Yeren: The Chinese Bigfoot Of The Misty Mountains

For centuries, a mysterious creature known as the Yeren has been sighted in remote parts of China.

Described as a type of hominid, it’s often referred to as the “Chinese Bigfoot” in the West.

While this is a useful moniker to a degree, it fails to capture the true essence of the Yeren.

The fact is that, although an ape-like cryptid like Bigfoot and the Yeti, it differs from them in both appearance and behavior.

What Does The Yeren Look Like?

Much like Bigfoot, the Yeren is usually spotted walking on two legs.

According to eyewitness reports, its fully-erect height is between 5 to 7 feet — depending on age and gender.


A key difference from Bigfoot is the Yeren’s forehead, which closely resembles a human’s — it doesn’t have the gorilla-like slope of a Sasquatch.

The Chinese cryptid is said to have deep-set, almost fully-black eyes, a round nose, overturned nostrils, and protruding lips.

Its ears are reminiscent of ours but larger.



Body Structure & Movement

Based on most accounts, the Yeren has long reddish or brown hair all over its body — excluding its ears and nose.

It can easily traverse even rough, mountainous terrain while being upright.

The ape-man’s legs are said to be near-human in their proportions.

However, its arms are visibly longer — stretching below the creature’s knees when it’s slightly bent over.

Based on footprint castings, its feet are around 12-20 inches long.

Reported Diet & Typical Behavior

Yeren are thought to be omnivorous beings.

They seem to mainly subsist on plant foods.

However, there have been instances where they’ve broken into chicken coops.

This mainly resulted in stolen eggs, but in a few cases, chickens have gone missing as well.


Although some Chinese fear the Yeren, there have been no accounts of them directly attacking humans.

Like other “hidden hominids”, they seem to prefer evasion over violence.


On several occasions, they’ve been seen going into caves in the most forested, mountainous regions of the Hubei province.

It’s assumed these are their preferred living spaces.

In this regard, they’re similar to most other hominid cryptids.

Yeren In Chinese History

When we look through Chinese folklore and history, we find mentions of Yeren that stretch back centuries.

Over 2000 years in the past (during the Warring States era), a Chinese poet and statesman referred to the cryptids as “mountain ogres” that hid in caves in the mist-covered mountains.

During the later Tang dynasty, an historian told of a group of “savage, hairy men” that lived in the remote areas of Hubei.


Fast forward to the Qing dynasty, and we find mentions of the Yeren by the famous painter and poet Yuan Mei.

He stated that the creatures were “monkey-like but not monkeys” and that they lived in the Shanxi province.

On top of these notable mentions, tales of ape-men have circulated among the common folk since the very beginning.

Yeren In Chinese Mythology

As reports of Yeren started accumulating, the Chinese populace (mostly in Hubei and neighboring provinces) started coming up with folk tales about them.

The most popular mythology involves the construction of China’s Great Wall.

When the Wall was being built, many laborers were being forced to work on it.


After toiling away for months, a group of these workers decided to escape.

To avoid the Emperor’s wrath, they hid in the most remote areas of Hubei — among the forested, misty mountain ranges.

According to the legend, the children of these reclusive people gradually became wild, hairy, and more beast-like in appearance — eventually turning into Yeren.

Dr. Wang & The Dead Yeren

In 1940, a biologist named Wang Zelin (trained at the Northwestern University in Chicago) claimed to have seen a dead Yeren.

He was traveling along a road in the Gansu province, on his way to the city of Tianshui.


Suddenly, a series of gunshots were heard coming from up ahead, just out of sight.

When Wang and his driver got to the scene of the shooting, the corpse of a ‘wild man’ (as locals called it) could be seen lying in the middle of the road.

A group of soldiers stood around it — seemingly shocked at what they had just killed.



Wang’s Description

Wang, being a trained biologist, took notice of the creature’s peculiar features.

He stated that the being was much taller than the Chinese, with an estimated height of around 6.6 feet.

It was fully covered in thick, reddish hairs with the occasional grey streaks.


When one of the soldiers turned the body over, it was shown to be a female due to its pendulous breasts.

Besides its thick layer of hairs, the creature reminded Wang of the Peking man.

Reconstruction of Peking man at Gothenburg Natural History Museum (Netha Hussain / CC BY-SA)

Nearby locals who had witnessed the Yeren said it had moved around energetically, and effortlessly went up steep hills — reminiscent of many Bigfoot sightings.

