Thursday, February 1, 2018

Mystery Creatures of China by David C. Xu: A Book Review

There are very few new release cryptozoology books that I get noticeably excited about anymore. Unfortunately, the field is constantly inundated with books covering the same handful of reports with little to no new information or commentary added. This is why when I first heard about the release of Mystery Creatures of China: The Complete Cryptozoological Guide by David C. Xu, I was elated. China is the source of much interest to me, especially the folklore, but it has always seemed odd that for such a large country with such a varied history, that the cryptozoological significance is confined to just the Yeren (which is China's best-known version of the wildman archetype). I was determined to get my hands on a copy of the book and was lucky enough to receive a review copy from Coachwhip Publishing.

I have since read it from cover to cover twice. It is easily one of the most important cryptozoological titles of the past ten years. The book covers over 100 various cryptids and folkloric creatures from around China and is certainly the most extensive piece of literature on the country's cryptozoological significance ever.

Xu decided to split the book into six different categories.

  • Aquatic Cryptids: Creatures of the lakes, rivers, and ocean. This includes the Cyan Goat of Lake Sayram, the chimera-like Hippoturtleox, and the blue-skinned Huponiu which is an ox with a fish-like dorsal ridge along its back. 
  • Humanoid Cryptids: Man-like creatures. This includes the infamous Yeren, the unusual and short-statured Hongliuwa, and the laughing Feifei that is said to eat humans as it cackles. 
  • Carnivorous Cryptids: Various predatory cryptids. This includes the Lanhu or blue tiger, the Bei which is an odd looking companion of wolves, and the brown panda. 
  • Herbivorous Cryptids: Exactly as it sounds. This includes the Qilin or Chinese unicorn and the Guancaishou, the beast shaped like a coffin. 
  • Reptilian Cryptids: Again, exactly as it sounds. This includes the Long or Chinese dragon and the Jiao, a possible surviving sauropod. 
  • Winged Cryptids: Creatures with the ability to fly. This includes the Fenghuang or Chinese phoenix and the Jiutouniao or nine-headed bird. 
The biggest strengths of the book were the wonderful illustrations, many of which are from various historical texts or witnesses, as well as the extensive references. Xu certainly did his homework for the book. But, I must say, the best part of the book, in my opinion, was the inclusion of various explanations that Xu felt were relevant to each entry. Many of the explanations were extensively explained and Xu does not shy away from the skeptical side of things. 

Mystery Creatures of China is a well-written, extensively researched, and covers a lot of ground. I think that many countries besides China would benefit from this kind of research and book. Not only is Mystery Creatures an important piece of cryptozoological literature, it is an absolute joy to read with its colorful creatures and excellent explanations. This is a must have for every cryptozoology library.

You can get the book here.

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