Kongming legend – the Chinese lantern controversy - By Pat Regan
At some stage or other Ufologists need to consider the sceptics much-loved UFO excuse, yes the ubiquitous Chinese lantern.
Chinese lanterns, also known as ‘Kongming’ lanterns, have an extremely ancient heritage. According to popular tradition, the Kongming Lantern was the first hot air balloon, thought to be invented by the renowned sage and military strategist Zhuge Liang. This man was reverently addressed was Kongming. Sky lanterns were in those far off days made of oiled rice paper with a bamboo frame at the bottom containing a diminutive candle.
Legend has it that the Kongming lanterns were primary installed at the turn of the 3rd century as a type of signalling balloon or, it is claimed, as a type of spy dirigible in times of war. Another theory suggests that the name may have simply come from the lantern's similarity to the hat Kongming is customarily shown in Chinese art to be wearing.
Later on we discover that the sky lights were incorporated into Asian celebrations like the Chinese Mid-Autumn and Lantern Festivals. I am not however convinced that military application of these objects came ‘before’ a celebratory role, and the reverse may be the case.
I believe that the custom of magically including wishes on the lanterns before setting them free to glide into the sky suggests a longer spiritual heritage. The lantern’s orange glow against the black autumn night air also reminds me of our own western custom of carving the lighted orange pumpkins at Halloween. Both of these lovely old traditions hark back to olden times and suggest the link with our ancient ancestors and their earth – oriented, customary practices.
For instance, the Halloween linkage takes us to Celtic times, long before the Roman legions first set foot in the green isles of the UK. Yes – possibly to around 600 BC, or about the epoch of early Celtic inroads in the UK. Like Chinese festivals, many Halloween customs also contain noteworthy aspects of fun, and disorder. This is no coincidence explicitly because wherever the coming winter season was celebrated it was always considered to be a period of misrule. Our ancestors realised that summer was now over and soon nature would be plunging into a state of rank decay with the start of the first frosts.
Incidentally, Halloween is merely a later Christianised term for the older Pagan Celtic occasion known as Samhain (summer’s end). Like the Asian lantern festivals, this was a mysterious period of innate spirituality as well as a time for celebrations and one that linked the astute ancients with their own ancestors. It was in fact a time when the thin cloak between the living and the dead was at the thinnest point.
Lights in the dark (i.e. glowing lanterns, or indeed carved vegetables) signified the deep yearning to connect again with the dearly beloved who had crossed the bridge into the other world. Although flesh will naturally perish spirit remains forever and so does the need to show love, hence these great spiritual customs. Perhaps we should therefore not be so surprised to hear of some people indicating an association between the release of sky lanterns and a desire to contact extraterrestrial relatives from far away locations across the galaxy.
Sceptics have been quick to blame every inexplicable orange light witnessed in the sky on Chinese lanterns. Admittedly I too have had to disappoint quite a few reporters that their claimed ‘UFO’ has been nothing more than a lantern on many occasions. However, in my work with North West UFO Research and more recently with the studies for my latest book, UFO: The Search for Truth, I have included reports of the following.
Witnesses from Cumbrian, UK that have reported lights moving against strong headwinds and others that have kept pace with fast cars on coastal roads on calm nights. These feats gave evidence that the objects witnessed were not any type of flimsy lanterns that would be unable to move against such wind currents.
On a personal level I too witnessed a light that kept pace with my car along the Lancashire/Merseyside coast line one evening. Wind direction at the time proved that the object was moving against the wind thereby dismissing the possibility of a lantern.
Further research is needed into this phenomenon.
Printed with kind permission from Pat Regan©
Kongming legend – the Chinese lantern controversy
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