Eastern World Parachutes – Parasols as Parachutes

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by Pat Works

Eastern World Parachutes - Parasols as Parachutes

The history of parachutes dates back thousands of years.

As a result of its direct relationship to the ubiquitous parasol the parachute idea is exceedingly old.

This solution to slowing your fall originates from way back.

The principal of the parachute (降落伞) is to utilize atmospheric drag to decelerate a person or any object to reduce its speed of falling toward the earth so it can land on the ground safely.

A pair of parasols were acrobats' stock-in-trade for hundreds of years.  The parasol parachutes used in Siam in 1687 were the same as that employed by the golden drumstick thief of Canton five hundred years earlier, namely, a pair of parasols.

Starting around 1,400 years earlier than the Canton gold chicken heist, rigid, parasol-like parachutes were used for entertainment in China as early as the second century BCE, allowing paid acrobats to jump from high places and float to the ground.

How old is the parasol?  One early written source on the parasol is the book of Chinese ceremonies, called Zhou Li (The Rites of Zhou), dating 2400 years ago, 200 BCW. Both the figure contained in Zhou-Li, and the explanatory commentary of Lin-hi-ye, identify it a parasol.

SOURCES: Using air resistance to slow a fall emerged in ancient China. [J. Needham, L. White, S. Qian, J. Duhem, S. Zhen, Yo Ke, all tell of gold stolen from top spire of a Cantonese pagoda.  The building was a towering "cloud-piercing" Mosque with a gold statue adorning its tallest minaret.

Science and Civilisation in China: Volume 4, Physics and Physical Technology ...

 edited by Joseph Needham, 1965

Cross References: Eastern World Parachutes - Parasols as Parachutes

"Parasol" (Spanish or French) from "para" meaning to stop or to shield and "sol" meaning sun. Parasol, shield from the sun

"Parapluie" (French) para to shield and pluie rain, Parapluie, shield from the rain. Parachute means shield from falls.   伞

The idea of parachute making using air resistance to slow a fall-- We can trace this principal back to the ancient periods of China. In 90 B.C., according to the book Si Ji 《史记》(Historical Records) written by Chinese historian Si Ma Chian (司马迁) who lived during the Western Han dynasty, there was a legend which described how the emperor Shun (舜) nearly 2000 years before the Han Dynasty (4000 years past the present) use a sort of parachute to survive a fall. Shun's father Gu Sou (瞽叟) intended to kill him by forcing him to get on top of a roof and then burning him to death. Fortunately Shun held two large bamboo hats to escape from the roof and land on the ground safely. This is the principal of using bamboo hats to increase air resistance to reduce the falling speed. Then later on in 200 B.C., there were acrobats performing stunts of great falls using something similar to parachutes during their acrobatics in the palaces of the early Han Emperors. Hence the invention of the parachute was for performances to entertain one emperor in China or to escape from another (murderous) emperor.


Then in 1180 a group of sojourning expatriate Arabian businessmen in Guang Dong, China, built a local mosque. One day a thief climbed to top of the roof and stole one leg of a gold rooster. He successfully achieved his plan and jumped from the roof, landing on the ground holding tightly to two umbrellas.

There are also historical accounts from 1308 indicating that again the acrobatics of the parachute activities appeared in the palace of the Yuan Emperor. In 1650 the parachute was being used in Siam (modern Thailand).

The appreciation of using air resistance to slow a fall progressed faster-earlier in the East than the West by 2000 years.

Chinese scientific technology and clearly transfers their accrued learning and discoveries which occurred in East Asia throughout these 400 centuries to us in Europe and the West.

Dr. Jules Duhem convincingly connects  the first parachute jump made in the West by the French scholar Lenormand 1783 to the account of the Mosque robber who circumvented intense security The thief later confessed how he had escaped the heavy security ‘I descended by holding on to two parasols.  After I jumped into the air the wind made them like wings for me so I reached the ground without injury. [it all means that the idea was current in china]

Louis-Sebastien Lenormand successfully landing on the ground from a high tower top using a parasol as a parachute.

He named his object, which Chinese had been using for more than a thousand years, a parachute. After Lenormand, there came more adventurists who tried to challenge gravity with parachuting activity from greater heights using such means as hot air balloons and airplanes for their jumps.

