The Yeren is a bipedal humanoid from the folklore of China.
Chinese folklore says the Yeren lives in the remote forested mountains of the Shennongjia Forestry District, northwestern Hubei province, central China. Shennongjia includes more than 3,200 square kilometers of montane forest at an elevation of about 6, 560-6, 900 feet (2,000-2,100 meters).
Yeren reportedly means savage or wild man in Chinese Mandarin. Some call the creature snowman (Mandarin: Xue-ren; Cantonese: Suet-juen), suggesting it is the Chinese version of the Tibetan Yeti (Mysterious Creatures: Eberhart, 2002).
Chinese folklore described Yerens as hirsute (hairy) savages living in the forests of Shennongjia (Smith, 2021). Cryptozoologists often compare them to the Bigfoot (Sasquatch) of American folklore or the Yeti from the Himalayas.
The Yeren is a hairy but human-like creature
Alleged eyewitnesses described the Yeren as a tall, agile, and powerfully built human- or ape-like creature. Groups of Yerens lived in caves on the slopes of the forested mountainous regions of Shennongjia.
According to legends, the creatures used to conduct regular raids on nearby villages, pillaging, plundering, kidnapping, and killing like the Vikings of the European Middle Ages.
The Yeren walks like humans
Various alleged eyewitness accounts claimed the Yeren walked upright like a human and stood about 2-2.5 meters tall (6.5-8.2 feet tall). On multiple occasions, it left large human-like footprints.
In 2008, Yuan Yuhao, a park ranger at the Shennongjia National Nature Reserve, told investigators from Beijing that the Yeren had reddish brown hair and stood about 2.3 meters. A cast of the footprint provided by Yuhao measured about 38 cm in length, 16.5 cm in width at the front, and 10 cm at the heel (Meldrum and Guoxing (2012).
According to Meldrum and Guoxing (2012), the cast suggested human-like plantigrade locomotion (walking with toes, soles, and heels supporting the weight). It had five human-like toes (pentadactyl) without claws at the end.
The Yeren is an ominvore
A previous expedition that Professor Zhou Guoxing of the Beijing Museum of Natural History led in 1977 gathered alleged eyewitness reports. According to the eyewitnesses, female Yerens have human-like mammary glands. The creatures are nocturnal and frequently make yelling calls.
Yerens live on an omnivorous diet of fruits, vegetables, and small animals. Alleged eyewitnesses and researchers found no evidence of tool-making making or technological culture.
Meldrum and Guoxing (2012) concluded that the footprint casts indicated the existence of bipedal primates unknown to science. They said the footprints resembled the North American Bigfoot or Sasquatch (Anthropoidipes ameriborealis).
Five officials of the Shennongjia Regional Forestry Committee who claimed to have had a close encounter with the creature in 1976 also said it had reddish brown hair, yellowish-brown, greyish, or black hair (Zhou 1982). But the palms and soles of the feet were bare.
The creature also had a prominent nose, a bare face, and a flat human-like face.
Sightings and Tales
The legend of the Yeren allegedly dates back to the latter part of the 1st millennium BCE. Reports of sightings of wild or savage men in the forests date back to the period of disintegration of central authority during the so-called Warring States Period (475 to 221 BCE).
The modern-day version of the Yeren legend reportedly originated in Chinese folklore from the Tang dynasty (618 to 907 CE).
Most of the alleged sightings of the Yeren come from the Shennongjia forest region. Thus, cryptozoologists consider it native to the forests of central China.
Reports of the cryptid, footprints, and hair samples form an extensive body of Yeren lore (Smith, 2021).
Yeren records go back to the 1500s
The first mention of the Yeren in Chinese records was in 1555.
During the Qing dynasty (1644–1912), Fangxianzhi, a publication from Fangxian (Fang County), reported that a small group of Yerens lived in caves in the mountains north of Shennongjia.
They allegedly killed livestock (chickens) and pets (dogs).
Yeren Fever of the 1970s
The communist regime of the Maoist era attempted to suppress public interest in the Yeren and other cryptid folklore. They discouraged cryptozoological studies in China.
But interest in cryptids rebounded after the end of the Maoist era in the mid-1970s. Chinese cryptozoologists began researching the Yeren and other cryptids supposedly native to China. The Chinese Academy of Sciences also promoted research on Yeren in the 1970s.
Public interest reflected the broader worldwide fascination in the 20th century with alleged apemen ancestors of modern humans (Homo sapiens).
Sightings in the late 1900s
In an era when hoaxes, such as the Minnesota iceman, captivated attention in the Western hemisphere, and the “Hibagon fever” raged in Japan, China also experienced a Yeren fever.
The frequency of reported sightings increased in the late 1900s. There were more than 300 reports by 1984 and more than 400 by 2018 (Smith, 2021).
A group known as the China Wildman Research Society, supported by one of China’s top palaeoanthropologists, Jia Lanpo, offered a reward of 5000 yuan for a dead Yeren and 10,000 yuan for a live one.
In 1994, the Strange and Rare Animals Exploration and Investigation Committee started inquiries that helped increase public awareness of the Yeren myth.
Chinese researchers published many papers alleging evidence of the creature (Meldrum and Guoxing, 2012).
The government sponsored Yeren expeditions
Meldrum and Guoxing (2012) reported that the Chinese government also took an active interest in the Yeren question. The government supported a scientific expedition to the Hubei Province in central China to investigate local claims about the elusive creature.
In 1977, Professor Zhou Guoxing led a team of about 100 members to the Shennongjia Forestry District. The expedition, sponsored by the Chinese Academy of Science, included representatives of the Beijing Natural History Museum and the Chinese Red Army.
They interviewed local people and collected alleged evidence of the creature, including footprints, hair, and scat (fecal droppings) samples.
