[Paranormal China is an ongoing series investigating whether the “paranormal” is as commonly witnessed and as popular in China as it is in the US. This series was inspired by an X-Files DVD-watching binge, but its purpose is not to argue for or against the existence of paranormal phenomena; rather it seeks only to illuminate a little more about China.]
Paranormal China Part I: UFOs.
As far as so-called paranormal phenomena go, the sighting of UFOs (Unidentified Flying Objects) is one of the oldest and most common in the West. Is it common in China, too? We weren’t sure, so we took to the internet to find out, using extremely informal methods.
To figure out if UFOs and UFO lore was comparably popular in China, we first compared search engine results, using Google to estimate the level of Western interest and Baidu to estimate the level of Chinese interest. Here are the results:
Search Term: “UFO”
It seems most Chinese people just use the English term “UFO” to describe unidentified flying objects, but just to be sure, we also searched Google and Baidu for the more official Chinese term, “不明飞行物”
Search Term: “不明飞行物”
Google: 742,000 (but all of the results were in Chinese, of course)
Anyway, from these results it seems clear that UFOs enjoy just as much, and possibly even more, popularity on the Chinese internet as in the West, although admittedly the results could be skewed by the popularity of the website UFOtown, which has nothing to do with actual UFOs. (Also admittedly, websites are not necessarily “Chinese” just because they’re written in Chinese).
So what are these UFO websites all about? By and large, they resemble Western UFO sites. They report recent sightings around China, post UFO related news, share photographs and videos, and (of course) they discuss.
They keep pretty up to date, too. There are too many reports to translate all of them, but here’s an interesting report on a UFO supposedly recorded during US President Obama’s inauguration:
Russian media sources report, on Jan 20th, in front of the two million Americans gathered on the lawn and streets of Capitol Hill to witness the inauguration of America’s first black president, American wire news services also recorded a UFO that appears in images of Obama as he was taking the inaugural oath.
When this UFO appeared during the inaugural rites, in the background was the Washington Monument. At that time the ceremony had already finished, [but] cameras had not been turned off. Now, there is a fierce debate over whether these photos are genuine taking place on the internet, many say the object is not a “UFO” but rather a bird.
Some netizens have also made jokes: “The Extraterrestrials have come to wish Obama success.”
Mentions of UFOs pop up everywhere on the Chinese internet, even in questions on Baidu’s “Baidu Knows” service (like Yahoo Answers, where people can post questions and have them answered by others; the best answers are voted on by users). Predictably, the “best” answers to UFO questions are noncommittal, for example, in response to the posted question “How does the Chinese government regard the UFO that appeared in Sichuan?” the most popular answer was “UFOs. If [they] can explain them, explain; if [they] have doubts, investigate; otherwise, the reports are just filed away in a warehouse.”
But do Chinese people, like Fox Mulder, really believe in UFOs? In a tiny BBS forum post on the subject, some netizens offer their answers:
“There exist forms of life below [meaning less complex and intelligent than] humans, why not forms of life above us as well, and other substances?”
“I still believe [in UFOs].”
UPDATE: Mutant Palm did a post on this topic that’s worth reading for a bunch of reasons (among them, some hilarious photo captions).
This is by no means an exhaustive article, more information and sources may be added as time goes on, feel free to forward any tips or leave comments.