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Dover Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Nov-18-04 04:51 AM
Original message
The Fabulous 1,000-Foot White Pyramid of Xian
Edited on Thu Nov-18-04 05:19 AM by Dover
Since the end of the Second World War, rumors regarding the existence of giant pyramids in China have been appearing with increasing regularity in the press and literature of many countries. There has been talk of structures whose size puts to shame the Cheops Pyramid of Egypt and the Sun Pyramid at Teotihuacan in Mexico.

Ive journeyed deep into China three times to discover the truth behind these rumors. All three times, these pilgrimages have taken me into Shaanxi Province, to an area about 40 miles south-west of the ancient Chinese capital of Xian, in the mountainous Qin Ling Shan region.

I was searching for a pyramid which was said to have been, once, many millennia ago, multicolored, and to now be a dusty white. This was a pyramid which, legend has it, rises to the aston-ishing height of 1,000 feet - four-fifths the elevation of the Empire State Building. Not only was this extraordinary structure said to be the largest pyramid in the world (the Giant Pyramid of Egypt, by comparison, rises a mere 450 feet); but, in the valleys surround-ing it, there were said to be dozens of other pyramids, some rising to an elevation almost as great.

Until recently, Chinese officials have rebuffed all questions about these pyramids and all requests to view them. And yet, over this century, a certain mythology has grown up around them. An American trader, stumbling upon these amazing structures in 1912, asked his Buddhist monk-guide about them. He was told that 5,000-year-old monastic documents not only contained informa-tion about these pyramids, but said the pyramids were extremely old when these records were made.

The trader, Fred Meyer Schroder, observed several smaller pyra-mids in the distance. He wrote in his travel diary that his first sight of the giant pyramid, along with its smaller cousins, ren-dered him almost speechless. "It was even more uncanny than if we had found it in the wilderness," he wrote. "But those < pyra-mids) were to some extent exposed to the eyes of the worldbut still totally unknown in the western world." [br />
In the Far East in the spring of 1945, though Japanese troops were still fighting in China, the U.S. Army and its allies were well on their way to pushing the Japanese off the mainland. One day, U.S. Air Force Pilot James Gaussman was returning to Assam, in India, after having flown the Burma Hump-ferried supplies to Chungking, China, from India-when engine trouble forced him to descend temporarily to a low altitude over China. As he later wrote:

"I flew around a mountain and then we came to a valley. Di-rectly below us was a gigantic white pyramid. It looked as if it were from a fairy tale. The pyramid was draped in shimmering white. It could have been metal, or some other form of stone. It was white on all sides. VUhat was most curious about it was its capstone: a large piece of precious gem-like material. I was deeply moved by the colossal size of the thing." ...cont'd


Colonel Maurice Sheahan, the Far Eastern Director of Trans World Airline, flies over Shaanxi Province and sees a large pyramid. It is about 40 miles southewest of Xi'an. His account was published in the New York Times on March 28 under the headline "U.S. Flier Reports Huge Chinese Pyramid in Isolated Mountains Southwest of Sian" . The report says:

From the air, Colonel Sheahan said, the pyramid seems to dwarf those of Egypt. He estimated its height at 1,000 ft and its width at the base at 1,500 feet. The pyramid, he said, is at the foot of the Tsinling Mountains about 40 miles southewest of Sian, capital of the province. A second pyramid, he continued, appears much smaller. the pyramid, Colonel Sheahan went on, is at the far end of a long valley, in an inaccessible part. At the near end, he said, are hundreds of burial mounds. These can be seen, he said, from the Lung-Hai railroad.

The implication is, of course, that the hundreds of smaller burial mounds are the same ones seen by Sowerby and Clark and possibly Franck and Creel. Which then suggests that there was something discovered that they did not talk about - or were not permitted to talk about. And that this something was discovered in 1908. Sheanah's description of the position of the inaccessible valley containing the huge pyramid, when examined on a large scale map is actually very precise. A pyramid could be there appearing as a small mountain on satellite photos.

