea, which feeds directly into the Pacific Ocean. Also it never explicitly asked for how these voyages fed into or created these superstitions, but my source given still answers that Xu Fu believed a “giant sea creature blocking the path,” and The Records of the Grand Historian says he came to a place with “flat plains and wide swamps, and proclaimed himself king, to never return,” which is another speculation about what was across the Pacific Feb 18, 2021 at 3:16
  • Thanks. Could you please also include information on where to find the source (bibliographic information and/or a link)?
    – 0range
    Feb 19, 2021 at 1:10
  • saga-tripgenius.com/tourism_search/archives/33 here’s a good one. I know Wikipedia is usually frowned upon, but it’s a good read :) Feb 19, 2021 at 2:47

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