WORMWOOD FILES: "A Yearning For the Yeren"

By Dr. Abner Mality

Greetings once more, para-nauts and crypto-fans. This time around my search for the strange takes me deep into the remote Chinese wilderness, in quest of the mysterious man-beast known as the Yeren. The literal translation of that word is "wild-man". Many people call the Yeren the Chinese version of Bigfoot, but that is not quite correct. We will clear up the differences a little later on. First, we need to note that scientific study of the Yeren is much more widespread and serious than for any other hairy hominid. The local people in the Yeren's territory are very familiar with its habits and consider it much the same way they would a panda bear, a wolf or other wild creature. This is similar to how inhabitants of Mongolia and Central Russia would see the alma, their own "wild man" variant.

Before we go further, I want to talk about something that really, REALLY ticks me off. That's the way the mainstream media portrays every hominid as "Bigfoot". In their sloppy and ill-informed world, Bigfoot, Yeti, alma, Yeren, orang-pendek and every other crypto-hominid are identical: they are all called Bigfoot. THIS IS RIDICULOUS! All of these creatures are very different. The orang-pendek is a lithe, small creature like a graceful, red-haired dwarf that inhabits the hot jungles of Sumatra and Borneo. The alma is the most human, sometimes even wearing clothes, and seems much more like a Neanderthal man than a shambling ape-like beast. The Yeti is the most primitive and ape-like while Bigfoot is possibly the most massive. The subject of our article here, the Yeren, is not quite as big as a Yeti or a Bigfoot and it also has a forehead that slopes up and a bulbous nose, neither of which are reported in Bigfoot/Yeti reports. It might be fruitless to expect the media to report differences correctly, but there's no reason for Wormwood Files readers to be so ignorant!

Rant over!

Now back to the Yeren. There have been reportings of hairy man-like beasts from all over China for centuries, but most sightings have been concentrated in Hubei Provence and the Shennongjia Mountains area. 2000 years ago, the poet Qu Yuan spoke of "mountain ogres" living in caves that would raid local farms of chickens and pigs. You can also see occasional pictures of Yeren in ancient Chinese manuscripts.

We will mostly focus on reports made within tthe last 100 years. In 1940,  biologist Wang Xilin said that he saw Yeren numerous times in the Gansu area and even got to examine the body of a dead female. Xilin's description of the Yeren is text-book standard; the creature stands on average six to six and a half feet tall, is covered with reddish-brown hair that is thicker in some spots than others and walks upright on two legs, without using its hands to help as most apes do. The eyes are very deep-set, the nose is huge and soft and the teeth and jaws are enormous. The description in many ways is similar to that of the pre-human Peking Man, whose fossil remains have been found in the area.

In 1957, there was a notable incident involving an ape-like creature in the rural Zhenjiang province. The location is notable because it is out of the usual area for yeren sightings. Peasant woman Xu Fudi was roused from her chores when she heard her daughter screaming in fear. Xu was terrified to see the little girl struggling in the embrace of a powerfully built ape-like hominid standing just under five feet in height. Xu grabbed a stick and immediately began striking the yeren. Her screams brought more women onto the scene...the creature tried to run across a muddy rice paddy but was surrounded by women of the village (the men were working in the nearby hills). They showed no mercy to the yeren and beat it to death with sticks and farm implements. The body was later cut up and buried in an unmarked grave but the hands were taken and preserved by a teacher named Zhou Shousong stationed in the village.

The hands were examined 23 years later by a group of scientists investigating the yeren phenomena. During the chaos of the Cultural Revolution in the 60's and early 70's, the subject was not safe to study, but the 80's brought a kind of liberalism to Chinese science. There was some shrinkage and drying in the hands but they were remarkably well preserved. They measured 7 inches long by 5 inches wide and were covered by yellowish hair. Some of the investigators believed that they belonged to an unknown primate similar to a chimpanzee but larger. There is no known analogue for a chimpanzee in China. Scientist Zhou Guoxing thought the hands might have belonged to a relative of a macaque monkey. The same expedition ventured into the nearby mountains in search of more evidence. They did not see an actual yeren but they found rough nest-like structures which local guides said were built by the apemen. The creatures were considered fairly common in the hills and the local people considered them a rare but not totally unknown sight.

Another peasant woman had a frightening encounter with the wildman in 1976, which was a banner year for yeren sightings. Gong Yulan lived in Qiaoshang Commune in remote Hubei Province. One day she ran out of grass for her pigs, so she took her four year old son and went into the hills in search of the kind the animals loved so well. Before long, they saw a red furry object standing next to a tree. Gong realized it was a yeren rubbing its back against the tree trunk. She picked up her son and began heading back down the mountain. To her horror, the yeren suddenly began making loud cries like "ya!ya!" and started chasing her. Gong ran pell-mell down the hill with the creature in pursuit until she finally arrived at the house of a fellow villager. The woman inside the house later recalled to investigators that Gong was almost hysterical, with sweat beads "as big as soybeans" on her face. She kept repeating "wild man, wild man". Gong later led investigators to the tree where the yeren was scratching its back. They retrieved several hair samples which, as we shall later see, played an important part in research on the wild man.

The most celebrated sighting of the Chinese wildman came in May 1976. A jeep was taking six Communist Party officials through the wilderness of Hubei Province at night. The driver slammed on the brakes when the headlights caught the hunched, hairy figure of a yeren in the middle of the road. The six bureaucrats watched in fascination as the driver blew his horn and the creature tried to climb a steep slope next to the road. It slipped back down into the road and the men surrounded the hairy man-beast, which seemed to be frozen in the headlights glare.

They studied the yeren and their later reports all agreed on the animal's description. It was a little over six feet tall, with long legs and a protruding belly. It was covered in soft yellow-brown fur "like a camel's" except for its face, which was leathery, and a dark red streak of thicker fur on its back. The face was described as monkey-like except for the eyes, which were startlingly human in appearance. The yeren and the men faced each other for what seemed like an eternity before one of the party members tossed a rock at it. It then grunted and scrambled up the slope once more, this time managing to get over the ridge.

The sighting caused a huge sensation, not only in China but throughout the world of anthropology and cryptozoology. It set off a flurry of investigations into legends of the yeren. The largest was in 1977 and headed up by Zhou Guoxing, recognized as the world's leading authority on Chinese hominids. Zhou's expedition included over a 100 members as well as rifles armed with tranquilizer darts, sophisticated cameras and a cage in case one of the yeren was caught.

No specimen was captured by the expedition but Zhou did see one of the beasts at fairly close range. He gathered not only many non-human footprints, but samples of hair and feces.  These were tested and found to belong to an animal that was neither human nor a bear, but some kind of higher primate. Zhou also learned that locals used the word "yeren" to describe two different kinds of creatures. One was almost certainly a rare kind of monkey, perhaps the extremely endangered Golden Monkey. The other described the larger, more man-like beast.

The testing of yeren hair has provided some of the most exciting results in all of cryptozoology. Physicists at Fudan University found that the proportion of iron to zinc in samples of yeren hair is 50 times greater than that of a human being and seven times greater than in other primates such as monkeys. This finding lead to the conclusion that the hairs come from a higher form of primate not yet known to science. The Fudan findings were independently confirmed by Western scientists. Biologists at East China Normal University used a powerful electron scanning microscope to also examine the hairs and came to the same conclusion. In my mind, this would seem to prove the existence of a new, unknown large primate. Instead of this being celebrated and touted by mainstream science, it is instead ignored because it would throw a wrench into too many long-held theories.

Sightings of the yeren have continued to the present day. In fact, July 2012 brings us a new major expedition into the Shennongjia Mountains which hopes to get more evidence of the elusive man-beast. Experts from several disciplines and universities will venture deep into the mountains not only to search for the yeren but to look for other rare animals in the area such as the Chinese giant salamander, the golden snub-nosed monkey and the South China tiger...all of which are on the verge of extinction. The terrain is some of the most rugged in the world and is sure to be challenging. But before dismissing any chance of a yeren being found or photographed, it is worth noting that another extremely rare animal was captured and brought to the attention of the Western World as late as 1969: the giant panda.

Like many of the earth's mystery beasts, time is certainly running out for the yeren. He will not remain hidden for much longer...if he can survive at all.

This is Dr. Mality, turning out the lights.