Thursday 15 July 2010

Wildman Research in China

A good article on the history of the research into the Chinese Yeren.  Worth a read.

The Status of Wildman Research in China 

Zhou Guoxing

Chinese historical documents contain many references to Wildman, a supposed large unknown primate reported today in numerous provinces. Scientific interest in Wildman in modern China began in the late 1950s, and intensified in the 1970s with fieldwork in northwest Hubei and southern Shanxi provinces sponsored by the Chinese Academy of Sciences. No physical evidence has been uncovered, with the exception of the hands and feet of a supposed Wildman. Morphological analysis indicates that they had belonged to a very large monkey species, possibly a macaque, still unknown to science. These undescribed monkeys may account for sightings of the "smaller" Wildman. A number of reported morphological and ecological characteristics are reviewed, and Wildman's possible affinities to the fossil ape Gigantopithecus are discussed. The discovery of an actual specimen of Wildman could shed light on the classificatory status of Gigantopithecus, and would certainly enhance knowledge of the origins of human evolution, particularly bipedalism.
Earliest historical records and folklore
Chinese historical documents, and many city and town annals, contain abundant records of Wildman, which are given various names, such as "manbear," "hairy man," "shangui" (mountain monster), "xingxing" (orang-utan), and "feifei."In the period of Warring States (475-221 B.C.), Qu Yuan, a great poet, wrote a poem about "shangui" (mountain monster). Some scholars believe that the theme of the poem corresponds to the legend of Wildman. During the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 A.D.), the great pharmacologist Li Shizhen mentioned several kinds of Wildman in the 51 st volume of his monumental work Compendium of Materia Medica. One of them was called "feifei," an account of which is quoted as follows:
"Feifei," which are called "manbear," are also found in the mountainous areas in west Shu (part of Sichuan Province today) and Chu division, where people skin them and eat their palms. The You mountain of Sha county, Fujian province, sees the same ones, standing about one zhang (equal to 3.1 meters) in height and smiling to the people they come across, and are called "shandaren" (men as big as mountains), "wildmen" or "shanxiao."
Even today, in the area of Fang County, Hubei Province, there are still legends about "maoren" (hairy men) or "wildmen." A local chronicle, about 200 years old, says that "the Fang mountain lying 40 li (2 li equals one kilometer) south to the county town is precipitous and full of holes, where live many maoren, about one zhang high and hair-coated. They often come down to eat human beings and chickens and dogs, and seize those who fight them." A lantern on which there is an ornament of a "maoren" figure was unearthed in this area during an archeological excavation. It has been dated at 2,000 years.
futher down in the article:
(4) Investigation of "Manbears" of Jiolong Mountain of Sui Chang, Zhejiang Province, in the Early 1980s"Manbears" in the Jiolong Mountain Natural Reserve Area were recorded long ago in local chronicles. Li Shizen wrote in his Compendium of Materia Medica that there were "manbears" in Chu Zhou, which covers the Sui Chang area today, to the southeast of Li Shui County.Scientific investigation of "manbears" on the Jiolong mountain is mainly under the direction of the Science Committee of Li Shui Prefecture, and participants are personnel in specific fields at scientific research institutions and universities. Preserved hands and feet (two of each) were recently obtained from a middle-school teacher of biology. He obtained them in 1957, when local peasants reportedly killed a "manbear." These remains represent the first instance of physical evidence obtained during investigations of Wildman in China (Fig. 3).In December 1980, I went to Sui Chang to study these hand and foot specimens. I concluded, beyond any doubt, that they belong to a higher primate, and have morphological traits of both ape and monkey. The eye-witnesses thought that they had belonged to a Wildman, or of a manlike "strange animal," but after examining the specimens, I determined that they were not the hands and feet of a Wildman. They might possibly belong to an enormous monkey (perhaps a species of macaque not previously recorded in this area). These hands and feet could not have come from the legendary "manbear," which is said to be about 2 meters in height, and leaves large footprints. However, there is no denying the possibility that they came from an unknown primate in the Jiolong Mountain area.There are similar legends about Wildman in places other than the Jiolong Mountain area, such as the Wuyi Mountain in Fujian Province, the Huang Mountain in Anhui Province, and the nearby counties of Sui Chang, Zhejiang Province.In summary, since the end of the 1950s, China has organized a series of on-the-spot investigations of Wildman in Tibet, and the provinces of Yunnan, Hubei, Shanxi, and Zhejiang. Among the participants in these investigations have been a number of professional scientists, such as anthropologists, geologists, zoologists, and botanists, as well as personnel in specific fields of zoological parks and natural history museums. Taking part in the investigation in the Shennongjia forest area are experienced huntsmen and skilled scouts.Up to the present time, apart from the above-mentioned hand and foot samples obtained in the Jiolong Mountain areas of Zhejian Province, no direct physical evidence has been found to support the existence of Wildman. That is to say, all we know about Wildman is based on indirect evidence, such as folklore, eyewitness accounts, footprints, hair samples, and feces samples. Legends about Wildman in these areas have a long history, however, and there are numerous eyewitnesses. More significantly, the ecological and morphological aspects of Wildman are consistently reported. Thus, it can be inferred that these unknown animals are not mere creatures of fiction. What Chinese scientific workers seek on thickly forested mountains may actually be unknown animals, yet to be scientifically described.

No comments: