10 Unsolved Mysteries From the History of China

by Parul Dhamija2 years ago
Picture 10 Unsolved Mysteries From the History of China

Since time immemorial, the mystical land of China has recorded some of the greatest mysteries with its fascinating storyline. Some stunning examples include assassinations of historical figures, sudden disappearances of people, and discoveries at the sprawling archeological sites, all surrounded by a mystery that will probably never be solved. Here are some unsolved mysteries from the history of China that deserve a special mention.

1 The Disappearance of Chinese biochemist cum explorer, Peng Jiamu

Peng Jiamu, a notable Chinese scientist, disappeared mysteriously during his 1980 expedition to the Lop Desert when he went in search of water but never returned. Over the years, several human remains have been dug up from the site where the scientist went missing and subjected to DNA analysis, but no samples matched his.

Peng Jiamu
Peng Jiamu (Image to the left), The area known as No Man’s Land in the Lop Desert. Image credits: Huanqui via explorersweb.com

Peng Jiamu, a biochemist cum explorer from the Shanghai Institute of Biochemistry and Cell Biology reportedly vanished mysteriously during his expedition to Lop Nur in 1980, while leading a group of scientists near the nuclear facility in the northwestern province of Xinjiang. On June 17, he left the camp in search of water, leaving a note behind, and never returned.

His report of being missing and a large–scale hunt was later covered by Chinese media, but everyone failed to find any trace of the notable scientist. Between 2005 and 2007, several human remains were dug up from the site where Peng went missing and subjected to DNA analysis, but there has been no match that could conclude any of the remains belonged to the scientist. 

It is likely that Peng fell while scouring the hills and his remains are probably lying under the deep sands of the desert. It is also possible that he was killed by adverse conditions of the Lop. Over the years, the Chinese government has been trying to discover his body.

Interestingly, there are several rumors prevailing that Peng resides in the U.S. and has also been reportedly seen in a Washington restaurant. Since no one has confirmed that he is alive, his disappearance will continue to remain one of the biggest mysteries of China. (1, 2, 3)


2 The Tank Man

The “tank man” is the infamous unknown protester who stood before a column of tanks during China’s Tiananmen Square protests in 1989. The rare video footage showed two figures pulling the man away and disappearing into the crowd. However, the exact fate of the man is unknown to date.

Tank Man
Image credit: YouTube

In 1989, a mysterious and unidentified Chinese man appeared out of the blue and stood in front of a column of tanks in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square during demonstrations. The incident took place on June 5, the day after the Chinese government’s crackdown began.

According to a series of reports, the “tank” man stood in the middle of the avenue and tried to shift his position to obstruct the lead tank’s path. He wore black trousers and a white shirt and had two shopping bags with him. He gestured towards the tanks with a bag in an attempt to stop them. The lead tank tried to drive around him but he repeatedly stepped into its path. As a result, the tanks met a quiet impasse, leading to a short pause. 

After a successful mission, the tank man climbed to the driver’s hatch of the lead tank and had a short conversation. Once the conversation was over, he jumped from the tank and the tank restarted its engine. Footage of the incident shows the man then leaped again in front of the lead tank before eventually being pulled away by two men and disappearing into the crowd. The identity or fate of the man and who pulled him is unknown. 

In a 2000 interview with Jiang Zemin, then CPC General Secretary, the whereabouts of the “tank man” was discussed by Mike Wallace. Jiang confirmed that the guy never got arrested. He also said, “I don’t know where he is now.” (1, 2)


3 Kanas Lake Monster

Kanas Lake, located in the valley of Altay Prefecture in China, has an unknown mysterious story beneath its water surface. Speculations are that giant creatures are swimming in the lake sometimes causing unexplained waves. The mysterious lake also changes its color with the seasons adding more mystery to it.

Hidden in the dense forests amid the regions of northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, Kanas Lake has an unknown story beneath its water surface. The story states that giant, monster-like creatures live in the 390 feet deep lake and once dragged horses drinking by the lake into the water. Some instances of these “kanas” monsters causing unexplained waves and the lake changing its color with seasons have also been reported. 

