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Wednesday, 22 July, 1998, 17:07 GMT 18:07 UK
Tourists flock to Penglai fairyland
Location map
Thousands of visitors have been flocking to a town on the eastern coast of China where two mirages have been sighted in recent weeks.

Chinese newspapers say scenes of mountains, lakes and buildings have appeared in the sea near the popular resort town of Penglai.

The town has long been celebrated in Chinese literature for its mirages which meteorologists say are caused by climatic conditions - but this year's images have been unusually detailed.

Ancient attraction

Every year tens of thousands of people visit the town in the hope of catching the reflected images.

The official China Daily newspaper said word of the attraction first caused tourists to flock there as much as 1000 years ago during the Sung dynasty.

Then the city became known as 'Penglai fairyland' and, according to the China Daily, the interest in the maritime apparitions is undimmed.

Glass of beer
Beer not to blame
Mountains in the sea

The newspaper said enthusiasm was revived in late June this year when some 50,000 tourists witnessed a mirage of a mountain landscape which lasted more than an hour.

The news drew further crowds. Those who were up at dawn some 10 days later were rewarded with a sighting of a small town surrounded by hills, apparently floating on the sea.

Witnesses said blocks of buildings could be seen as well as streets filled with pedestrians and vehicles.

An official at the most popular vantage point, the Penglai Pavalion, told the BBC that the mirages were probably a result of the recent warm weather and humidity

Despite speculation that the sightings could in fact have been connected to this month's beer festival in the nearby brewery city of Qingdao, he insisted that the mirage was no illusion.

Several other areas in China are famous for the phenomenon including Mount Emei where images of Buddha have often been sighted on foggy days.

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