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Meng Zhaoguo, a rural worker from northeast China’s Wuchang city, says he was 29 years old when he broke his marital vows for the first and only time – with a female extraterrestrial of unusually robust build.
“She was three metres tall and had six fingers, but otherwise she looked completely like a human,” he says of his close encounter with an alien species. “I told my wife all about it afterwards. She wasn’t too angry.”
While few Chinese claim to have managed to get quite as intimate with an extraterrestrial as Meng, a growing number of people in the world’s most populous nation believe in unidentified flying objects, or UFOs.
Officially registered UFO associations in China have about 50,000 members, but some estimate the actual number of Chinese interested in the subject is probably in the tens of millions.
Sun Shili is one of the most serious enthusiasts, and he knows exactly where he will be the day the extraterrestrials finally make contact with mankind. The 67-year-old retired Beijing professor will be in the 21-member delegation picked by international UFO associations to represent Earth as the first negotiations get underway.
Once a Spanish translator for Mao Zedong during high-level state visits, Sun says language will not be a problem. “We expect to communicate using telepathy,” he says.
In a country that has lost its spiritual bearings as Marxism has given way to materialism, the idea of strange worlds light years away offers a last great hope for many.
Richard McNally, a Harvard psychologist, says he recognises the pattern from research into Westerners who claim to have been abducted by aliens and who characterised the experience as “spiritually deepening”.
“Our abductees typically describe themselves as ‘spiritual’ individuals for whom organised religion provides scant spiritual nourishment, and the Chinese UFO spotters may very well be like our subjects,” McNally says.
As Sun, the Spanish translator, sits one sunny spring morning in the Chinese capital, he points at the streets outside and explains how many of the people walking by are probably extraterrestrials in human guise.
They are here to help mankind move human civilisation on little by little, he explains.
Shakespeare and Einstein were not from another planet, but they may very well have received inspiration from a galaxy far, far away.
“It’s estimated that 80% of new inventions come to people in their dreams,” says Sun.
“Maybe this is how the extraterrestrials pass on their knowledge to us.”
Extraterrestrials are moving mankind on the path towards perfection, but they can only do so in a very gradual fashion, Sun says.
“They give us wisdom and skills that are just a little bit more advanced than what we have at any given moment,” he says.
“If they gave us their full range of knowledge all at once, we wouldn’t be able to handle it.”
As in most other areas of human endeavour, China is also an emerging force to be reckoned with in UFO research.
In September, the International Chinese UFO Association will hold an international meeting on UFO research in the northern port city of Dalian.
“The fact that this meeting can be held shows that China is gradually becoming a great power in UFO research,” says Zhang Jingping, a leading member of the association.
A dedicated group of enthusiasts forming the core membership of the Beijing UFO Research Association are on constant alert, ready to move out and investigate observations of mysterious phenomena in the night sky.
They take photos, record videos and interview witnesses, all in the interest of addressing the issue from a scientific point of view, according to Zhou Xiaoqiang, the chairman of the association.
“The result is that 95 to 99% of the sightings can be explained naturally, like airplanes or satellites,” he says. “But a tiny minority may be real UFOs, and we should take them seriously.”
Zhou, a 57-year-old executive at a transportation company, spends most of his waking hours studying UFOs, but he remembers a time when it was not allowed.
After the Cultural Revolution broke out in 1966, his fresh university degree earned him a one-way ticket to the deep countryside, a victim of Mao’s scheme to instil proletarian values in the intellectuals.
The dreary life almost made him forget there might be something beyond the narrow confines of the rural community where he spent the next decade.
But then when the Cultural Revolution finally ended, and China slowly emerged from decades of self-imposed isolation, Zhou remembers watching Steven Spielberg’s film classic Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
It was a revelation. It was not just a new world that opened up to him, but a whole new universe, where everything seemed possible – even extraterrestrials.
“Chinese people are interested in UFOs now because their lives have improved,” says Zhou.
“They no longer have to worry about getting enough to eat, but can start caring about issues like this.”
Huang Yanqiu, a 49-year-old farmer from Beigao village in north China’s Hebei province, recalls his one and only encounter with extraterrestrials in 1977.
He woke up in the middle of the night and found himself in front of two men who looked and spoke like ordinary humans.
But they had special powers, taking him on a nightly flight on their backs to all corners of China, from Heilongjiang province in the north to Fujian province in the southeast. Eventually, they carried him to Tiananmen Square.
For a young man who had never been more than a few kilometres away from home, but had a secret wish to see the world, it was the experience of a lifetime.
“We couldn’t go anywhere at the time. There were no cars, just bicycles,” he says. “Maybe it was all just a dream.” – AFP
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