Xu Fu (Hsu Fu; Chinese: 徐福 or 徐巿; pinyin: Xú Fú; Wade–Giles: Hsu2 Fu2; Korean: 서복, Seo Bok; Japanese: 徐福 Jofuku or 徐市 Jofutsu) was born in 255 BC in Qi, an ancient Chinese state, and served as a court sorcerer in Qin Dynasty China. He was sent by Qin Shi Huang to the eastern seas twice to look for the elixir of life. His two journeys occurred between 219 BC and 210 BC. It was believed that the fleet included 60 barques and around 5,000 crew members, 3,000 boys and girls, and craftsmen of different fields. After he embarked on a second mission in 210 BC, he never returned. Various records suggest that he may have arrived and died in the lands of what is modern-day Japan.
The ruler of Qin, Qin Shi Huang, feared death and sought a way to live forever. He entrusted Xu Fu with the task of finding the secret of immortality. 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 Penglai Mountain, 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.
Later historical texts were also unclear on the location of Xu's final destination. Sanguo Zhi, Book of Later Han, and Guadi Zhi all state that he landed in "Danzhou" (亶州), but the whereabouts of Danzhou are unknown. Finally, more than 1,100 years after Xu Fu's final voyage, monk Yichu wrote during the Later Zhou (AD 951-960) of the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period that Xu Fu landed in Japan, and also said Xu Fu named Mount Fuji as Penglai. This is the "Legend of Xu Fu" in Japan as evidenced by the many memorials to him there.
Those who support the theory that Xu Fu landed in Japan credit him with being the catalyst for the development of ancient Japanese society. The Jōmon culture which had existed in ancient Japan for over 6,000 years suddenly disappeared around 300 BC. The farming techniques and knowledge that Xu brought along are said to have improved the quality of life of the ancient Japanese people and he is said to have introduced many new plants and techniques to ancient Japan. The worship of Xu Fu as the "God of farming", "God of medicine" and "God of silk" by the Japanese is attributed to these achievements. Numerous temples and memorials of Xu can be found in many places in Japan. In Xuzhou, near Yangzhou, there is a Xu Fu Research Institute attached to Xuzhou Teachers College.
However, iron and bronze did not arrive in Japan at the time of the expedition, not even as close as the nine years between the two visits. Even less likely is the introduction of rice by Xu Fu, as his fleet departed from the Shandong coast, far north of the rice-growing areas of China.
- Note: Not to be confused with the character 市
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- Jonathan Maberry (w), Phil Winslade (a). "Part 3" Captain America: Hail Hydra 3 (May 2011), New York City: Marvel Comics