UFO Files: China's Roswell

History Channel, 6th August, 2006


UFO Files: China's Roswell explores one of the most controversial aspects of ufology – the Dropa Stones. Yet again using the Roswell analogy, the programme attempts to link the two, very different stories because both contain crashed spacecraft, alien survivors and governmental cover-ups, albeit thousands of years apart (except for the government cover-up).

The story of the discovery of the Dropa Stones begins in 1938, when a Chinese professor of archaeology, Chi Pu Tei, sets off to explore a cave system in the mountains of Bayan-Kara-Ula, close to the China-Tibet border. The story goes that in these caves, Chi found rows of small skeletons with large heads. Nearby there were 716 stone discs, each with strange markings and spiral grooves. The stones were taken back to Beijing and were not seen again until the late 1950s.

Dr Tsum Um Nui found the discs and began examining them, finding that the markings were an unknown form of hieroglyphic writing. Somehow he deciphered the symbols and claimed they told of a race of aliens, known as the Dropa, which crash-landed on Earth 12,000 years previously. Obviously, the professor had trouble publishing his findings. He became so frustrated that he emigrated to Japan.

The first the outside world heard of the Dropa was in the early Sixties, when a Russian magazine called Sputnik released the story. Soon afterwards, a German publication, Vegetarian Universe, also ran the story. With the Chinese Cultural revolution of the early 1960s, travel to the country became difficult and the tale of the Dropa Stones was soon forgotten to many. The location of the caves in which they were found has also been lost.

What was discovered by researchers was that there was an oral tradition from the Bayan-Kara-Ula region of ‘small people’ that crash-landed from the sky. The legends say that the Dropa came from the star, Sirius. This coincides with many other myths from around the world, such as the Egyptian Isis and the Dogon story of the Nommu.

Matthew Hurley, author of The Alien Chronicles and founder of the UFOartwork .com website, claimed that all through history, ancient man may have been leaving behind representations of alien beings in the forms of cave paintings, pictographs, sculptures and other forms of art. If aliens landed and interacted with our ancestors, it is entirely possible that they may have ended up being worshipped as gods.


Matthew admits that there are three explanations for what is often depicted in ancient pictograms:

  • The depictions are real and do record ancient man’s interactions with alien beings and their craft.
  • The drawings come from the ancient artists’ imaginations
  • They represent ritual ceremonies with priests or shaman wearing masks or ritual headgear.

Only two photographs of the Dropa Stones exist. Matthew believes that what was photographed were either hoaxes created to perpetuate the story or jade Bi discs. The Dropa Stones closely resemble the well-known Bi discs, which were buried with the well-to-do ancient Chinese.

What of the strange hieroglyphics?

If the writing on the discs is 12,000 years old, as alleged by Dr Tsum Um Nui, then how did he translate them? Doing so would have been a greater achievement than Champollion’s deciphering of the Egyptian Rosetta Stone. He took years translating the hieroglyphics, despite two other languages, Demotic and Greek, being present on the stone to help him. How could Tsum Um Nui have translated the markings on the Dropa Stones without a similar frame of reference?

Michael Shermer of Skeptic Magazine agrees that Tsum Um Nui could not know the difference between an ancient human language and an ancient alien one. As far as he is concerned it means nothing and is just a story.

In the late 1960s, it is said that Russian scientists were allowed to examine the Dropa Stones. They found that they had peculiar properties. Thinking that the spiral grooves on the discs’ surfaces resembled the grooves on a long-playing record, the Soviets placed them on a turntable and began rotating. They found that when this was done, a distinct electrical charge was detected. The conclusion was that the discs had once been inside a very strong, electrical field.

It has been suggested that the spiral grooves were a form of vibrational message, designed to be transmitted back home, much like the squat alien in Steven Spielberg’s movie, ET: The Extra-Terrestrial.

Peter Lu, of Harvard University, explained that spiral forms are very common in nature, from sea shells to plants to hurricanes. The same applies to ancient man. Spiral patterns have been found at ancient sites in Ireland, China and Egypt. In fact, they are found all over the world.

The way the story of the Dropa Stones has grown has been compared with how the legend of the Roswell Incident developed. Michael Shermer took up the story at this point. Largely unheard of for decades, the Roswell story began to gain momentum after a television documentary was released in 1978. Afterwards, books and magazine articles appeared, followed by films and more documentaries, and then the eyewitnesses began to come out of the woodwork. That, he said, was when the Roswell Incident really began.

Sensationalist news stories in publications such as The National Enquirer seriously damaged any credibility the Roswell Incident. The same applied to the Dropa Stones. The early articles in Sputnik, Vegetarian Universe and a Belgian UFO magazine had a sensationalistic style and immediately dissuaded serious research into the mystery.

