Dropa tribe and their stone discs revisited
More than a decade
ago, Hartwig Hausdorf reignited the debate as to whether aliens
had crashlanded in the remote Chinese mountain range of Baian-Kara-Ula.
Over the past decade, several elements of the story have been
the mid-1990s, German author and tour guide Hartwig Hausdorf reignited
the debate as to whether aliens had crash-landed in their craft
in the remote mountainous region of Baian-Kara-Ula, in China’s
Qinhai Province. Over the past decade or so, several elements
of the story have been confirmed.
The alleged crash-landing at Baian-Kara-Ula has become known as
“the Chinese Roswell”—though the crash, if there
was one, occurred not in 1947 or thereabouts but several thousand
At the core of the story is that in 1937–38, an expedition
led by Chi Pu Tei, an archaeologist with the Chinese Academy of
Sciences in Peking (Beijing), was trying to find shelter in the
Kunlun-Kette mountain chain. The team members entered a cave and
found inscriptions on the walls. At the back of the cave they
found several tombs, aligned in a row, containing strange-looking
skeletons, each measuring 1.0 metre 20 centimetres in length and
having an abnormally large skull. Buried with the skeletons were
unusual stone discs, 716 in all, about 30 cm wide and 1.0 cm deep
with a hole in the centre, each bearing strange hieroglyphs. Were
these Stone Age long-playing records?
The story goes that the Chinese Academy of Sciences tried to ban
the publication of these findings, but eventually the story of
the Dropa (or Dzopa) tribe and their stone discs was released—though
There are several aspects to this story: the strange skeletons;
the discovery of a little-known tribe of dwarf-like beings; the
nature and whereabouts of the discs; and the decipherment of the
The script was apparently only deciphered and the passages translated
in the early 1960s by a team led by Professor Tsum Um Nui of the
Peking Academy of Prehistory. He claimed that they describe the
crash of an extraterrestrial spacecraft 12,000 years ago. Here
are a few lines from the translation: “The Dropa came out
of the clouds in their aeroplanes. Before sunrise, our men, women
and children hid in the caves ten times. When they finally understood
the sign language of the Dropa, they realised the newcomers had
As for the discs, it has been pointed out that stone discs are
a known ingredient of Chinese culture and are called “Bi”
discs. Although their origin is unknown, these Bi discs have been
dated to as far back as 10,000 BCE—thus largely coinciding
with the time-frame of the alleged crash.
Bi discs were normally made from jade or other precious materials
and were regarded as status symbols. In the aftermath of war,
the losers were required to hand over their discs as a sign of
submission. Furthermore, it is known that the discs were used
in burials. In aristocratic burials, the discs were normally placed
above the head, below the feet and on the chest of the deceased.
Interestingly, Bi discs were often considered to be “the
Ear of Heaven”, and sometimes the hole in the disc was placed
in front of the mouth so that the dead could speak to their ancestors.
The story that stone discs with hieroglyphs were found in a tomb
is therefore not only plausible but likely—considering,
too, that Bi discs often carried inscriptions.
In 1974, a tourist, Austrian engineer Ernst Wegerer, saw and photographed
several discs in the Banpo Museum in Xian, in Shensi Province.
But this begs the question of whether these discs, which are similar
in description to those reportedly discovered in Baian-Kara-Ula,
were “just” Bi discs or actual examples of the ones
found in the mountain cave during the 1937–38 expedition.
of the Dropa
people incorrectly believe that the story of the Dropa tribe was
first aired in a 1978 book titled Sungods in Exile, edited by
David Agamon. This book details the 1947 expedition of the English
scientist Dr Karyl Robin-Evans, who supposedly reached the Baian-Kara-Ula
mountains and made contact with the Dropa. According to the book,
the tribe comprised several hundred members, all dwarfish in appearance
and four feet (1.22 metres) tall on average. Dr Robin-Evans stayed
there for half a year, learned the Dropa’s language and
was introduced to the history and traditions of the dwarfish beings,
who told him that their ancestors had come from Sirius, of all
It is now known that the book was largely science fiction dressed
up as non-fiction, but many people had already decided that the
Dropa story was bogus—especially those who erroneously)
argue that the book was the first to mention the “ridiculous”
It would seem that Sungods in Exile either was meant to cash in
on stories about the Dropa that were in circulation for a few
years before it was published, or—if you like a conspiratorial
explanation—was meant to discredit the story. Why? Perhaps
it was merely because China was a communist nation and any interest
in things Chinese was o fficially discouraged at the time by western
But it was definitely not a hoax—at least not one executed
in 1978. The Berlin-based historian Dr Jörg Dendl has been
able to trace the first mention of the Dropa story to 1962, when
a monthly magazine for vegetarians, Das vegetarische Universum
( “The Vegetarian Universe”), published an article
titled “UFOs in Prehistory?” in its July edition.
Dr Dendl has so far not been able to find the original Chinese
or Japanese source, but it is clear that the story is much older
Furthermore, the story reported in Sungods in Exile of an expedition
coming across dwarfish people in the Baian-Kara-Ula region has
nonfictional counterparts. Dr Dendl found a 1933 clipping about
a Chinese confrontation with dwarflike beings. Though some might
argue that the location was in “Tibet”, at that time
Baian-Kara-Ula was mistakenly labelled as being part of Tibet.
