The possibility of life on other planets is one that people have been puzzling over for centuries. In Delingha, the third largest city in Northwest China's Qinghai Province there is an area called "Alien Ruins" that attracts many explorers in search of extra-terrestrial signs of life, on Earth.
Alien Ruins is located near Tuosu Lake, a salty body of water that is part of the twin "sweetheart lakes" on Bayinnuowa Mountain, about 40 kilometers from the center of Delingha. On the south bank of the lake stands several pyramid-like mountains at the edge of the Gobi desert, each 50 to 60 meters high with yellow-gray sides. There is a grotto in the shape of a triangle on the side of one of the pyramid-mountains that is the Alien Ruins.
Bai Yu, an archeologist from Qinghai, said that he was astonished by what he saw when he first visited the area in 1996. "There are no signs of life at all in the wide lake and the sharp mountains are also lifeless, as if they have experienced a massive fire. It seems that the scenery here did not originate from Earth, but from other planets in outer space."
According to a local guide, the most mysterious thing is a pipe-like object with a diameter of 40 centimeters slanting up from the bottom of the grotto. It appears that the pipe was inserted into the rock directly and there are 10 more pipes of different shapes penetrating the mountain with some extending all the way into the lake. All of the pipes are rust-brown red in color.
When a local laboratory tested the iron-like pipes, it found that they contained a large amount of ferric oxide, silicon dioxide and calcium oxide. Even more unusual, 8 percent of the elements found in the sample were unknown and could not be located on the periodic table of elements.
"This adds to the mysterious color of the pipes. Due to the poor natural conditions and low population of the region, there are few inhabitants except for nomadic herdsman living in this area, let alone any industrial development. Therefore old iron-like pipes are unlikely to have come from here," said Pan Liqing, director of Delingha Tourism Administration.
"But where did they come from and how were they made? Since some elements are still unknown and some mysteries remain unsolved, we call the site the Ruin of the Alien," Pan added.
The unknown elements combined with the unique topography of the area has become the subject of intense rumor, speculation and questioning. Some people have guessed that the site contains the relics of an alien launching station.
"It is also an ideal place to conduct scientific research. There are many domestic and foreign experts who come here to make astronomical observations. With the comparatively thinner air and clear sky, the area is considered one of the most ideal astronomical observation points in Asia," Pan explained.
On the banks of Tuosu Lake are many piles of rocks. "That's the tradition of local people. Every time visitors come, they will leave a mark by piling up stones to show that they have been here," said La Guohao, a publicity officer from Delingha.
On the way to the ruins, visitors pass through a primitive area typical of western China, including the Gobi desert dotted with camel thorns, prairies with grazing sheep and yak and a unique topography called Ya Dan, or wind-eroded.
Despite its attraction, Alien Ruins is not well known as Delingha is a military base. It is not open to foreign visitors except those with a permit.
The road to the ruins is bumpy, with the local government not likely to improve it. "The current road is uncomfortable, but it is ideal for self-drive and motorcycle travelers who want to escape the hustle and bustle of city life and who are our target customers," Pan said.
Surrounding scenic spots of the Alien Ruins Sweetheart Lakes
Crook Lake and Tuosu Lake are the famous twin lakes of the area. One lake is freshwater and the other is saltwater. They are also called the Sweetheart Lakes.
Located on the Huaitoutala Prairie, 50 kilometers from Delingha, the Sweetheart Lakes present completely different characteristics. Crook Lake is rich in lush water plants and biology whereas Tuosu Lake is quiet and lifeless.
Baishu Mountain Scenic Area
Just 10 kilometers from Delingha and located at the western end of Bayin River and the eastern end of 315 National Highway, Baishu Mountain boasts a breathtaking waterfall and knife-edge cliff.
The mountain is covered with Cypress trees and green vegetation, including the ancient Qinghai spruce that has a history of 400 to 500 years and enjoys the same fame as the Gingko as a living fossil.
The highest point of the mountain has an elevation of 4,000 meters, allowing a bird