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Greatest Mysteries: The Story of China’s Most Famous UFO Sighting

In 1994, a woodcutter claimed to have a date with a 3-meter-tall female alien, and never wavered from his story since
Greatest Mysteries is a column on China’s unsolved intrigues, from stories of alien contact to what lies in Qin Shi Huang’s tomb

One night in June 1994, Meng Zhaoguo was awoken by an interplanetary visitor. The 26-year-old timber worker alleged that the extraterrestrial was female, about three meters tall, had six fingers on each hand, and had entered his home in rural Heilongjiang province by floating through the wall.

Meng recounted later that the alien had made him levitate above his bed while his wife and child continued to sleep, and had sex with him. A month later, he found himself aboard the alien’s spacecraft, which had landed on Phoenix Mountain, near the forest plantation where he worked. There, another alien told him that in 60 years’ time, Meng’s son would be born on their planet.

This story, first reported in several local magazines, made Meng a minor celebrity during a time when curiosity about UFOs, science fiction, and the universe was beginning to boom in China. As the economy and society opened in the 1980s and 90s, and access to foreign media brought pop culture phenomena like Star Wars to the public, interest in space and the supernatural boomed. 

As media control loosened, science magazines and journals spread across the country. Soon enthusiasts founded clubs and associations for UFO “research,” with tens of thousands of members at the movement’s peak. UFO sightings proliferated too: the South China Morning Post counted 5,000 reports of UFOs in China in the decade up to 1995.

Meng’s story was fantastical, but at least some of China’s new UFO enthusiasts believed him, and a number of organizations even sent research teams to the site where the alien ship had supposedly landed and also to Meng’s home to get the full story from him. His story is still probably the most famous UFO sighting in China, and one of the most investigated and discussed. It turned Phoenix Mountain in Heilongjiang into a pilgrimage site for other UFO enthusiasts, some of whom have also reported sightings of unidentified objects in the sky, including two allegedly caught on camera in 2005 and 2012.

Meng Zhaoguo

Meng Zhaoguo took a lie-detector test in 2003 (Screenshot from Haokan Video)

Most scientists lined up to call Meng’s story nonsense, accusing him of being delusional or mentally ill. However, some claimed to believe him, ad one even administered a lie detector test in 2003—which Meng apparently passed. Whether fact or fiction, his story remains a favorite among UFO and sci-fi enthusiasts, and those who would like to believe we aren’t alone in the universe.

As the story goes, Meng was a simple farmer and then a wood-cutter, with a fifth-grade education and apparently no record of untrustworthiness. When he was 26 years old, he and other villagers noticed something sticking out of the side of a mountain in the distance. Meng and his niece’s husband went to investigate, thinking a helicopter may have crashed and they could scavenge something from the wreckage.

Meng later described seeing a large oval object with a long tail, totally smooth, with no discernible doors—a giant spacecraft.

Meng and his relative moved closer, and when they were about 150 meters away, they felt a surge running through them, like electricity, paralyzing them as if walking against an invisible barrier—some sort of force field surrounded the craft. Later, Meng said a beam of light struck him, and he fell to the floor. When Meng visited a doctor, he felt electricity surging through him again when the stethoscope was placed on his chest. In fact, anything metal would set off this reaction for hours after the incident.

The female alien’s visit allegedly took place a few days later. While earlier reports suggested they had intercourse for 40 minutes, Meng stated in an interview in November last year that the sensation only lasted three or four seconds—“I was being experimented on,” he claimed.

A few days after that, Meng awoke one night on the aliens’ spaceship. The aliens, dressed from head to toe in curious black cloaks with no seams, (conveniently) spoke broken Chinese. Meng asked why they were here, to which they answered “to escape danger” and “to observe you and your planet.” They then showed him, via some kind of screen, a comet hitting Jupiter.