The article relates how a woman, only 1 m 20 cm tall, was seen
being escorted by Chinese soldiers and that she and her group
were being held as slaves. There was also a statement that they
were cannibals, but this might merely have been an excuse to cover
for their inhumane treatment.
Most importantly, the existence of the Dropa—or a tribe
like them—has been confirmed. In November 1995, the Associated
Press (AP) stated that some 120 “dwarfish beings”
had been discovered in Sichuan Province, in a so-called “Village
of the Dwarfs”. (Some sceptics cast doubt on the AP account,
though it is easily verifiable. In fact, on 9 November 1995, the
German publication Bild ran a report titled “Das Dorf der
Zwerge – Umweltgifte schuld?” [“The Village
of the Dwarfs – environmental pollution to blame?”]
about the discovery.) The tallest adult in this village was three
foot 10 inches (1.0 m 15 cm) tall; the smallest was two foot one
inch (63.5 cm).
The location of the village is only a few hundred kilometres from
the Baian-Kara-Ula mountain range. However, despite China’s
becoming more open, this entire area including the village remains
off limits to foreigners.
Hartwig Hausdorf, who has been on the track of the Dropa since
at least the early 1990s, ponders whether in recent years the
Dropa’s descendants might have abandoned the mountains and
settled in the nearby lowlands— where they were “discovered”
According to a report in Bild on 27 January 1997, a Chinese ethnologist
claimed that the tribe’s dwarfism was due to a high concentration
of mercury in the soil, which had poisoned their drinking water
for several generations. The claim did not go unchallenged, however.
Dr Norbert Felgenhauer of the Munich Institute for Toxicology
argued that this theory is nonsense. He stated that such poisoning
would result in immediate death, not stunted growth, and introduced
as evidence the case of the Japanese town of Minamata, where in
the 1960s many inhabitants died from mercury poisoning. He also
noted that mercury was unable to change human DNA and hence could
not be held responsible for causing an hereditary trait—one
that was clearly apparent in this tribe.
we know that the existence of stone discs is possible, if not
likely, and that, if the 1933 report is correct, there were dwarfish
people living in that region. The question, then, is this: is
the decipherment of the script correct? If it is, then it does
not necessarily prove that alien beings crash-landed in China,
but at the very least it shows that these “genetically bizarre”
beings believed they were descendants of aliens.
According to the story, in 1962 a team of five scientists from
the Peking Academy of Prehistory, led by Professor Tsum Um Nui,
managed to decipher the inscriptions. Despite the claims made
in the translation, the scientists eventually published their
findings. Professor Um Nui then apparently was forced (or he decided)
to abandon his position, after which he returned to his native
Japan where he died shortly afterwards. Though little is known
about what happened next, Hausdorf underlines that, in 1966, the
Cultural Revolution began—and, as with all such revolutions,
much was lost forever.
There is no verification of the 1962 translation as such, though
it should be pointed out that there is no evidence in the camp
that argues it’s all a hoax to suggest that the 1962 story
and the translation are invented. So far, the best the detractors
have been able to argue is that the story is improbable (of course!)
and that no one has ever been able to decipher a stand-alone language,
let alone an extraterrestrial language. That is true. But nowhere
does the account say, and no one has ever argued, that this was
a “unique language”.
The only claim in this connection is that in 1937–38, when
the discs were discovered, their inscriptions could not be read
immediately. Only in 1962 did a team of specialists succeed in
this task. For all we know, the language in which the script was
written had not yet been deciphered in 1937, or no one had paid
sufficient attention to the inscriptions, or only in 1962 was
someone able to identify the language in which the inscriptions
But note the year: 1962. This is the year that the earliest known
reference to the story appeared—found by Dr Dendl in a German
magazine—and it would suggest that something happened in
1962 that made a Chinese or Japanese source report on it.
The translation of the discs might be precisely such an event:
Professor Um Nui publishes his translation, the media pick it
up and create a controversy; he decides to retire and return to
Japan, while the media outside of China also report on it, ending
up in the German magazine “The Vegetarian Universe”.
If the story was invented, it means that it was invented (or misreported)
The 1978 Sungods in Exile hoax is now clearly nothing more than
a footnote in the story, largely responsible for popularising
the entire saga but definitely not for creating or inventing it
out of thin air.
The 1962 article also discusses some technical details of the
discs, underlining the potential factual nature of the story.
It notes that the discs were composed of cobalt, iron and nickel—the
only metals to produce a magnetic field. Nickel is found largely
in Canada and Central Africa, but in recent years it has been
found in China, in the general area where the discs were located.
For Hausdorf, this is a further indication that the story is factual,
for this find post-dates the discovery of the discs—and
the 1962 article. In short, what in 1962 was unlikely and improbable
has now been confirmed.
remains one of China’s most remote regions. Its mountains
reach as high as 5,000 metres and descend to 2,000 metres. Despite
the altitude, summers can be pleasantly warm in this region.
It is now said that a new expedition is being prepared and will
soon be under way. It is apparently largely an initiative of Chinese
media empires, its main sponsor being the China Daily newspaper.
If the participants are able to get their act together, it might
not be another decade before this story takes yet another twist.
article was published in NEXUS Magazine, vol. 15, no. 6 (October-November