Researchers will start exploring large areas of primitive forest this month in the Shennongjia region of central China’s Hubei province.
A group of 38 experts from several universities and research institutions will begin the expedition across the Shennongjia reserve on July 8, 2012, according to a statement from the Shennongjia Nature Reserve’s management bureau.
The trip is scheduled to last through August, according to the Chinese news service, Xinhua.
The group will focus on studying the region’s animals, plants and land features and will publish its research results later. Animals in the area include leopards, the Asian golden cat, the golden pheasant, South China tiger, and the Chinese giant salamander. The region is also home to the rare golden snub-nosed monkey, which is on the verge of extinction and was first spotted in Shennongjia in the 1960s. Additionally, there will be an effort to discover more about the Yeren.
Located deep in the remote mountains of Hubei, the Shennongjia Nature Reserve has long been rumored to be the home of an elusive creature known in China as the Yeren, or “Wild Man” in English. Some in the media, worldwide, use the term “Bigfoot” (after the North American unknown hairy hominoids) to discuss Yeren.
If the researchers manage to uncover concrete evidence of the Wild Man, they will have succeeded where two previous major expeditions – one from 1974 to 1981 and one in 2010 – failed.
“I simply want to put an end to the argument that it exists,” said Wang Shancai, of the Hubei Relics and Archaeology Institute, when he set out in 2010.
More than 400 people have claimed to have seen the Yeren in the Shennongjia area over the past century, but no hard evidence has been found to prove the creature’s existence.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) added Shennongjia to its World Network of Biosphere Reserves in 1990.
Part of Chinese folklore, the Yeren or Yeren-like creatures are cited in Chinese literature that dates back more than 2,000 years having said to reside in mountainous regions of southern and central China. Despite numerous sightings and even some tangible evidence collected, there hasn’t been sufficient data for scientists to conclusively confirm the identity of the mysterious Yeren.
Witnesses typically report the creatures to be covered in reddish colored hair. Some white specimens have also been sighted. Their height is estimated to range from six to eight feet, although some colossal examples allegedly in excess of ten feet tall have been reported. Overall, it is smaller than the American Bigfoot. Like Bigfoot, the yeren is peaceful and will generally quietly walk away when encountering people in the Zhejiang province.
In 2005, Zhang Jiahong, a shepherd in Muyu, near the forest, told state media he had seen two of the creatures, with “hairy faces, eyes like black holes, prominent noses and dishevelled hair, with faces that resembled both a man’s and a monkey’s.”
Another explorer, Zhang Jinxing, spent years living as a hermit in the Shennongjia forest, and said he had seen footprints on 19 separate occasions, without ever finding the beast.
Some cryptozoologists have drawn a link between the Yeren and the extinct hominid Gigantopithecus, which formerly inhabited the general region. It has also been suggested that the Yeren is actually a new species of orangutan, one that is ground-dwelling, bipedal and native to mainland Asia instead of Borneo or Sumatra.
It is also thought that the Yeren might just be a legend. The Yeren apparently dwells in a region already rich with superstition and strange phenomena, including an inordinate occurrence of albinism in the local fauna, adding to its mystique. It has been connected with ancient Chinese legends of magical forest ogres and man-like bears.