Comet Shoemaker–Levy 9 crashing into Jupiter in July 1994

Comet Shoemaker–Levy 9’s crash in July 1994 took place a month after Meng’s alleged visit to the alien spacecraft (VCG)

This rare celestial phenomenon really did take place on July 17, 1994, when Comet Shoemaker–Levy 9 crashed into Jupiter. This has been cited by believers of Meng as evidence of the truthfulness of his story. After all, how could an uneducated peasant like Meng have any knowledge of such an event in an age before the internet?

Other evidence supposedly supporting Meng’s account include a strange scar a doctor found on his leg, which some speculate is evidence of something the aliens implanted in his skin. Meng also said the aliens visited again in 2016, when they gifted him part of the comet that hit Jupiter.

News of Meng’s extraordinary encounter in 1994 spread quickly, and investigators from the country’s then burgeoning UFO clubs descended on the small logging community. When they reached the suspected landing sight of the spaceship, they found scorch marks on the surrounding trees and some rocks split into pieces. “We guessed it was from an aircraft taking off or landing,” Wang Fangchen, the first chairman of the Beijing UFO Research Organization, which was established in the 1980s, recalled on the Story FM podcast in January this year.

During the same investigation, Wang recalls how a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Sciences brought a Geiger counter along to Meng’s home but found that the instrument for measuring radiation went haywire and wouldn’t take an accurate reading near the wall where aliens supposedly entered Meng’s home: “I saw this with my own eyes...I can’t explain this phenomenon,” Wang told Story FM.

Meng claimed the aliens kept visiting him. The rock the aliens supposedly gifted him in 2016 was later analyzed and said to be an extremely rare precious metal—terbium. How had Meng gotten hold of such a rock?

Meng Zhaoguo

Meng Zhaoguo was last reported to be working in the cafeteria at the Harbin University of Commerce (Screenshot from Haokan Video)

Of course, his story was also widely mocked. “Meng Zhaoguo has no credibility...local leaders have said he’s mad,” former secretary-general of the Beijing UFO Research Organization Zhou Xiaoqiang said on the Story FM podcast. “Lots of the people who went to investigate already believed him, so they were easily led astray.”

Today, China is no longer so gripped with extraterrestrial fever, and UFO hunters are fewer and less organized than in the 90s, when groups could have thousands of members. This comes despite the fact that interest in the science fiction genre has boomed, and writers have seen their works adapted for the silver screen to great acclaim, such as Liu Cixin’s The Wandering Earth in 2019. Stricter registration requirements for associations made it more difficult for some of the clubs to operate, while authorities harbored suspicions against some clubs which appeared to have links to spiritual qigong groups, some of which were eventually labeled cults.

A handful of organizations (in Beijing, Shanghai, and Dalian, for example) still hold meetings and conduct research into the potential for extraterrestrial life, though they are keen to be seen as “real” scientists, and leave investigating more outlandish claims of alien contact to individual enthusiasts.

The 500-meter FAST telescope in China’s Guizhou province

The FAST telescope in China’s Guizhou province began operations in 2020 (VCG)

UFO speculation lives on online, with smartphones making it easier than ever to record potential sightings and share them online (where they are usually debunked by meteorologists and other experts). “Serious” research into signs of extraterrestrial life, however, is growing, particularly since the completion of the Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST), the world’s largest radio telescope of its kind, in Guizhou province in 2016.

Meng, however, has never wavered in his story, even as his celebrity waned. In a 2021 interview with a UFO blogger on video platform Bilibili, he retold the story of his total of four meetings with these aliens. Regardless of whether people believe him, Meng says the aliens’ main message to him was that humans must look after their planet or it will be destroyed—something he believes happened to the aliens’ own home: “Our planet has already sent us distress signals. If we don’t cherish it, we’ll destroy it.”

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Sam Davies is the deputy managing editor at The World of Chinese. He writes mainly about society, sport, and culture, with his pieces touching on diverse topics from the future of China’s ski industry to efforts to prevent juvenile crime.

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