Fantasies of Ancient Chinese

Ancient Chinese people had many wonderful fantasies. At that time, people were not able to realize the fantastic ideas, but nowadays most of the ideas have come true.

“The Records of Gleanings” (拾遗记) is an interesting book which collects many anecdotes from the far remote times to the Western Jin (西晋) Dynasty. This book was written by Wang Jia (王嘉) who lived in modern-day Gansu Province in the fourth century AD. At that time, Gansu Province was occupied by the Di (氐) nation. Wang Jia was a hermit who was accomplished in divining and some supernatural arts. Fu Jian (苻坚), the king of the Di nation, invited Wang Jia to be his official many times, but Wang Jia refused. Later, the throne of the Di nation was seized by the Qiang (羌) nation. The superiority of Wang Jia exasperated Yao Chang (姚苌), the king of the Qiang nation. At last, Wang Jia was killed by Yao Chang. In the Liang (梁) Dynasty (AD 502-557, the third one of the Southern Dynasties), Xiao Qi (萧绮) collected the remains of Wang Jia’s book, readjusted chapters and added comments. In the book, there are four interesting fantasies which are similar to modern-day science fiction.

The first one is “a sword with a shadow trace” (曳影之剑). It is said that, Zhuanxu (颛顼), a famous tribal chief in the far remote times, had such a sword. If he held the sword towards the enemy, the sword would fly and annihilate them. It sounds that the sword is like a missile, and more powerful than a missile, because a missile can explode only once, but the sword could be used again and again.

The second one is “a raft which can fly through the moon” (贯月查 or 贯月槎). In the thirtieth year of the reign of Yao (尧) who was a famous tribal leader in the far remote times, there was a large raft floating on the west sea. The raft had light which appeared at night and disappeared at day. The light was sometimes strong and sometimes weak as the rising and decline of stars and moon. The raft often floated on the sea, and finished a voyage round the globe each twelve years. In the raft, there were many persons who dressed in feathers. The raft was very mysterious. What was it? Was it a UFO?

The third one is “a boat which can dive into water” (沦波舟). In the Qin Dynasty (221 BC-206 BC), a man from a remote place crossed the sea by a special boat for paying a visit to Qin First-Emperor (秦始皇) who was the first emperor of China. The boat looked like a spiral shell. It could dive into the sea, but the water couldn’t permeate the boat. This was an imagination of ancient people, but now it has been realized as a submarine.

The fourth one is “jade woman” (玉人). In the Three-Empires Times, an official presented a jade woman to Liu Bei (刘备) who was a famous hero and the emperor of the Shu-Han (蜀汉) State. The jade woman was a doll which was made of jade, and it was three Chi (“Chi”[尺] is a measure of length, one Chi at that time approximates twenty-three centimeters modern-day) in height. The jade woman was very beautiful and acted lively as a true human. Liu Bei was actually infatuated with it. The empress and concubines of Liu Bei were very jealous of it. The empress often even wanted to smash the jade woman, but she restrained herself. She expostulated with Liu Bei and told him about the importance of his country and people. Liu Bei was awakened, and he removed the jade woman. The jade woman seems to be a robot. But the technology of that time was not able to make a robot. So it was also an interesting “science fiction” of ancient people.

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