The ‘folk scientist’ and meteorite specialist Lu Ling proposed to take me on a day trip to a village, which keeps a very large meteorite, the ‘Iron Ox’. Together with my assistant and friend Xu Shuxian, who translated all conversations, we travelled out of grey Guangzhou into the beautiful landscape near Long Tan Mountain. In the village Yang Wu Sha we were greeted by the head of the village and went to see the ‘Iron Ox’ on its pedestal in front of the Temple of the Ancestors.
Lu Ling: Today I’m going to talk about the story of the stone. Three hundred years ago they came to build up the village… Now is time for the camera! The stone was already there when the kids were growing up. Yes, they are the generation that grows up under the sunshine. That is, because the ‚Iron Ox’ blesses them!
After a lot of photos were taken, were offered a plentiful meal. I explained that I wanted to know more about their meteorite. This is what the villagers told me.
Lu Ling: Who has more stories about the ‚Iron Ox’ to tell to Antje?
Villager 1: In ancient times, the fairy threw the ‘Iron Ox’ into the pool. One early morning our ancestor woke up and went to get some water from the pool, and she saw something jump out of the pool. The ancestor tried to hide away, but this thing jumped out and said to her: ‘I’m here to guard the pool, to not let other evil ghosts attack the village people.’ And then he staid there and sleeps until now. It’s in there since more than 300 years.
Lu Ling: This is Yang Guifang.
Yang Guifang: When I was young, I heard about this story. When I was young, I didn’t really understand the historical issue. The story has just been told; I’m not going to repeat it now. After the ‚Iron Ox’ was found, in the first time nobody protected it. It was mostly played with, ridden like a horse by the children. But now I really hope and need that it brings peace, luck and happiness to the village.
Old Woman: It seems there is a story about a ‘Big Ox’ and a ‘Small Ox’, but I don’t know exactly. I only know the story about one Ox. I heard something from the elder generation, but I can’t remember exactly. It’s about picking up water from the pool. Then the stone appeared. We ride it as a horse. This is all I know.
After finishing our meal, we went back to the ‘Iron Ox’ to have a closer look.
Villager 2: If we can develop more and this meteorite brings more tourists to visit the village, it will be better.
Mayor: Old people say it was 300 years ago that our ancestors came from San Fung to this place, to build the pool. I heard the old people tell a story about the ‘Black Ox’ stone. In ancient times, the ‘Iron Ox’ stone was called ‘Black Ox’ stone, it seems. And this stone was inside the fish pool and this monster ate the fish. There is a scar of an axe. After the axe hit the stone two times, it stopped eating the fish. And then we put it next to the pool until now. The year before, Lu Ling was very curious and found this stone and discovered that the stone contained 99,34 % of iron, and it weights 261 kg –
Lu Ling: No, 281 kg!
Mayor: After confirming it as a meteorite, the village people collected money to build this pedestal. The village people hope it brings good luck. It is a treasure of this village. After all this many Feng Shui master also confirmed that this treasure belongs to the village and protects it. After this the stone was called ‘Protector of the Village’.
Villager 3: I feel good being protected. It is always good to have more protection for the village people and more money, and also more protection for the environment.
Antje: I hope so, too.
Lu Ling: She also hopes the stone protects the village.
Villager 3: Ah! It’s better if it can protect the whole world!
Villager 4: There were lots of big trees here before. More than a hundred. The big trees were cut in the 1970s, more then 100 big trees were cut. At that time the economy was not developed yet. We wanted to build up a bridge to cross the river, but it was very difficult. Then we cut all the big trees and sold them to boat factories in Guangzhou. They need the big trees to build the platforms for the big boats. With this money, we built the bridge. At this time, the collective economy was very bad, even if we work for a whole day, we can only earn few cents. It was really bad. Few cents for full hard work on the field… That’s why there was no other solution for building the bridge. The children had to go to school in Nan Han, and they had to walk over a bridge made of one piece of wood. It was very narrow and very dangerous. All the trees were cut … maybe it was 1971.
Villager 5: They ride it. So it’s like an animal that children can ride on. When we were young, we also played like that. And there were many big trees around the pool, and the old men told us stories.
Lu Ling: I want to tell you how I found out that it’s a meteorite. The first reason is that the villagers told me that this meteorite was here 300 years ago. 300 years ago there was no industry. The Chinese industry, maybe even the world industry was not at this high level yet. So it was not possible to refine to get more then 99 % of iron. That is the first reason. The second reason is that when you look at the shape of the meteorite it is similar to the bottom of the mushroom cloud (after an atomic explosion). The shape looks like the lava during the melting process, when it is falling to the ground. The shape corresponds with the moment when the lava rushes out, with physical movement. It forms shapes and becomes solid. It ‘s from the bottom of the mushroom cloud, not the top part.
Lu Ling points at the inscriptions on the pedestal.
Here you see all this words written that also confirm that they think it is a meteorite, which came from the sky. They also think it came from the sky. And they have this story of the ‘Magic Ox that catches the fish’. Everybody knows it; the old village people know it. They keep it as a historical relic.
And the signature there, the name Yang Ho Huang, who sculpted all the names on the stone, is someone from outside the village. He was the person who thought about bringing me here; through him I would get to know there’s a meteorite here. I got some results from scientific research, and the (official) scientists gave some advice. But they can’t really explain what it is. But we were quite sure, and published our research in the National Meteorite Institution, and we all feel very glad to have this article in their magazine. We used this as an opportunity to develop the village and the environment. It brings the good memory of the moments in which we had a better environment. The village people have this wish to bring a good environment back, and the government could answers this request more actively. We have organized a conference on the theme: ‘How to build up an ecological village’, but we have to see how we can realize this step by step. And when Antje will come back, it will be very beautiful.