But Shun escaped to safety attaching a number of large conical straw hats together and jumping down.

“ ‘  ‘’ Commentator Sima Zhen understood this clearly in the connotation of the parachute principle, Sima Zhen saying that "the hats acted like the great wings of a bird to make his body light and bring him safely down to the ground."

A later reference in the Ting Shi Lacquer Table History by Yo Ke AD 1214, The grandson of general Yo Fei witnessed (w/ a community of Arabs settled in Canton when hi…. Tells golden cock at pagoda top, lon-legged (Stolen. The thief confessed how he had sawn it off and escaped heavy security ‘I descended by holding on to two umbrellas.  After I jumped into the air the high wind made them like wings for me so I reached the ground without injury. [it all means that the idea was current in china

Arabian businessmen had built community mosques one of which had a towering grey “cloud-piercing minaret resembling a pointed silver pen.” Inside this there was a winding spiral staircase for the muezzin, with round look-out openings every several tens of steps, from which the Arabs watched and prayed for their ships arriving in the spring. Yo Kho goes on: Adorning its peak stood a gargantuan golden cock now short of one leg.

A thief climbed to the rooftop and stole a leg. The cunning thief cut off a gold drumstick  then escaped by parachute. The bandit tried to sell his gold treasure in the Guang Dong market place. This was not a clever move.  Captured and interrogated, the robber gave details as to how he had hidden in the pagoda until full night, gained access to the roof and the chicken, sawn off a drumstick, all he might carry, and “flew the coop” so to speak. 

Shun was a legendary leader in ancient China and was considered among the Three Sovereigns and the Five Emperors. It is said that he lived during the 23rd to 22nd century BC and his half-century rule was among the longest in Chinese history. Born Yao Chonghua, Shun was said to be a descendant of the Emperor Zhuanxu and his birthplace was said to be Yaoxu. Legend has it that Shun had two pupils in both eyes.

Shun's mother died when he was a young boy. His father remarried as a result and had a son named Xiang with his new wife. Shun had to work from a young age to support his family. Meanwhile, his father was a stubborn old man who doted on his new wife and younger son, blaming Shun on all bad things that happen. The new wife and Xiang hated Shun and tried to kill him on several occasions. However, Shun nonetheless treated his family with great respect and by the time Shun was twenty, he was famous for his kindness and loyalty to his family despite the way he was treated.

When Shun turned thirty, Emperor Yao, ruler at the time, was growing old and was determined in looking for a suitable successor and many of his advisers recommended Shun. After meeting Shun, Emperor Yao was extremely satisfied with him and not only gave him a small district to govern, but also married his two daughters to him. However, despite his newly gained title and wealth, Shun still lived a humble life.

His stepmother and brother were extremely jealous and for more than one occasion plotted for Shun's death. One time, for example, Xiang set fire to a barn and convinced Shun to climb onto the roof to put out the fire. While Shun was on the roof, Xiang took away the ladder, thus trapping Shun on the burning roof. Shun however, using his intelligence and skills, made a parachute out of his hat and clothes and escaped from the roof. Another time, Xiang and his mother planned to get Shun drunk and bury him alive in a dried up well. Shun's kind stepsister, however, found out about the plan and thus told Shun's wives about it, allowing Shun to make preparations. While pretending that he was drunk, Shun was thrown into the well. But, since he had pre-dug a tunnel for escape, Shun managed to survive once again. Eventually, Xiang and his mother were ashamed of what they have done and wanted to repent for their wrongdoings. Shun forgave them both whole-heartedly.


In the Shi Ji {Shih Chi] (Historical Records completed by 90 BC,  Sima Qian was a Chinese historian of the Han dynasty. He is considered the father of Chinese historiography for his work, the Records of the Grand Historian

Born: 139 BC, Hancheng, China; Died: 86 BC

Sima Qian, Wade-Giles (born c. 145 bce, Longmen, Xiayang [now Hancheng, Shaanxi province], China—died c. 87 bce), astronomer, calendar expert, and the first great Chinese historian. He is most noted for his authorship of the Shiji (“Historical Records”), which is considered to be the most important history of China.  Shiji (“Historical Records”)

SHUN-- Gu Sou, china; Shun or Di Shun (帝舜) and also known as Chonghua (重華) was a 23rd -22nd century BC legendary leader of ancient China.