Who was the "Yeren" in the Yuan Gong origin story?
This is a fascinating question. In China, the Yeren (Chinese: 野人; pinyin: yěrén; literally: wild man), is also called the Yiren, Yeh Ren, Chinese Wild Man, or Man-Monkey. It is said that this figure lives in remote forests on the mountains.
According to one article:
"Deep in the mountains of southern and central China there is said to exist a hairy humanoid creature known as the Yeren. Sightings of the Yeren, or Chinese Wildman, date back more than 2,000 years and are still reported today. Described as being a red haired bipedal animal, rising over six feet tall ...the Yeren bears a striking resemblance to many humans found in modern developed countries..."
Following the evolutionary vein, still others believe that the Yeren is an ancestral memory of Gigantopithecus, an extinct hominid that lived from about " nine million years to as recently as one hundred thousand years ago, in what is now China, India, and Vietnam, placing Gigantopithecus in the same time frame and geographical location as several hominin species. The primate fossil record suggests that the species Gigantopithecus blacki were the largest known primates that ever lived, standing up to 3 m (9.8 ft) and weighing as much as 540–600 kg (1,190–1,320 lb.)" 2
Still others believe that the Yeren is just one example of an archetypal creature that is found in virtually every culture, from the Boqs of the Bella Coola, the Yowie of Australia, the Yeh Teh of the Himalayas, to the Teryk of the Caucasus mountains, the Mapinguari of South America, and the Waterbobbejan of South Africa. These entities are often greatly respected by indigenous cultures around the world as teachers or messengers. This is how we see the Wild Person, the Ape Man.
Whatever the Yeren, or Gorilla Man, of the Yuan Gong origin story might be, it has great resonance in the deepest parts of us, and like modern apes holds up a mirror to our own evolutionary legacy. It can be a powerful tool for remembering our place in the natural world, our context in past and ongoing history, and an inspiration for believing that there are transcendent opportunities for us if we look in the right places.
2. Gigantopithecus: Wikipedia