Twenty years ago, the Chinese government suspended a scientific investigation into their legendary ‘Yeren’ – the Chinese version of Bigfoot in the Shennongjia nature reserve in Hubei province. They have now decided to re-open the investigation following regular reports of sightings over the past few years.
Earlier this year it was reported that Ding Fei, 33, found mysterious thick curly hairs with transparent roots on July 9 at a location called Swallow Hole on a local mountain.
After Ding reported his discovery to the neighborhood committee, some professional researchers found additional hairs and a 30-centimeter-long footprint at the same place on July 11.
According to their research, the hair isn’t human or livestock, but the possibility of bears could not be ruled out.
The Shennongjia nature reserve is located in the mountainous northwest of Hubei. The reserve itself is a 3,250 sq km expanse of deep forest. The area is rife with stories of weird creatures and happenings.
One old peasant can recount tracking a tribe of Yeren through Shennongjia with National Chinese soldiers. They shot and killed one, a two meter hominid covered in reddish brown fur, but the specimen was lost in the chaos of the civil war.
Another farmer who will tell anyone willing to listen of the time back in 1986, when he encountered three giant toads in a mountain pool. They opened their meter-wide maws to croak at him, and spouted jets of bile towards him.
But it is the Yeren whose historical precedent which makes a compelling case. The myths and legends of these creatures stretches back a lot further than that of the Loch Ness Monster.
Statesman Qu Yuan, living almost two thousand years ago, wrote verses that referred to the ‘mountain ghosts’ of the Hubei Mountains.
The Shan Hai Classic, a famous book on ancient Chinese geography, also has records of a “bushy human.” An Outline Treatise of Medical Herbs (Ben Cao Gang Mu) written during the Ming dynasty and Annals of Fang Country from the Qing dynasty both have similar records.
Tang dynasty historian Li Yanshou recorded that the forests of Hubei were home to tribes of hairy wild men.
A Ming dynasty physician named Li Shizen wrote of the ‘man-bears’ in Chu (an old name for Hubei), whom villagers would trap and kill in order to eat their palms.
At least three scientific expeditions in Shennongjia have searched for hard evidence. Aside from a hair that matched neither humans or known animals, little has emerged.
In 1976-77, the government sponsored a Bigfoot expedition to Shennongjia consisting of 100 people, including army personnel.
That trip and others yielded numerous samples of hair, footprints and feces of an undiscovered species, possibly descended from a giant ape (Gigantopithecus Blacki) whose fossilized teeth can still be found in the region. This ape was supposed to have gone extinct 500 000 years ago.
In 2007, strange footprints were also discovered in the area. Two witnesses, a local resident Wang and his friend Zhang from Xiangfan, Hubei Province were found by a research team.
They recalled their encounter with the two mysterious creatures on the morning of November 18, 2007. Zhang, along with his guide Wang and other friends, was driving along the Licha River, heading for Laojun Mountain. They were approaching a sharp curve in the mountain road when they spotted two giant, dark figures standing behind a tangled mass of shrubbery some 50 meters away from their car.
According to the witnesses, the two “wild men” were skinny and covered with black hair. The taller one was about 1.7 meters high and the other one was approximately 1.3 to 1.4 meters. Both were quite agile because they quickly fled into the dense forest as soon as they saw the car.
The Yeren has also infiltrated local traditions. Medicinal herb farmers wear two bamboo tubes on their wrists when they go into the forest to collect herbs. It was said that the bamboo tubes could help them to escape the wrist-grabbing savages.
Zhu Houlun, the head of Shennongjia Forested Area government, said in a press conference on April 13, 2010 that the legend of Shennongjia savage is well-documented, but a clear picture is needed to prove it.
He said that government teams have concluded that the Shennongjia Yeren is a species of senior primate that falls in between apes and human beings. They are also recognised by the government as a ‘minority people’.
Let us hope that the new expedition will reveal once and for all what lurks in the forests of the mysterious Shennongjia.