No photograph accompanied the New York Times report, nor was there a photograph in the report in the Los Angeles Times article: "Gigantic Pyramid in Western China Reported by Southland Air Executive." (Marc 28, 1947, p. 5) The Chicago Daily News also covered the story the same day. The English language North-China Daily News carried a report on March 31 which added the info that the size of the pyramid had been calculated by comparison with the size of a nearby village. The New York Sunday News of March 30, however, printed a photograph which is cropped so that the sticker of the newspaper photo agency "NEA Telephoto" - which is left on other news photos of the time that were printed later - is removed. The early reports do NOT say that Colonel Sheahan took photos. Colonel Sheahan himself, interviewed by the New York Times, said:

When I first flew over it I was impressed by its perfect pyramidal form and its great size. I did not give it a thought during the war years partly because it seemed incredible that anything so large could be unknown from the world. From the air we could see only small footpaths leading to a village at the site of the pyramid.

This suggests that Sheahan had seen the pyramid earlier - during the war. On April 1, 1947, the Los Angeles Times published: China Giant Pyramid Report Called False.

Nanking, March 31 (AP) - A Central News Agency dispatch from Sikang said today the provincial government had announced following an investigation that the reported discovery of a giant pyramid in Shensi Province proved to be groundless."

Three weeks later, the North China Daily News carried a lengthy report on a lecture on the history of Xi'an given at the Royal Asiatic Society on April 24. The topic of Sheahan's pyramid was raised during the talk and dismissed.

According to Steve Marshall, writing for Fortean Times, (164, Dec. 2002) one of the sinologists consulted by the new York Times (March 28, 1947) - Arthur Upam Pope of the Asia Institute - wrote a follow-up letter to the editor dated March 30 (before the denials) in which he speculated that the giant pyramid could be a Xia dynasty royal tomb, and suggested that the knowledge of building pyramids might have spread from western Asia to Egypt. (No archeological evidence has yet been found to confirm the existence of the Xia dynasty, which is still presumed to be mythical.)

Pope's letter - in the April 8 issue of the Times (p.26), appears to be the origin of the modern mythicization spread by Hartwig Hausdorf and David Hatcher Childress. In this letter, Pope quoted a description of another pyramids and the Han dynasty idea of five colors being related: "green on the east, red on the south, white on the west, black on the north, and all covered with yellow earth." This became attached to Sheahan's description attributed to a most likely non-existent flier named Gaussman by Childress, then quoted by Hausdorf.

The question of the photograph is important. The Rocky Mountain News report of March 31, 1947 credited the photo to "army photographers." This news story said "American scientists have been in the area."

Julie Byron, writing an article about "Mystery Pyramids," tracked down the son of the late Col. Sheahan - Donald Sheahan - and asked him about his father's sighting. Donald Sheahan wrote that his father had indeed seen the pyramid once before, and added that some senior TWA executives were also on the 1947 flight, the purpose of which was to establish landing rights for the airline around the world. Don Sheahan believed that his father had taken the photograph, or that it had been taken by someone on the same flight. He went through his father's papers, and was unable to find any photographs of the pyramid. He did find three unlabelled news clippings that specfically mention that Col. Sheahan flew low over the area to take photographs, and two of these clippings say that he has these photgraphs at home, which is also stated in the North China Daily News story of March 31. Some of these clippings collected by his father include the NEA photograph, but he was unable to confirm that his father did, indeed, take this photograph or whether it is actually a photo of the structure in question.

One clarification was discovered: Don Sheahan found a letter written by his father, Col. Sheahan, on January 31, 1961, to a Mr. E. Leslie Carlson, who had a theory connecting the Chinese pyramid to the ancient Sumerians. He had also asked for a photograph. Sheahan wrote:

The large pyramid is probably between 500 feet and 600 feet high and the reported 1,000 feet was exaggerated in several translations from the Chinese li to metric to feet.

