In one of China’s least populated forests, legends of a yeti-like “wild man” live on
“Wild Man, come out and reveal yourself to us!” Mr. Li bellowed into the quiet forests of Tianmen Mountain, located in Hubei province’s massive Shennongjia National Park. He turned and smiled mischievously. “Be ready with your camera,” he instructed. “If we get a photograph, we can sell it for 5 million RMB.”
Our destination was a cave where, according to local lore, the legendary yeren (野人)—a two-meter tall, red-furred “wild man,” sometimes referred to as China’s Bigfoot—used to live. Our guides from the forestry district office, Mr. Li and Fu Rao, had never trekked to this remote location before, so had little idea of what to expect. The cave itself—with its hidden crannies, 30-meter ceiling, and panorama view of the mountains below—turned out to be worth the hike, but there was no sign of its alleged former inhabitants.
Although less internationally famous than the North American sasquatch or its Himalayan cousin, the yeti or Abominable Snowman, Shennongjia’s yeren has captured local imaginations: Xinhua conservatively estimates the number of yeren sightings at around 400, though some say it’s well into the thousands—a testament, perhaps, to the millennia-old mythology of the yeren’s existence.
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Where the Wild Things Are is a story from our issue, “Curiosities and Quests.” To read the entire issue, become a subscriber and receive the full magazine. Alternatively, you can purchase the digital version from the App Store.