A team of researchers will take an expedition to the Shennongjia forest of China’s central Hubei province, a forbidding 1,000 square mile reserve of high mountains and deep forests, to find evidence of the “Wild Man”.
For centuries, the villagers around the Shennongjia reserve have believed that the “Wild Man”, or Yeren, lives among them.
Standing just under seven feet tall (2.15 metres) and covered in dark grey hair, this Chinese incarnation of Bigfoot or the yeti has been spotted hundreds of times, the Age reported.
Size 12 primate-like footprints have been documented in the area, and long thick strands of hair have been tested by scientists, who concluded that they did not belong to any of the known creatures inside the reserve.
But no one has ever proven its existence.
This weekend, the team of 38 researchers drawn from several Chinese universities and research institutes will fan out across the Shennongjia reserve on an expedition to catalogue the region’s unique ecosystem.
Their trip will continue throughout August, and the researchers will collect data on some 1000 different types of animals that live in Shennongjia, including the golden snub-nosed monkey and a white-furred bear that is found only in the reserve.
If the researchers manage to uncover concrete evidence of the Wild Man, they will have succeeded where two previous major expeditions – one from 1974 to 1981 and one in 2010 – failed.
“I simply want to put an end to the argument that it exists,” said Wang Shancai, of the Hubei Relics and Archaeology Institute, when he set out in 2010.
In 2005, Zhang Jiahong, a shepherd in Muyu, near the forest, told state media he had seen two of the creatures, with “hairy faces, eyes like black holes, prominent noses and dishevelled hair, with faces that resembled both a man’s and a monkey’s”.
Another explorer, Zhang Jinxing, spent years living as a hermit in the Shennongjia forest, and said he had seen footprints on 19 separate occasions, without ever finding the beast.
However, Zhou Guoxing, a former director of the Beijing Museum of Natural History and a paleontologist, has cast doubt on the idea that there may be a Chinese Bigfoot.
“There is no Wild Man in this world. I’ve visited every place where the Wild Man was reported in China. I’ve studied everything related to the Wild Man including hair, skulls and specimens. All of them are dyed human hair or come from monkeys and bears,” he said earlier this year.
He added that the local government in Hubei was simply trying to drum up tourist revenue.