But they didn’t find evidence of the legendary creature.
Regional Forestry Committee members sighted a Yeren in 1976
Another sighting in 1976 involved five (six, according to other sources) employees or officials of the Shennongjia Regional Forestry Committee. The officials reported coming within a few meters of the creature and thus had a closeup view of it.
They claimed they nearly ran over a hairy creature while driving from a meeting.
In the 1980s, a villager reported sighting a Yeren while collecting herbs near the forest. She said it was about 7 feet tall, had reddish fur, and had long arms that swung when it walked.
In 2007, a group of tourists claimed they saw two Yerens hiding behind a bush (Smith, 2021).
Yuan Yuhao testimony, 2008
In 2008, a research expedition led by Professor Zhou Guoxing and Jeff Meldrum of the Department of Biological Sciences, Idaho State University, visited the Shennongjia National Nature Reserve region to collect fresh evidence.
The team interviewed Yuan Yuhao, a park ranger, who said that in 1995, he saw the Yeren in the nature reserve. The alleged incident occurred while Yuhao was on patrol. He was climbing a slope at an elevation of about 2100 meters (approximately 7000 feet) when he looked into his binoculars and spotted the creature from a distance of about 547 yards.
The Yeren was reclining on the ground in a sedge meadow at the edge of a fir forest. It appeared to be warming in the sun on the side of a mountain slope. Yuhao probably thought it was a human clothed in fur because he called out to catch its attention.
The creature gazed in his direction before rising and walking hurriedly on two feet into the forest. Yuhao followed the creature until he lost sight of it. But he noticed it left footprints in the ground over several meters. He cast a pair of footprints.
Zhang Jiahong, 2005
During Guoxing and Meldrum’s 2008 expedition to central China’s Hubei province, they interviewed a local farmer, Zhang Jiahong, a resident of Mu Yu village.
Jiahong claimed that on September 15, 2005, while collecting medicinal herbs in the forest, he encountered two humanoid creatures at a distance of about 15 meters. He observed them feeding on vegetation. They were bipedal hominids standing about 2 meters high.
He watched the pair for some time but finally alerting them by coughing involuntarily. When the creatures noticed his presence, they retreated into the forest leisurely, walking upright.
Scientific researchers are generally skeptical of claims about the Yeren. Professor Zhou Guoxing, one of the earliest proponents of the creature in the 1970s, now reportedly believes (Smith, 2021) that failure to produce a specimen after several years raised questions.
Skeptics have proposed the following possible explanations for Yeren sightings:
Prehistoric species theory
Despite speculation that the Yeren could be a “missing link,” many cryptozoologists believe that if it exists, it would likely be only a distant relative of the genus Homo, such as ancient members of the genera Gigantopithecus or Paranthropus.
Paleontologists believe that a species of Gigantopithecus (Gigantopithecus blacki) and orangutans lived in Southern China and northern Vietnam during the Middle Pleistocene.
The creatures went extinct about 100,000 years ago. However, some cryptozoologists believe the Yeren could be a population of ancient orangutans and Gigantopithecus that survived until modern times.
According to Meldrum and Guoxing (2012), when they tested witness Yuhao with an identification kit that included photographs and sketches of great apes, sasquatch, bears, and hominins (tribe Hominini). He chose the one resembling a hominin.
[Note: Hominins are human-like primates, including the human genus Homo and closest relatives such as Australopithecus, Paranthropus, Kenyanthropus, and Ardipithecus.]
Known species theory
Some skeptics believe eyewitnesses may have mistaken creatures such as bears, monkeys, and gibbons for a cryptid.
Hairy European theory
According to Smith (2021), many rural Chinese are unfamiliar with European men (Caucasians). Chinese men don’t have as much hair as European men. European men also have hair colors, such as red, ginger, and blond hair, that are strange to Chinese people.
European men are also much taller than average Chinese males.
Some skeptics have suggested that Chinese people viewing Caucasian males from a distance might have mistaken their bearded and hairy appearance for a cryptid.
Frank E. Poirier, a Yeren investigator, reported that during his visits to rural communities in China, children fled when they saw him because of his heavy beard and height. They told him he looked like a Yeren.
Grover Krantz, another bearded European over six feet tall, recalled that while traveling in Guangxi in 1995, locals constantly teased him, saying he looked like a Yeren.
|Other Name/s||Mao-Ren, Suet-juen (Cantonese), Xue-ren (Mandarin)|
Where to find
Mysterious Creatures: A Guide to Cryptozoology, George M. Eberhart (2002).
https://www.isu.edu/media/libraries/rhi/brief-communications/Footprint-Evidence-of-Chinese-Yeren.pdf, “Footprint evidence of the Chinese Yeren,” accessed on April 4,2023.
https://sino-platonic.org/complete/spp309_chinese_wildman.pdf, “The Wildman of China: The Search for the Yeren,” accessed on April 4,2023.
https://www.isu.edu/media/libraries/rhi/research-papers/Zhou__Tracking-the-Chinese-Wildman.pdf, “Fifty years of tracking the Chinese wildman,” accessed on April 4,2023.
https://www.nytimes.com/1984/06/05/science/on-the-trail-of-the-wild-man-of-china.html, “On the trail of the wildman of China,” accessed on April 4,2023.
https://www.sasquatchcanada.com/uploads/9/4/5/1/945132/meldrum_paper_-_ichnotaxonomy.pdf, “Ichnotaxonomy of giant hominid tracks in North Amerca,” accessed on April 4,2023.
https://www.scmp.com/podcasts/article/2169076/podcast-search-yeren-chinese-bigfoot-inside-china, “Inside China: In search of the Yeren, the Chinese Bigfoot,” accessed on April 4,2023.
Featured Image: The Yeren is an alleged bipedal primate from China. Pic credit: Pixabay