They also noted that the mysterious being never spoke a word of Chinese, but gave off a few howls and grunts once in a while.


Shortly after the shooting of the ‘wild man’ (or in this case, woman), government personnel arrived in a number of jeeps and cleared out the area.

Following this, Wang heard nothing more about the incident or the creature.

Sightings In The 50s & 60s

A Chinese geologist named Fan Jingquan had a short but captivating sighting of two Yeren in 1950.

As far as he could make out, they looked to be a mother and her child — most likely her son.

Fan claimed that he spotted them in an isolated, densely-forested location in the Shanxi province.


In 1961, rumors of what was most likely another dead Yeren surfaced in Xishuangbanna.

It was said that a group of road workers had killed a large, female, ape-like creature out of fear.

Officials from the Chinese Academy of Sciences were sent to the region to examine the case.

However, when they got there, no corpse could be found — at least, that was the official story that followed.


A report was then produced, which stated that the creature was most likely a gibbon.

This story was upheld for two decades, until an anonymous person allegedly involved with the investigation came forward.

The individual claimed that the state personnel did locate a body that day.

It was decidedly not a gibbon, but an unknown creature with human-like features.

A Startling Meeting With The Communists

One of the most sensational sightings of a Yeren happened in 1976.

A group from the Communist Party of China was driving in the Shennongjia Forestry District of Hubei.

Suddenly, they spotted a mysterious being directly on the road in front of them.

According to the eyewitnesses, the creature was humanoid, standing on two legs, covered in thick, reddish hair, had no tail, and a face that looked half-ape, half-human.

Startled, the men abruptly stopped the car and started shouting, which frightened the Yeren.


In a panicked state, the ape-man hastily stretched after a nearby branch but failed to reach it.

It then briefly fell to the ground before quickly scrambling off into the dense vegetation.



On The Hunt

Since the men were respected members of the Communist Party, their story was taken more seriously than the usual ‘tall tales’ of the locals.

The day after the encounter, over 100 Chinese army personnel were sent to comb the area for the Yeren.

This sizable team included infantry, photographers, infiltration experts, scouts, and various scientists.

They employed camera traps, tracking dogs, tape recorders, and equipped their men with tranquilizing darts.

The hunt was on.


Large search parties were sent out over a period of several months, but no Yeren was captured.

Only on one occasion did a search group spot an unknown, ape-like animal.

However, possibly due to fear, someone let off a shot on accident and scared away the creature before it could be caught or photographed.



Later Developments

Although the scope and intensity of the search waned over time, army personnel maintained a presence in Shennongjia for over two years.

In addition to their searches, they interviewed hundreds of local citizens who had either seen or heard the Yeren.


During the next 5 years, some 200 footprint casts were produced.

They were all taken from the most remote parts of the Shennongjia forest.

A majority of them were approximately 19 inches long, with a stride of about 8 feet.

Other than the casts and eyewitness accounts, no definite evidence of the Yeren was collected.


It’s speculated that, since the creatures are assumed to be intelligent, they eventually moved away from the area when the humans proved to linger.

If they truly make use of an underground tunnel network (like Bigfoot is also said to do), they could certainly have escaped undetected.

Theories About The Yeren’s True Nature

In China, there are two prevailing theories about what the Yeren could be.

One of them states that it’s most likely a golden monkey, and that locals have made up folklore based on this animal.


There are two major issues with this, however:

1. Travelers have also claimed to have witnessed the Yeren, not just local villagers, and their descriptions match up with the existing accounts.

2. The golden monkey’s physiology differs significantly from the Yeren.

The animal has a long tail, small footprints with different features, and rarely, if ever, walks around on two legs.


The other ‘mainstream’ theory says that the Yeren is probably a long-lost primate species — related to a type of ape that supposedly lived in China over 300.000 years ago.



Studying the Prints

Dr. Jeff Meldrum is a Professor of Anatomy and Anthropology at Idaho State University.

He’s an expert on primate locomotion and foot morphology.

Coincidentally, he’s also become quite interested in Bigfoot.

Because of this, he’s been featured in various documentaries, TV shows, and radio programs.


During his extensive research, Meldrum has spoken with numerous people who claimed to have seen the Yeren.

He’s also looked at two highly-detailed casts of their supposed footprints.

According to him, the prints looked legitimate, and the creature that made them had a stride much different than ours.

This suggests that a hominid cryptid may indeed be living in some remote parts of China.

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