Published 2022-01-05
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Chinese Dragons & Other Cryptids Still Spotted Today?!

When speaking of mythical creatures being such as the Loch Ness monster or the Himalayan Yeti have been heard by most people around the world. They have been the focus of countless movies and productions that have been known worldwide. And while their names and legends are well known, what about the names of such creatures as long, yeren, or qilin? They are the lesser-known mythical creatures, well at least outside of China where the search for them has been going on for many centuries and at times their appearance has even led to a Chinese ruler coming to power. Have any of these cryptids have ever been seen? And in which popular culture do they feature? Make sure to read until the very end to learn more about these Chinese mythical creatures and their sightings.

What Is Cryptozoology?

What Is Cryptozoology?

Cryptozoology is the search for traces of legendary animals, which are known as cryptids. As you can imagine it is a controversial field for various reasons. Among these hunters of unknown ape-men and sea snakes, one can find both professionals using scientific methods, and well...those who believe that the yeti is a visitor from outer space. The father of cryptozoology is the Franco-Belgian naturalist, Dr. Bernard Heuvelmans (1916-2001). In his most famous book ‘On the Track of Unknown Animals’, he analyzed many stories of strange beasts with the help of scientific skills. In the 1950s Heuvelmans was the one who coined the term cryptozoology, though the phenomenon he described was not new. While this was something that was happening already in the 19th century it was mainly discovering species that lived in the jungles of Africa or Asia by European travelers. Though the idea of finding new, undiscovered, almost mythical beings wasn’t just restricted to those from Europe. As it turns out, already in ancient China hunts were organized for hunts for cryptids, and given that their tradition there are plenty of tales of mythical animals, hunts for them have continued to this day.

Long - Chinese Dragon

One of the biggest Chinese mythical creatures without a shadow of a doubt is the Chinese dragon, sometimes also called loong, long, or lung. They have been described as lizard-like, without any wings, and simply slithering through the air, and have long been associated with the culture and are nearly always present during the Chinese New Year Celebrations. On top of that, they had often appeared in pop culture. One of the most famous examples is Mushu in the Disney animated movie Mulan. The dragon was also featured in Disney’s cartoon American Dragon: Jake Long and most recently in the brand new Disney movie Shang-Chi and the Legend of the 10 Rings. This legendary beast has accompanied the Chinese since the dawn of time and the snake-like monster can be found on the most ancient artifacts found by archaeologists in the Central State. In historical times, the long was a symbol of emperors and the hero of countless proverbs and legends.


Chinese Dragon - Theories

Over the years there had been many theories put forward with regards to the origin of the beats. Some scholars believe that the dragon was originally a crocodile inhabiting the rivers of the lands. The original Chinese tribes were said to have worshipped it and as the great reptiles became rarer and rarer, the collective memory grew distant, until eventually a giant dragon was born from the very ordinary creature that is a crocodile. There have also been claims that the long was created by combining elements of various totemic animals worshiped by ancient Chinese people. One person, a Polish sinologist, even believed that the prototype of the dragon was a species of seahorses! Though the Chinese see it differently. Every now and then a rumor spreads through the country that somewhere far away someone has seen a dragon flying by. In the Confucian culture, such an appearance was seen as an omen. Therefore, every piece of information caused a great stir. Make sure to read on to find out when these creatures were sighted! And it wasn’t that long ago!

Long - Chinese Dragon

Chinese Dragon - Proof of Existence

The first attempt to scientifically determine if a long dragon has ever existed was first taken up in the middle of the 16th century. At the time, the imperial government was growing concerned by the incoming reports of dragon sightings and so they set up a special commission of inquiry to determine if they actually existed. It was a big deal, court officials were put to work, archives were combed through, alleged witnesses were interviewed and a fortune was sunk into this project. In the end, however, the effects of this entire investigation proved to be futile. The final conclusion by these imperial “cryptozoologists”, in response to the question of the existence of dragons was “It is unknown”.


