Chapter

“From Legend to Science,” and Back Again? Bigfoot, Science, and the People in Post-Máo China

Sigrid Schmalzer

in The People's Peking Man

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print December 2008 | ISBN: 9780226738598
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226738611 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226738611.003.0008
“From Legend to Science,” and Back Again? Bigfoot, Science, and the People in Post-Máo China

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This chapter focuses on yĕrèn (“wild people”), who were believed to be living primates, distant relatives of modern humans. It was only in the closing years of the Cultural Revolution that widespread interest in yĕrèn began to take off, generating a “yĕrèn fever” in the early post-Máo period that still burns today. The boundaries between science and popular culture have become more, not less, porous in the post-Máo period. Paleoanthropologists have authored popular accounts of yĕrèn research, which in turn is based on stories told by rural people. Fiction writers have used this research as inspiration for sensational stories and sensitive explorations into what it means to be human. And laypeople have used its marginal position as a way to enter the scientific arena and challenge the reigning authorities therein.

Keywords: yĕrèn; wild people; science; popular culture

Chapter.  16096 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of Science and Technology

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