Dirigible in China in 1306?

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Dirigible in China in 1306?

Postby Tone » Mon Oct 13, 2014 2:58 am

Can anybody tell me about this? I have been searching for information on a "dirigible" that flew in China in 1306. Two books I have, Minute Epic of Flight (Winter & Degner, Grosset & Dunlap, 1933) and The Complete Book of Airships-Dirigibles, Blimps & Hot Air Balloons (Don Dwiggins, Tab Books, 1980) show similar line drawings of this purported craft. I find it intriguing but it's so obscure I have been able to find little else. When I searched for "Fo Kien 1306 coronation" rather than "old Chinese balloon" I found there are some old aviation books scanned at books.google.com that indicate a French missionary named Vassou (or Vasson?) discovered a reference to this "dirigible" (or tethered balloon?) in 1694, centuries later.

Image

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The reason this topic interests me so much is that, while historians usually attribute the invention of the dirigible balloon, inflated with hydrogen gas, to the French general Meusnier in 1784, "kongming lanterns" or small hot air balloons were used in China centuries earlier, and might have been the inspiration for the story.
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Re: Dirigible in China in 1306?

Postby MichaelB » Mon Oct 13, 2014 5:02 pm

News to me.
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Re: Dirigible in China in 1306?

Postby Tone » Sun Oct 26, 2014 3:37 am

I might have the source!

A detailed description and drawings of this flying machine supposedly have appeared in the following book:

The World in the Air by Francis T. Miller published in 1930. Have any of you read this book?
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Dirigible in China in 1306?

Postby Tone » Thu Dec 10, 2015 3:38 am

I have since noted even earlier sources. They date to the mid nineteenth century. One in particular, "Astra Castra, Experiments and Adventures in the Atmosphere," by Christopher Hatton Turnor, refers to several second-and third-hand sources. This book has the detailed description of the aircraft as well as the second of the two line drawings I posted, above.

Turnor wrote that Delaville Dedreux, in "La navigation aerienne en Chine, relation d'un voyage accompli en 1860, entre Font-cheon et Nant-chang" (1863), mentioned that an earlier source, Amedee de Bast's "Merveilles du genie de l'homme" stated Father Vassou (sometimes spelled "Vasson"), a missionary in Canton, in a letter dated September 15, 1694, mentioned a balloon that ascended on coronation of Emperor Fo-kien in 1306.

Unless somebody can actually find the original source, this all looks like "He said, she said," or a rumor that gets repeated. I recently read an excellent book called "Abominable Science" by Loxton and Prothero that traced the histories of mysterious animals (such as the Loch Ness monster) in such a manner.
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Dirigible in China in 1306 - Fictional!

Postby Tone » Mon Jun 20, 2016 2:58 am

Tonight I discovered that in 2014 an auction house called Quaritch auctioned off a print of this airship. The French book is considered rare, and it is a work of fiction. Also, Jules Mareschal is the author.

http://www.quaritch.com/wp-content/uplo ... tch071.pdf
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Re: Dirigible in China in 1306?

Postby dsamuels » Mon Jun 20, 2016 2:43 pm

Also see Bernie Snyders 'earliest flying boat':

Aerial Ship by Francisco da Lana, 1670
viewtopic.php?f=3&t=1525

Yes, 360 years later, but still pretty old.

- Danny
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