- (AFP) -- 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
- "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,
- 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,"
- 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
- 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
- "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
- "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
- 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
- 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."