On the 28th day of the 9th month in the 18th year of the Guangxu Emperor’s reign –1892 – a crowd gathered on Zhuque Bridge, near the Confucius temple in Nanjing, Jiangsu province to watch a burning ball cross the sky.
The Qing Dynasty scene was recorded by painter Wu Youru, whose ‘Red Flame Soaring in the Sky’ (赤焰騰空 ‘Chi Yan Teng Kong’) is the first illustrated account of a UFO incident in China. The work has become a precious historical document for UFO researchers.
Wu Youru's ‘Red Flame Soaring in the Sky’ (赤焰騰空 ‘Chi Yan Teng Kong’)
A translation of the 190-character description on the painting reads as follows:
“At 8 o’clock on the night of September 28, a bright red object appeared suddenly in the southern sky of Nanjing City.
Its shape resembled a gigantic egg and it was traveling 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, standing on tip-toe, craning their necks upward.
It lingered for a period of a meal’s time, fading into the distance little by little. Some said it was a meteor, but a meteor takes but an instant to slip away, while this ball’s movement – from its first appearance in the near sky to the final disappearance in the distance – was quite stagnant. So it cannot have been a meteor.
Others said it was a lantern-kite that children flew. But the wind was blowing to the north that night while that object was heading east. So it cannot have been a lantern-kite either. For a time everybody spoke, but none could solve the mystery. None of the theories made sense.
An elderly man said, ‘When it first arose, there was a slight noise which was hardly audible, like the buzzing approach of men darting across the South Gate. 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!”