Sinting Lai, China

1996 -- HUBEI. The Loch Ness monster may lurk in the waters of Scotland, Bigfoot in the wilds of the western U.S. and Canada, and Yeti in the mountains of the Himalayas, but China lays claim to its own elusive creature--the Wild Man.

In the Shennongjia primeval forest in central Hubei province, hundreds of witnesses have sworn that they have spotted the creature, alleged to possess apelike facial features, stand 2.5-m tall, walk upright on huge feet and sport long golden hair.

He supposedly eats everything from tubers to frogs, speaks in a high-pitched voice and lives in the forest caves. The earliest recorded sighting dates back to China's Warring States period (475-221 B.C.), but no evidence has ever been found to document the beast's existence.

No matter: the scenic mountainous region has become a hot tourist resort for visitors hoping to spot the mysterious critter. Aiming to attract hard currency, officials recently lifted the ban that had prohibited foreigners from entering the 3,200-sq-km Shennongjia National Park.

At the park's first-ever international Azalea Festival (May 27-29), visitors can learn about the latest scientific techniques used in the ongoing search for the Wild Man.

Source: May 13, 1996 Volume 147, No. 20 _Time Magazine_ <Traveler's Advisory>