By P. H. Hase
Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society Hong Kong Branch, vol.28 (1988)
Introduction: The Mongol armies which invaded Eastern Europe in the thirteenth century used hot air balloons shaped like dragons and held on long lines for signalling purposes. The invention of this method of signalling may have taken place a thousand years before, in China. At the present day, villagers in the New Territories consider Chuko Liang (Kung Ming), of the Three Kingdoms period (220-265), was the inventor of this clever method of signalling at night: they believe that Chuko Liang used captive hot air ballons to signal at night, to keep armies on the march at night in broken country together, and to facilitate by casting light on the ground intelligence gathering on night movements of enemy troops. Hot air balloons are, in consequence, known as the “lanterns of Chuko Liang”.