In ancient Chinese literature there are several mentions of hairy humanlike beings, and eyewitness reports of the yeren (“wildman”) in China have persisted into the modern era. Dozens of alleged sightings of the Chinese wildman in the forests of Shennongjia (northwestern Hubei) eventually
prompted a large-scale expedition of scientists to investigate the region in 1977. This article discusses three possible explanations for the Chinese Wildman. It concludes that the yeren is not an unidentified or elusive animal species, as some have proposed, but rather that stories about the wildman probably originated in early encounters of the Chinese with bearded European peoples. In fact traditions regarding the wildman in China can be traced back to the Qin dynasty when Chinese first encountered Greeks in the Far East and, unfamiliar with their hairier physical appearance, originated stories about a semi-human being.