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Shen Kuo (Chinese: 沈括; 1031–1095), courtesy name Cunzhong (存中) and pseudonym Mengqi (now usually given as Mengxi) Weng (夢溪翁),was a Han Chinese polymathic scientist and statesman of the Song dynasty (960–1279). Excelling in many fields of study and statecraft, he was a mathematician, astronomer, meteorologist, geologist, zoologist, botanist, pharmacologist, agronomist, archaeologist, ethnographer, cartographer, encyclopedist, general, diplomat, hydraulic engineer, inventor, academy chancellor, finance minister, governmental state inspector, poet, and musician. He was the head official for the Bureau of Astronomy in the Song court, as well as an Assistant Minister of Imperial Hospitality
Shen Kuo (1031–1095), a Song Chinese government scholar-official and prolific polymath inventor and scholar, wrote a vivid passage in his Dream Pool Essays (1088) about an unidentified flying object. He recorded the testimony of eyewitnesses in 11th century Anhui and Jiangsu (especially in the city of Yangzhou ), who stated that a flying object with opening doors would emit a blinding light from its interior (from an object shaped like a pearl) that would cast shadows from trees for ten miles in radius, and was able to take off at tremendous speeds.
Dong is supposedly textually dependent on Zhang, while I am not aware of the origin of the text used by Shi Bo. There are some striking differences. Let’s start with the Zhang-Dong version, as translated in Dong:
In the years of Emporer [sic] Jiayou (1056-1064), a UFO as bright as a pearl often made its appearance over the prospering city of Yangzhou of Jiangsu Province, particularly at night. At first the object was seen on a lake in Tienzhang County in eastern Anhui and later on the Pishe Lake northwest of Gaoyou County in Jiansu. Subsequently it was often seen by the local inhabitants near the Xingkai Lake. One night, a man living by the lakeside found a shining pearl close by while studying outdoors. The object opened its door and a flood of intense light like sunbeams darted out of it, then the outer shell opened up, appearing as large as a bed with a big pearl the size of a fist illuminating an interior silvery white. The intense silver-white light, shot from the interior, was too strong for human eyes to behold; it cast shadows of every tree within a radius of ten miles. The spectacle was like the rising sun, lighting up the distant sky and woods in red. Then all of a sudden, the object took off at a tremendous speed and descended upon the lake like the sun setting. It goes on to say that a poet witnessed the “moonlike pearl,” and that it became a tourist attraction when it would randomly appear and disappear now and again.
“In the middle of the reign of emperor Jia You [1056-1063], at Yangzhou, in the Jiangsu province, an enormous pearl was seen especially in gloomy weather. At first it appeared in the marsh of the Tianchang district, passed by the lake of Bishe and disappeared finally in the Xinkai lake. The inhabitants of that region and travelers saw it frequently over a period of ten years. I have a friend who lives on the edge of the lake. One evening, he looked through the window and saw the luminous pearl near his house. He half-opened his door and the light entered, illuminating the room with its brightness. The pearl was round, with a gold-colored ring around it. Suddenly, it enlarged considerably and became bigger than a table. In its centre, the luminary was white and silvery, and the intensity was such that it could not be looked at straight on.” [Vallée begins writing here:] The light it emitted even reached trees that were some 5 kilometers away and as a result these cast their shadow on the ground; the faraway sky was all alight. Finally, the round luminous object began to move at a breathtaking speed and landed on the water between the waves, like a rising sun.
During the reign of Jiayou [1056-1064], in the city of Yangzhou there was a big pearl that came out often on rainy days. It was first seen in pools in Jianchang County, and then in Pishe Lake, and then in the Newly Opened Lake. It was often seen by both locals and travelers. One night, in his study by the lake, a friend of mine saw a big pearl. At first, it opened its shell slightly, and some reflecting light shown like gold. Then, the oyster, half as big as a mat, opened wide, revealing a pearl the size of a palm, glittering inside the shell. The dazzling light, brilliant as the rising sun, cast the shadows of trees several miles away and lit the sky as if by wildfire. Suddenly, it flew far away and then floated quietly like the moon in water.
The old custom establishes that gods must be received in the month of January on the lunar calendar. Yet the goddess called Zigu can be received at any time… Under the reign of Jinyou [in the years between 1034-1036] a scholar from Taichang named Wang Lun saw (goddess) Zigu flying down into his daughter’s bedroom. This goddess knew how to write and was very pretty. A cloud floated under her feet, and she moved fast without effort. Zigu asked Wang Lun’s daughter: ‘Do you want to travel with me?’ She agreed with a sign from the head. At once clouds formed in the courtyard and the girl was lifted, but the clouds could not carry her. Zigu said at once: ‘There is dust on your shoes, take them off before coming up.’ The girl did as she was told and she rose in the clouds that lifted her to the sky.