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Were There Giants in China?

In my travels, I recently made a stop in Peking to investigate some reports I’ve been hearing of archaeological finds and fascinating legends. In some cases, very old legends.

It turns out that China contains some of the oldest skeletal remains of giants. You may balk at the suggestion that giants were real, but remains have been discovered on just about every continent—including Antarctica, of which I have firsthand experience. Several of the Chinese archaeologists I met insisted that men as tall as fifteen feet once walked among their ancestors. Elsewhere, the estimates are even higher, as high as thirty feet.

Hard to believe? Yes. The problem is that so many of the pictures found online look like they’ve been photoshopped. Fortunately, I can spot the difference between the fakes and the real deal, and some of them are definitely real.

Melchior Nuñez Barreto, one of the first Jesuit missionaries to venture into China, traveled as far as Canton Province in 1555. Later, while he was in India, he wrote letters with descriptions of giants in China of tremendous size. Specifically, the guardians of the gate of Peking were giants. Apparently the Chinese emperor also once entertained some five hundred giants who were to serve as archers in his personal guard.

Similar reports were published by George Hakeman, a British clergyman, and by Samuel Purchas, a cleric from Essex, who in 1625 described the appearance of a Chinese warrior giant. It should be acknowledged, however, that these last two writers might have simply been repeating second-hand information.

Some families in that area are still unusually tall. I met a man (he asked that his name be withheld) who claimed to be descended from Chang Woo Gow, a man more than eight feet tall who became famous in the 1800s for visiting England and making a positive impression on the royal family. The man I met was seven feet tall, so it’s possible that the maximum height of the family line continues to diminish over time.