The first official sighting of the mysterious monster was reported in 1980 by the Chinese–language daily newspaper, Guangming Daily. Since then, several people have been paying a visit to the scenic spot to catch a glimpse of the monster. 

It is said that the ancient lake was formed about 200,000 years ago and preserves the body of Genghis Khan, the Emperor of the Mongol Empire. The water monsters are believed to be his guards. However, 21st–century researchers do not believe in such stories.

According to them, the giant monsters could be Hucho taimen or Siberian taimen, a species of the Salmon family. These species grow up to two meters long and can emerge from beneath the water surface and make waves while chasing small fishes in the lake. Whether taimen are those “monsters” requires further investigation. (1, 2)


4 The Mystery of the Longyou Caves

The Longyou Caves of the Chinese village of Shiyan Beicun is a complex of 24 artificial caves, covering 300,000 square meters. The underground structure looks like a palace of an ancient king or a station for troops led by someone from the Wuyue Dynasty. The real history behind these hand-dug caves is not known to date.

Longyou Caves
One of the caves. Image credit: Zhangzhugang via Wikimedia.org

Longyou Caves, a complex of 24 artificial caves, is constructed in Fenghuang Hill in a village in the Zhejiang province of China. They were discovered accidentally in 1992 by local farmers while draining ponds. In the discovery, they found five caverns measuring between 18 to 34 meters and with heights up to 20 meters, and also 19 smaller caves.

Initially, the caves were thought to be a natural wonder due to their unique design and formation. Upon further study, it was found that each cavern consisted of a single portal connected with a shaft to allow rainfall to enter the cavern. A drainage system is there to collect this water. Also, each of the caverns is situated in a position that best utilizes the sunlight to reduce the stress on the ceiling and for better illumination.

Longyou Caves
Image credit: thegypsythread.org

Archeologists suggest that the origin of the caves dates back to more than 2,000 years ago. Why they were made has also resulted in speculation. The reasons behind their construction vary from one theory to another. While some state that they can be a mausoleum, military camp, or ancient quarry, others claim that they could be a ceremonial site. These massive caves cover 300,000 square meters could also be a palace of an ancient king. 

Due to the scarcity of evidence and arguable theories, the history of these caves remains a mystery. (1, 2)


5 The Wedding of Yang Yuelou

Yang Yuelou, a famous opera actor, fell in love with a rich merchant’s daughter, Wei Abao. As opera actors were not allowed to marry into a higher social class, he was sued for impropriety and rape. The girl too faced accusations and torture and was eventually disowned by her own family. He life ended in tragedy and her subsequent fate has been a mystery.


Yang Yuelou, a popular Wusheng actor in the history of Peking Opera and also a martial artist, had a marriage that ended in tragedy. His fairytale started with a love letter from a daughter of a Guangdong tea merchant named Wei Abao who fell in love with him while the actor performed on stage.

After the 17–year old’s letter reached Yang and upon seeing her infatuation, he decided to marry her. But since Yang was from the Huiban class, he couldn’t marry someone from a higher class. If Wei Abao married him, she would violate the etiquette of “good and cheap not getting married.” But the couple decided to break all ethics and morals and started the arrangements for their marriage around 1872. 

During an ancestor-worship ceremony, the couple was arrested by the governor and eventually escorted into court. Some boxes of jewelry and clothing worth four thousand yuan in gold were also retrieved. 

In order to make Yang confess his crime, the magistrate Ye Tingjuan tortured him until Yang eventually confessed his guilt. Later, the duo was imprisoned, waiting for Wei Abao’s stepfather to return before making the final judgment. Yang was detained in prison and Wei was released but she was disowned by her family.

After Yang was released from prison, he searched for Wei Abao but was unable to find her. Eventually, he had to marry another woman. However, he remained depressed throughout his life and died at the young age of 41. (1, 2)

Also Read:
10 Mysteries From the Past That Were Solved in Recent Times

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