Another way in which the Roswell Incident and the Dropa story converge is in the rumours of government conspiracy. It has been said that both the US and Chinese governments have recovered alien technology and are covering it up.

The region of the Bayan-Kara-Ula Mountains is vast and not easily accessible. The mountains are up to 20,000 feet in height and only one major road traverses the area. The local people are mostly farmers and herdsmen, living simple lives with little contact with the outside world. Legends abound in the region of a tribe of dwarves.

German researcher, Hartwig Hausdorf, believes that a tribe of human-alien hybrids may live in a Chinese village called Huilong. He suggests that survivors from the crash 12,000 years ago interbred with local people and their descendants today live in Huilong.

The Chinese government claimed that the dwarfism in Huilong was caused by contaminants in the water. The Chinese Academy of Science published a report that confirmed this and measures were taken to clean up the pollution. According to media reports in 1997, no new cases of dwarfism have occurred.

The Dropa waters were further muddied in 1978, when a book entitled, Sungods in Exile: Secrets of the Dzopa of Tibet, was released. It was alleged to have been written by a British explorer called Karyl Robin-Evans and edited by David Agamon. According to the book, Dr Robin-Evans travelled to the Dropa region in 1947 and encountered a tribe of dwarves. They told him that their ancestors came from the stars.

It came to light years later that David Agamon had fabricated the story himself and that Karyl Robin-Evans never existed. He revealed in Fortean Times that the book, Sungods in Exile, was a hoax.

UFO researcher, David Sereda, believes that footage from NASA cameras in orbit have captured alien spacecraft that resemble the Dropa Stones. He claimed that the famous ‘tether’ footage from STS-75 reveals these spacecraft. Professor of Astronomy, Stephen Walton, from California State University, stated that the objects in the footage are nothing but small pieces of debris from the broken tether. Their shape is nothing but an optical effect from the camera itself. The objects are so far out of focus that they appear as round ‘discs’. Sereda is not convinced and maintained that the objects cannot be simple debris.

In 1974, an Austrian engineer called Ernst Wegerer saw two discs in a case in a museum in Xian. He asked the curator what they were and she told him that they were ‘cultural relics’. Wegerer took two photographs of the discs and these are the only solid evidence for their existence that remains.

Unfortunately, the Polaroid images do not show any of the grooves or hieroglyphic markings that were reported on the Dropa Stones.

In 1994, Hartwig Hausdorf visited China and found the museum where Wegerer had taken his photos. He asked the curator about the discs and he was told that only a few days after the Austrian had taken his photographs, the then curator and the discs disappeared. Hausdorf believed that a cover-up was underway.

Michael Shermer claimed that conspiracy theories are the easy way out for people who have no proof for their own stories.

The mystery is compounded because all of the key players in the story cannot be found. The paper supposedly written by Dr Tsum Um Nui also cannot be located. The discs themselves are nowhere to be found.

Hausdorf believed that the stones were lost or destroyed during the Chinese Cultural Revolution, when Mao rose to power. In those turbulent days, many of China’s irreplaceable artworks were destroyed by the revolutionaries in their effort to eradicate the excesses and decadence of China’s imperial past.

After Mao died, the Communists still held power (and still do), but eventually, China opened up a little and western influences began to trickle into the country. UFO stories began to emerge and groups were formed all over the nation. Nowadays, more UFOs are reported in China than anywhere else in the world. The most popular UFO-based magazine sells over 400,000 copies and there are more UFO clubs than any other country.

But what of the story of the Dropa Stones? Is it China’s Roswell? UFO researcher, Richard Dolan, is of the opinion that the story is not true and is, basically, a hoax. Michael Shermer stated that it is a nonsense, mythical story. Hartwig Hausdorf thinks that there is some truth to the story.

Perhaps the only way to know one way or the other would be to locate the caves in the Bayan-Kara-Ula Mountains and see if those tiny skeletons or, perhaps, more stone discs could be found.

UFO Files: China’s Roswell was another excellent programme in the series. It was interesting, informative and allowed all viewpoints to be heard. Did the Dropa Stones exist? Who knows? The photos by Ernst Wegerer don’t particularly match the descriptions given. To me, they look more like the other Bi discs we have seen. The connection with NASA footage is also spurious, in my opinion, and I agree with Professor Walton when he says that the ‘UFOs’ are nothing more than optical effects.

Despite all the negativity, however, we must remember that legends from the Bayan-Kara-Ula region do speak of tribes of small, large-headed, long before modern pollution was blamed for any deformities. That is, if we are to believe that the legend is true. Perhaps it is time a modern expedition to the region was undertaken to find out the truth behind the Dropa Stones.

All images are the property of their respective copyright holders and are used her for review purposes only.

© Steve Johnson - 2006


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Updated 16th August, 2012