We're all familiar with the concept of modern technology having ancient Chinese analogues. But a 2002 discovery in remote Qinghai province is anachronistic enough to constitute an "OOPart". Out-of-place-artifacts are so unusual, or found in such improbable contexts, that mainstream science has no plausible explanation for them.
The crystal skulls of Mexico referenced in the latest Indiana Jones movie, the iron pillar of Delhi, and the ancient Greek Antikythera mechanism are examples of OOPart yet to be explained. Like these, the pipes of Qinghai's Mount Baigong suggest a level of technology simply inconceivable for the apparent era of their manufacture. Those open-minded enough to think "extraterrestrial" when searching for a theory, while often dismissed out-of-hand, have like-minded souls in some of the Chinese scientists investigating.
Locals, residing forty kilometers southeast of Qinghai's Delingha city, have known of the pipes for centuries. They credit aliens for their construction, and even have legends of extraterrestrial visitors to Mt. Baigong. Although the stories are met with predictable skepticism, they become harder to laugh off when one takes in the sixty-meter pyramid near the mountain's summit. Superficially, the pyramid could be shrugged off as having been shaped by natural forces. For some reason, however, the structure has not been conclusively studied, at least officially.
Near the foot of Mt. Baigong lie three caves, the largest and most accessible some eight meters high by six meters deep. Inside, spanning from the roof to the back end of the cave, runs a pipe 40 cm in diameter. Another one roughly the same size runs into the earth from the floor, with just the top protruding.
A piece of Baigong pipe
The pipes, according to tests carried out at a local smeltery, are made chiefly of iron, but with an unusual thirty percent silicon dioxide in their matrix. They are also centuries old, if Xinhua and its source, Liu Shaolin, the engineer who carried out preliminary tests, are to be believed. Strange, but easily written off as a bizarre metallurgical operation by some nomads with too much time on their hands, assuming geological origins of the eerily symmetrical pyramid.
However, dozens of pipe openings have been discovered in the mountains far above the caves. Now these nomads must be credited with some advanced system of drilling since forgotten, as there is no modern industry in the area nor record of such. Not far from the foot of Baigong sits Toson Lake, on whose beach run many more iron pipes in unlikely patterns and in a variety of diameters, toothpick-sized at the thinnest. More pipes are in the lake, some protruding above the water surface, others buried beneath the lake's bed.
Although nine Chinese scientists were reportedly dispatched to make a detailed analysis of the pipes in 2002, there has been no further information. This hasn't prevented local government from promoting the site as a tourist attraction. A CCTV crew went to Mt. Baigong soon after, accompanied by researchers from the Beijing UFO Research Association, but no record or footage of the expedition has come to our attention. If this is because such documentation would be widely laughed off, then they would at the expense of Yang Ji, a research fellow of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences who told Xinhua that the extraterrestrial theory was "understandable and worth looking into".
Then again, plain old terrestrial science has many mysteries left to be fully explained. Similar pipe-like structures have been found in the Jurassic sandstone of the Southwestern United States, as well as in Citronelle formations in Louisiana. No pyramids have been found close on, and researchers have concluded that they were formed through natural processes. But similar conclusions from scientists studying the Baigong pipes have yet to be announced, six years later.