A Man from the Moon
In the Tang dynasty, China, a year between AD 827 and 835, Zheng Renben and his friend Wang visited Mount Song. Across hills and rivers, the two people went sightseeing happily. After a long walk, they found themselves in a deep valley. They were lost. It was late, Zheng and Wang shivered, not knowing what to do.
It was getting dark and there was no sound around. There was nothing they could do, but wander around aimlessly in the valley, hoping they could find a way out. They didn’t know how much time had passed. When they noticed a man dressed in white soundly sleeping on a package behind a bush. So Zheng and Wang hurriedly came forward to wake him up and ask, “We have stumbled into the valley and gotten lost. Do you know a way out?” The man dressed in white looked up at them but didn’t answer, and went to sleep again.
Zhen and Wang woke him up several times, the man got up at last, calling them to come closer. The two travelers asked the man dressed in white where he was from. “Do you know the moon is made of seven elements and it is a sphere?” the man asked with a smile. “We can see the moon so brightly because the sun is reflected on its highlands. There are eighty-two thousand repairmen on the moon. I am one of them.”
The man opened his package as he spoke. It had some chisels and axes in it. There were also two bags of “jade crumb rice” in the package. He gave the rice to both of them, “Although having the rice will not make you immortal, you will never fall ill.” Then he showed them a way out and vanished.
Notes from the translator
It seems like a short and strange story, but it is from a collection called The Miscellaneous Morsels from Youyang which was written in the Tang dynasty between AD. 803-863.
In this story, the man dressed in white was probably an astronaut. The details he mentioned about the moon were very accurate. First of all, he asked, “Do you know the moon is made of seven elements and is a sphere?” Now, science has proven that the seven elements present on the moon’s surface include silica, alumina, lime, iron(II) oxide, magnesia, titanium dioxide, and sodium oxide.
Second of all, the man said: “We can see the moon so brightly because the sun is reflected on its highlands.” At the time that this story was written, many astronomers believed that the surface of the moon was smooth. It wasn’t until 1609 that Galileo Galilei proved there were mountains and craters on the moon. How did the writer of this story know that the moon was not smooth in the 800s?
Finally, the man said he was one of eighty-two thousand repairmen on the moon. So what did they repair on the moon? What was the “jade crumb rice” he gave Zheng and Wang? How did it prevent people from falling ill?
It’s a seemingly ordinary story, but there’s some fridge-horror inside it. It becomes more horrifying when you think it over later.
Miscellaneous Morsels from Youyang
Strange Chinese Stories