Posted by: John Kirk on February 21st, 2006
Imagine you live in one of the most beautiful nature reserves in all of your country. It is an idyllic oasis in the midst of a country marching towards mass-market industrialization that is leaving the rest of the world behind. Imagine that because you live there, the local authorities decide to make you a tourist attraction and suddenly your habitat is run over by garment factory labourers from Shenzhen (read Los Angeles), foundry workers from Fujian (Detroit) and electronics assemblers from Shanghai (San Jose).
This is the plight of the Yeren or “Chinese Wild Man” as he is known. The Yeren has been around since time immemorial. He appears in ancient Chinese literature, medicinal manuals and books on the flora and fauna of several Chinese regions. He has been the object of intensive searches by Chinese scientists and scholars employing hundreds of searchers including elements of the People’s Liberation Army and local party members.
I was born in Hong Kong, the former British colony, on the underbelly of southern China. I grew up with the Yeren occasionally popping up in my consciousness. Yeren often fought with master swordsmen in low-budget Cantonese movies and you would see them in comics, books and be called one by some old lady whose toes you happened to accidentally step on in the street. I was also called a Yeren when I had long hair as that is what all Chinese seem to remember best aboutthis creature.
A number of years ago I became aware of Dr Zhou Guoxing, a key figure with Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing. I had read of Dr Zhou through the ISC newsletter and also in Paul Dong’s book The Four Great Mysteries of China. Dr Zhou was the kind of guy I wanted to meet. He was an acclaimed scientist and yet he had a passion for investigating an animal that western academics wouldn’t touch wit a ten-foot pole. You see, Dr Zhou was willing to study the accounts of witnesses, interview them and then mull over what he had read and heard so as to form a conclusion on what line of action to take in regard to this great Chinese mystery.
Dr Zhou was sufficiently impressed by the observations of witnesses to begin a study of the Yeren phenomena which has lasted fro well over 20 years. I had the great pleasure of having Dr Zhou contact me while he was visiting Canada a few years ago and we met up and very quickly built up a good rapport while conversing in Mandarin, Cantonese and English. After all those years of searching, Dr Zhou. has concluded that the Yeren is not from the family of man, but is probably from the pongid branch of things. He does not think that they are human despite what other Chinese researchers have asserted after conducting their own field investigations. Dr Zhou sees little evidence that they are hominid and has now turned his attention to cultural anthropology in China.
I am uncertain what the Yeren is. Is it a hominid, a misidentified macaque, some new form of pongid or relict Neanderthal? I don’t know. From what I have read of them and the photos of tracks I have examined, they do appear to be more hominid in aspect than pongid. I am pleased to know that despite Dr Zhou’s retirement from the Yeren field there are plenty of other investigators willing to travel to the Shennongjia Nature Reserve in Hubei Province to carry out extensive field research.
The Yeren’s popularity has been so great that scores of visitors invade the park every year leaving the reserve in a state of disarray. As you have read here in Cryptomundo, the reserve has now had to be closed to allow the reserve to regenerate for three months. The people who run the park are now looking at proposals to improve the reserve and this includes building a local airport for tourists.
The airport is a bad idea as is the idea that people should be allowed to trample all over the park willy-nilly in search of the Yeren. They ought to adopt the system employed by the government of Nepal when issuing permits to limited numbers of people who wish to climb Mt. Everest. Only accredited researchers and investigators with the necessary permits should be allowed free rein in the reserve while lookie-loos and the merely curious should be kept out of areas that are considered Yeren habitat.
I note that at least one Yeren has already been shot and killed by local party officials who did not have the presence of mind to preserve the corpse and it bothers me greatly that some tourist might well do the same thing. The serious searchers have always adopted a live and let live mentality and I am hoping the park management sees sense and curtails the activities of tourist who serve no purpose other than to boost park visitor attendance numbers.
While the park ponders what to do, I am happy that the Yeren is now going to have a three month vacation from having to stay concealed and will be able to do a little more free roaming of his splendid verdant habitat.