White Bear of East Asia.
Etymology: Mandarin Chinese (Sino-Tibetan), "white bear." The same term is sometimes used for the Giant panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca).
Variant names: Bei-sheng, Bitchun. Physical description: Creamy-white bear, smaller than the Polar bear (Ursus maritimus).
Distribution: Shennongjia Forest, Hubei Province, China; Mongolia.
Significant sighting: Four specimens, obtained since 1963, have been on display in the Wuhan and Beijing zoos.
Present status: Known from ancient Chinese writings. Possibly confused with the giant panda after it was discovered in 1868 or with the Almas in Mongolia. Possible explanations:
(1) Albino specimens or a pale-color morph of the Brown bear (Ursus arctos). Shennongjia is known for a high incidence of albinism in other species, including deer and monkeys.
(2) Separate subspecies of the brown bear, rather than a color variation.
Sources: Emanuel Vlcek, "Old Literary Evidence for the Existence of the 'Snow Man' in Tibet and Mongolia," Man 59 (1959): 133134; Karl Shuker, The Lost Ark (London: HarperCollins, 1991), p. 45.
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