Zoologist, media consultant, and science writer, Dr Karl Shuker is also one of the best known cryptozoologists in the world. He is the author of such seminal works as Mystery Cats of the World (1989), The Lost Ark: New and Rediscovered Animals of the 20th Century (1993; greatly expanded in 2012 as The Encyclopaedia of New and Rediscovered Animals), Dragons: A Natural History (1995), In Search of Prehistoric Survivors (1995), The Unexplained (1996), From Flying Toads To Snakes With Wings (1997), Mysteries of Planet Earth (1999), The Hidden Powers of Animals (2001), The Beasts That Hide From Man (2003), Extraordinary Animals Revisited (2007), Dr Shuker's Casebook (2008), Karl Shuker's Alien Zoo: From the Pages of Fortean Times (2010), Cats of Magic, Mythology, and Mystery (2012), Mirabilis: A Carnival of Cryptozoology and Unnatural History (2013), Dragons in Zoology, Cryptozoology, and Culture (2013), The Menagerie of Marvels (2014), A Manifestation of Monsters (2015), Here's Nessie! (2016), and what is widely considered to be his cryptozoological magnum opus, Still In Search Of Prehistoric Survivors (2016) - plus, very excitingly, his first two long-awaited, much-requested ShukerNature blog books (2019, 2020).

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Wednesday 19 August 2009


There are a number of highly significant tomes out there that have never attracted the degree of cryptozoological and zoomythological attention that they deserve. One such example is the Shan Hai Jin (or Jing) - a classic Chinese text at least 2,200 years old, roughly 31,000 words long, divided into 18 sections, and containing a wealth of information on all manner of extraordinary beasts. Although most are assuredly mythical, there could well be some genuine cryptids amongst them - the trick is deciding which is which.

To give you an idea of the scope of this remarkable book, the following mentions of entities referrred to in it are quoted from an extensive, highly informative communication that I received quite a while ago concerning the Shan Hai Jin (and also various other notable Chinese sources of info re mystery/legendary beasts) from one of my correspondents, Chinese-born S. Lu, now living in Washington, USA:

"Throughout the years I found so many, many, many parallels between the East and West myths and legends...For instance, the cockatrice's Chinese "cousin" described in Shan Hai Jin [SHJ] is the Suan Yu bird. It's like a snake with four wings, six eyes and three legs. If we picture it as having a bird's/rooster's head and talons, it'll look almost exactly like a cockatrice. The book also says that the Suan Yu bird's appearance foreshadows the coming of bad things.

"Shan Hai Jin is such a treasure with extensive knowledge of lots of things, it's a shame that many people keep a close mind toward the strange creatures and phenomena documented inside.

"There are accounts of mermaids (it's called Ling fish in SHJ), the kind that has human legs and arms with a fish/dolphin tail. I've seen depictions of this creature in the Arabian Nights when Sinbad was taken to an underwater palace by such a man or a merman.

"Europeans' view of the Indian people as dog-headed [cynocephali] is not completely out of the question. In SHJ yellow humanoid creatures with dogs' heads are described. Their name is Huan dog. There are also three-leg people, three-head people, egg-laying people, bird-body people (Siren?), one-foot people, snake-body people (Lamia?) [one such entity is the nuwa, as pictured here in this blog utilising an SHJ illustration], etc.

"Chinese centaurs have often been referred to as deities of some sort, they are horses or bulls with "human heads and hands". Chinese satyrs or pans are a people from the country of Dinling. Their upper bodies are like humans and lower parts are of the hairy horse legs with hooves, and they like to run. Water horses, the kind you talked about in Flying Toads and many other Western folklores, can also be found in SHJ...

"There are much more in other ancient texts in China that document similar things. One even says that the yerens [Chinese wildmen] are able to make themselves invisible and transform to dodge humans....

"There is a china.com [not any longer, sadly] that contains reports from Shen Nong Jia about yeren, albino animals, giant toad monsters, donkey-head wolves, rooster-crest snakes (my grandma told me her mother's story of how such a snake was found in a local "Tu Di" (earth god) temple in the rural Nanjing, Jiangsui Province, the snake didn't siss, but sounded like chicken, the locals thought it has a crest because it was old), unicorns (the website has personal stories of hunters [who] shot dead a couple of unicorns, they say the creature is not exactly a horse, nor a goat, nor a deer; in one account the single horn tilts/curls backward and another forward; they are very agile, and their meat was good; again the local people are sure that they are there), scarlet bats and hogs, etc.

"Have you heard about the famous 'Legend of the White Snake' about a white snake, accompanied by her friend or maid a green snake, transformed into a beautiful woman to marry a mortal, who saved her life a thousand years ago (reincarnation)? In Shen Nong Jia, scientists found that the rare white snakes are often seen to be with green snakes."

And this is just a taster of the treasures to be found inside this amazing work. Of all the subjects mentioned above, however, the one that possibly intrigues me the most received the least mention - scarlet bats. They're certainly new to me, so if there's anyone out there who has any info on Chinese scarlet bats, I'd be delighted to receive it.