Episode 192: Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Earth

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I am always interested in stories when people didn’t have enough scientific knowledge and amazed by their interpretation and imagination of the world. Today we will talk about a story of the world under the earth.

The story is from the book What The Master Would Not Discuss 子不语, a collection of supernatural stories compiled by Yuan Mei 袁枚 during the Qing dynasty 清朝 published in 1788. It says, based on one theory, the earth and the sky was like an egg. The sky is the egg shell and the earth is like the egg yolk. When the egg yolk and egg white were separated, the sky and the earth were separated. But no matter what, people can never get out of the egg hell. Based on the theory of 33 days 三十三天学说 in Taoism, this person is outside of the realm of the sky, the earth and the human beings and would wonder around in the illusion.




In the place of QinChong 秦中, in the northwestern China today, the crust is thick and earthquakes happened a lot. Sometimes, a whole village would be in ruins. When earthquakes happened, sometimes water from underground would be pumped up high into the air and sometimes you could see sparks and smoke. Sometimes, the crack would be closed. But if people fell into the underground, they never were seen and nobody knew where they went.




In the year 1646, there was a earthquake in the this place. A family of Dong 董 were all swallowed by the earth and everyone believed they were dead. Shockingly, after 9 days, a person crawled from the underground. His face was covered by dust and his clothes stuck on his skin. The villagers were startled and asked, “who are you? How did you crawl from the underground?” The person was weak and replied, “I am Dong Yu 董遇 from the family Dong.” The villagers looked closely and recognized him. They remembered that Dong Yu learned some special skills since he was a child and he could hold his breath under the water for really long time. They were all curious about what happened to him.




Here is what he said, “ when I first fell in the crack, I felt like I lost gravity. After a whole day, we saw water underneath and kept falling. It felt like I was flying or floating which was pretty comfortable and I was even talking with my families. When we fell into the groundwater, all my families drowned. I held my breath into the water for thousands of miles until I swam out of the water and reached somewhere dry. Everything around was yellow and it was getting brighter. I looked around. I saw the sky was under my feet. I could hear people talking. I realized this where the sky outside of the egg shell sky. If I keep falling, either I would fall in the heaven in the second layer that would be great. If I fall on the roofs of people’s houses, would they think I am an immortal? Both scenarios are not bad. So I tried hard to fall. But my body was floating due the the heavy wind underneath. I was floating in the air for a whole and met a giant who yelled at me, “how did you get here? This is the bounty of the two layers of sky. Even ancient gods and saints couldn’t pass here. Don’t be daydreaming. Go back to your world before the crack is closed. Otherwise, when the crack is closed, the earth is thousands of miles. You could swim through the water but not earth. You will be doomed.”




I was about to ask something when beams of gold light from far away almost blinded me and I felt like I was going to melt. The giant slapped my back and said, “run! The sun is coming! You would be burned into asked.” I was too scared and using the push from the giant, I held my breath and flew back upwards. Now I am back”



子不语 What The Master Would Not Discuss

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