Monday, August 15, 2016

In Search of China’s Bigfoot

"I was supposed to enjoy my family life after I retired 20 years ago, but I stayed here due to my sense of responsibility as officials gave me this task." - Wang Shancai, Bigfoot hunterRetired cadres continue 40-year mission to seek Shennongjia's savage despite widespread antipathy.

The Jeep snaked its way across the verdant mountains of Shennongjia in the early hours of the morning, carrying with it a crew of five of the area’s top leaders. It was May 1976, and the group was returning to Songbai — a small town in China’s central Hubei province — after a day of meetings about agricultural production seven hours away in Yunyang.

Around 5 a.m. when 29-year-old Chen Liansheng, at the time the deputy director of the Shennongjia party office, was startled awake by a shout from the driver: “There’s something up ahead!”

Food was scarce in Shennongjia at the time. If the group had stumbled upon a wild sheep or goat, it would present a rare chance to fill the stomachs of several households. But as Chen stared through his bleary eyes at the animal standing in the car’s headlights, he realized something wasn’t right. This was no sheep; it was the same height as a tall human and walked on its hind legs.

Buoyed by their advantage in numbers, Chen and the other three passengers in the back jumped out of the vehicle to surround the animal in the hope of capturing it. As the group came close, Chen saw that the animal’s body was covered in red fur. Frightened, the animal grasped at the branches hanging over the track to pull itself up and on to the slope beside the track, but failed and fell down into shrubbery before running off.

The four got back in the car and for the rest of the journey back tried, and failed, to make sense of what they’d just seen. The daily broadcast on the car’s radio of the folk song “Sing the East is Red” marked their arrival at Songbai.

In the 40 years since that night, there have been a reported 200 sightings of a so-called yeren — literally savage or “wild person” — Shennongjia’s very own Bigfoot. Despite a lack of any conclusive scientific evidence, Shennongjia’s Bigfoot believers maintain to this day that such a creature does exist. Chen, now 70, is among them.
"Given that many Chinese people can hardly afford food, it doesn’t make sense for the government to devote money and human resources into this issue."
- Zhao Lingxia, paleoanthropologist
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Source: Sixthtone

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