In his thank-you letter of Feb 7, Carlson acknowledges receipt of letter, answers and news clippings, but makes no mention of having received a photograph. And here is where we come to something very "Fortean." NEA Telephoto - Newspaper Enterprise Association - is only credited with handling one other photo - the famous "Roswell weather balloon" photograph.
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wickerwoman Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Nov-18-04 05:12 AM
Response to Original message
1. I find this hard to believe.
I was in Xi'an last month. Trust me, if it existed Chinese archaeologists would have found it and there would be a McDonalds out front. What possible motivation would anyone have for keeping it a secret in the face of all the money they would make off it?

They are probably exaggerating stories about Qin Shi Huang's burial pyramid. There are several small pyramids in the area and (of course) the terracotta warriors. Qin Shi Huang was the first emperor of the Qing dynasty (also responsible for the Great Wall) and considered the founder of China. He had a massive ego- no way would he settle for having the second biggest pyramid in the area. And they know where he was buried.

But I've seen the landscape and, I'm sorry, you can't hide a 1,000 foot white pyramid within easy driving distance of one of the most populous cities in the world.
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rman Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Nov-18-04 05:15 AM
Response to Original message
2. would show up on satelite pictures. n/t
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Dover Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Nov-18-04 05:25 AM
Response to Original message
3. Related Story? Here's one they excavated and then reburied:
Edited on Thu Nov-18-04 05:26 AM by Dover
Vintage Altar of Heaven Volume 53 Number 2, March/April 2000
by Spencer P.M. Harrington

The Xian Altar of Heaven is the oldest of its kind found in China to date. It was reburied shortly after its excavation. (Feng Xiao Tang)

The oldest-known altar used in Chinese state religious practice was unearthed, then reburied, this past summer in the city of Xian by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. Uncontrolled development around a mysterious circular mound prompted a 30-day salvage excavation. Constructed as early as the Sui Dynasty (A.D. 581-618), the so-called Altar of Heaven is more than 1,000 years older than a similar altar in Beijing, and is the only one found so far pre-dating the Qing Dynasty (A.D. 1644-1912). It is estimated that 17 Chinese emperors conducted religious rites here.

Chinese state religion, whose origins stretch back to the Han Dynasty (206 B.C.-A.D. 220) and perhaps as early as the Western Zhou Dynasty (1050-771 B.C.), involved the worship of heaven only by emperors, who were perceived as links between the earthly and celestial realms. Emperors mounted the steps of the Altar of Heaven barefoot, accompanied by an orchestra playing religious hymns, to prostrate themselves before celestial deities. Their effectiveness as emperors depended on the proper performance of ritual; otherwise they might be blamed for a bad harvest or other misfortunes.

Constructed of rammed earth and composed of four circular platforms that originally rose 26 feet high, the altar was uncovered a half mile southeast of Xian's southern gate, confirming references to it in ancient historical sources such as The Old History of the Tang Dynasty and The History of the Sui Dynasty. The sides and the surfaces of the altar's platforms were covered with a layer of yellow clay, and topped off with a quarter-inch thick layer of gray-white paste, made from seed husks and straw, that gave the altar a white appearance. The platforms were each between five and seven and one-half feet high and measured from 177 feet in diameter at the bottom to 65 feet at the top. Twelve equally spaced staircases, representing Chinese astronomers' division of the heavens into 12 parts, ascended from the ground to the highest platform. The 12 staircases are the most obvious peculiarity of the Xian Altar of Heaven. During the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1912) dynasties, altars had only four staircases, and historical sources report that Han altars had only eight....cont'd

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wickerwoman Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Nov-19-04 12:02 AM
Response to Reply #3
4. Why would it be related?
How does a 26 foot tall altar imply a 1000 foot tall pyramid?

Xi'an was the capital of the Qing dynasty- of course it is lousy with tombs, altars and places of historical significance.

They probably reburied the altar because they haven't developed the technology to open these tombs without damaging the treasures inside. That's why the haven't opened the emperor's tomb.
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