For over 4,000 years, there have been legends about UFO sightings in China. In addition to folklore, there are many references to UFO’s in ancient books, such as the Zhuangzi (莊子), Brush Talks from a Dream Brook (夢溪筆談), the Twenty-Four Histories (二十四史), and the Classic of Mountains and Seas (山海經), and in the county annals of Songzi County in Hubei Province.
On his way to take his new governmental post in Hangzhou, Su Dongpo, a well-known poet of the Song Dynasty (960-1279), stopped by Zhenjiang City at night for a tour of Jinshan Temple. In the dark of night, the Yangtze River suddenly lit up. Su was amazed at seeing this, and recorded his experience in the poem Touring Jinshan Temple:
是時江月初生魄， At this time, the moon debuts on the river.
二更月落天深黑。 On the second watch the sky darkens accompanied by the moonlight.
江心似有炬火明， The middle of the river appears as if engulfed in torch flames,
飛焰照山棲鳥驚。 It inflames and shines upon the mountains, startling birds at rest.
悵然歸臥心莫識， How disappointed I am, I cannot think what it might be,
非鬼非人竟何物？ Not ghost nor human, what sort of thing is it?
Shen Kuo, a scientist of the Song Dynasty, describes unknown shiny objects in Chapter 21 of his book Brush Talks from a Dream Brook. Chapter 21 tells the story of Lu Zhongfu, who got up before sunrise and noticed glittering light-like objects around his home. When he took a closer look, the light-objects looked like water. He tried to scoop them onto a paper fan, but they slid off like liquid. Although the light coming from the objects was bright, when a torch was shone, they disappeared. This phenomenon was also encountered elsewhere.
Descriptions about a “Spiraled Flying Object” existed in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).
Ancient records from Chaozhou in Guangdong Province during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) record the sighting of an unidentified flying object seen on the night of Dec. 3, 1577. It had a tail that spun like a wheel. The object lit up the night sky for over 2 hours.
The painting Red Hot Flame Hovers in the Air is a vivid depiction of a UFO sighting. It was painted during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) by an elderly Wu Youru.
The painting features a large crowd standing on Red Sparrow Bridge in Nanjing City, looking up toward a glowing object in the sky. The artist notes in the painting: “At 8 o’clock on the night of Sept. 28, a bright red object appeared suddenly in the southern sky of Nanjing City.
Its shape resembled a gigantic egg and it was travelling slowly eastward. The object was clearly visible in the night sky. Hundreds of civilians were standing on Red Sparrow Bridge, jostling for a good view. Some said it was a meteor, but meteors travel much faster.
Others said it was a flying lantern. But the wind was blowing to the north that night while that object was heading east. None of the theories made sense. An elderly man who witnessed the event said that a soft sound was heard when the object first appeared.
The sound was so soft that most people would have missed it. He added that the object soared up into the sky from the southern outskirts of the city. It was so strange!”
The painting was completed in 1892, which predates the use of terms such as “flying saucer” or “UFO.” Little did the artist know that his painting would become precious historic evidence for UFO research today.