We take a look into the Temple of the Ancestors. It is an open construction; old houses that look abandoned are visible around it.
Villager 6: Nobody lives here, they all moved out.
Lu Ling: And why did they move out?
Villager 6: In the beginning there were not so many people and there was enough space to stay, but later it became more people, so they moved out.
Villager 8: We hope our next generation will have a better environment. The government takes this seriously and we will work it out.
Lu Ling: Without pollution we can have a better environment. If there will not be a pandemonium any more like there is now, it will be better for the growth of the next generation. I told our village secretary: if ‘Long Tan’ area is a dragon – and the village Long Tan is the first village of the Long Tan area near Nang Kun Mountain – then it is the head of the dragon. This village, Yang Wu Sha, is the eye of the dragon. To ‘draw a dragon’ — to develop the biological economy is to draw the eyes of the dragon.
We walk through the village to the house of an old man, who has collected many meteorites and polishes them.
Lu Ling: What do you want to do with the stones?
Old man: I want to show them to the specialists of meteorites to identify which star they came from. My thought is that the first era of Chinese meteorites was in the very beginning of the world, in the time of the goddess Nüwa. That story is the historical records of meteorites, the memory of the Meteor Shower. At that time Nüwa used stones to repair the sky. The sky was broken, and a lot of meteorites were falling down. At that time, nobody knew what the universe is, they thought the sky was broken and falling down. This is why my hypothesis is that the first time of meteorites dates back to the time of Nüwa. The meteorites that were falling down were burned to be red and hot, so people saw the fire and they imagined the sky is falling apart. It looks like melted iron. I hope all these meteorites that I collect can become material for the scientific research. It can be my contribution to the science of meteorites and to the country. I’m just a farmer; I don’t know how to make research. But the scientists can find out where they came from, which planet, which solar system.
Shuxian: As the big meteorite could bring luck, do you think all these small ones also bring luck?
Old Man: Even if they bring luck, they don’t bring big luck. Maybe they also brought disaster. It maybe has brought this mine in the mountain. We will never be able to know if it will not bring a big disaster to the village. The village people already asked for compensation and their legal rights. Look at this door, look at all these houses, they are already broken and you can’t do anything about it. I hope that after this official visit they can understand more about what is going on. The country should take it seriously to provide for and protect people’s life. This is not about being lucky or not lucky.
Lu Ling: (Pointing at a crack in the wall of the old man’s house): This is from the last few years…
The villagers give us some small meteorites as gifts. After a warm good-bye we leave the village and drive up the mountain to meet with an old man, the former Head of the Village. He takes us on an enchanted walk. We climb up through bamboo forests and orange and tangerine trees and meets some wild dogs. Big rocks are scattered everywhere in the landscape, and a lovely brook makes its way downhill. The former Head of the Village has a hut up here. He shows us some strange big rocks with names and points to interesting places in the landscape. Most turns out to be holy Taoist places.
Former Head of the Village: That is the ‘Guan Yin Mountain’. And next to it these are magic ‚Tortoise Stones’. One is a Yin turtle shell and one is a Yang turtle shell. Stones that look like holy bowls made out of turtle shells. And over there, there is a human head stone. – This is the ‘100 year historical forest’. The trees are called ‘Huang Pi’… All the trees grow very naturally in the mountains, without the help of people. This is the ‘Guoulang Zhu’ tree …That’s how we call it. In former times, people cut the tree and made a powder of it that they used for food, because it is a kind of flour. Some rich visitors came to this place and called it ‘Shi Wai Tao Yuan’ – ‘Paradise out of this world.’ Here are many magical places. For example the mountain up here was called ‘The Palm of 8 Immortals’. Down there is a ‚10 Immortals cave’. Near the lake is a so-called ‚10 Immortals Cliff’. This is a landscape of many wonders.
Antje asks him about the ‘Iron Ox’.
Former Head of the Village: They call it ‘the stone thing from the sky (meteorite)’. It must have been there for a very long time, until the people dug out the pool and found it. So they dug it out of the pool and brought it to the top of the poolside. But every night it went back to the pool, three times. So the people think it is a beast and wants to eat their fish. They think that this wonder must be a stone beast and they have to castrate it, and then it calms down and doesn’t hurt the fish any more. It became two parts, and the small piece ended up in another place. The little piece of the stone disappeared. Probably it was taken and sold as metal, so nobody knows where it is today. The big piece is still there.
We stay for another while on the big rocks. It is very peaceful.
A few days later Shuxian tells me, that photos of my visit to the Meteorite shall be hung next to the entrance to the Temple of the Ancestors. With her help I compose a letter, in which I thank the villagers for their friendly welcome and confidently express my hope that many Western tourists like me will come and not only visit the ‘Iron Ox’, but also enjoy the healthy, clean food and the wonderful landscape. I hope this helps in making the government understand, that the mines of rare earth that poison the villages water and cause cracks in their houses have to be closed and the village doesn’t need to move. The entire village that was founded over 300 years ago after Feng-Shui-principles should move some kilometers away, according to the plans of the government.
Antje Majewski, 2011