Chinese Dragon - The Sightings

Such an answer had given room for conjecture and so in the 19th century the Chinese government newspapers had quite seriously blamed the activity of these legendary reptiles for floods or earthquakes yet it was in the 20th century that the height of absurdity was reached. It was alleged that during World War I that the Beijing press had printed information that numerous witnesses had seen a dragon, fly over a limousine driven by Yuan Shikai, the then-president of the Republic of China. This was interpreted as a sign that Heaven was demanding the enthronement of the head of state to the imperial throne. However, it was also suspected that the witnesses were paid by the politician’s supporters. Though in the end, Shikai was unlucky; he may have used the dragon to stage his own coronation, but he lost power not long after, as civil war broke out, plunging China into chaos for years. One of the most recent news of dragon sightings in the country comes from 2007. While broadcasting a report on Gaoyu Lake in Jiangsu province, the camera recorded a snake-like shape moving across the sky. Needless to say, thousands of viewers had claimed that the shape was a dragon, and so the idea that these creatures exist still lives on in many people. Make sure to read until the very end to find out which other Chinese cryptids were spotted!

Chinese Dragon - Theories

Yeren - Big Foot & the Yeti’s Cousin?

Dragons are not the only mythical beings in China that have allegedly been spotted in real life. The country even has its own version of Big Foot or the Yeti. While it might not be as recognizable in the West as the Long, many claim that it is much more realistic. The mythical creature in question is a Yeren. The belief of the existence of this mysterious ape-man seems to be as old as China itself. Depictions of it can be found on fortune-telling bones from the Shang dynasty which ruled between the 17th and 11th centuries BC. The country’s early scholars had no doubts about its reality as it was mentioned in a geographical treatise from the 4th century BC and then nineteen centuries later in the “Compendium of Materia Medica” by the famous physician and naturalist Li Shizen, among others. The Yeren had also sneaked its way into classical Chinese poetry and the “Chronicle of the Southern Dynasties” even notes that in 539 in the south of what today is known as the Hubei province, one of the local villages was attacked by a whole herd of monkeys.

Yeren - Chase For The Chinese Sasquatch

Already in the Middle Ages, officials decided to investigate the matter, which resulted in testimonies from witnesses who had come into contact with this Chinese Big Foot and a scholar who lived during the Mongolian dynasty had even compiled an entire classification system of different subspecies of Yeren. Reports of sightings continue to the present day and not a year goes by without someone allegedly encountering it or finding its tracks. One of the most famous cases happened in May 1974, when a man named Yin Hongf from the Qiaoshang commune was gathering herbs on the slopes of a mountain when he was attacked by a female monkey. In the reported struggled that ensued the Chinese man had grabbed the attacker by the hair on her head and cut off a clump of it with a machete he held in his hand. The monster, however, broke free and fled into the woods. According to many reports, the yeren is a large ape with orangutan-like red hair, equipped with large arms, huge feet, and an upright posture. Cryptologists claim that just like the Yeti or Bigfoot, the yeren is actually a surviving Gigantopithecus, which living millions of years ago in Asia were the largest great apes in history. Because of this, one of the most popular theories is that this creature is a species of orangutan unknown to science. Make sure to read to the end to find out which of the cryptids in a way turned out to be 100% real.

Qilin - The Chinese Unicorn?

In the history of China, there are stories about dozens of other beasts, among them for example is a bird with nine heads, a giant underground rat and even flying turtles. However, one of the strangest mythical animals in Chinese culture is the qilin, sometimes called a kirin. This creature has the body of a deer, the tail of an ox, a head similar to a sheep, and a single horn sprouting from its forehead. So in short, it is a variety of unicorns. Just like the Long, it too had featured in the media. Most famously in the Final Fantasy game series, the Kirin is one of the Espers (summoned monsters). And recently it too featured in the latest Marvel movie Shang-Chi. And also just like with the Chinese Bigfoot, the image of the qilin had been found on the augury bones of the Shang dynasty dating back more than 3,000 years, claiming that their appearance was widely regarded as a good omen.

Qilin - Sightings

The reason that it is soon as a good omen is because this creature only leaves the forests where it lives in times of peace and prosperity. So it is strange that a certain qilin was observed by a Chinese farmer in the late 1940s, in the midst of a bloody civil war between the Communists and the Nationalists. Since then the people of the country had to wait until the 1990s for another sighting when it appeared in the Shaanxi province. Though according to reports, the appearance ended tragically for the qilin because it was shot by a local hunter. However, the body was never examined by scientists because the hunter, consumed with remorse buried it in a hidden place. The most recent sighting has been reported in 2008 in Sichuan where it was observed by a group of workers. And it can be said that to a certain extent, this mythical creature is the only Chinese cryptid whose search has been successful. All because when Chinese ships reached East Africa in the early 15th century, a local ruler gave the expedition two giraffes. The animals were transported to Beijing, where they became part of the imperial collection as the long-necked animals were widely recognized as the qilins.

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