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Xizi: The Bloodsucking Cryptid of Chinese Folklore

In the world of cryptozoology, mysterious creatures abound, and China’s folklore offers its own array of unverified entities. Among these is Xizi, a creature described as a large bloodsucking mat.

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Xizi, often depicted as a flat, mat-like creature, is said to dwell in remote and desolate areas. Its unusual appearance sets it apart from more commonly known cryptids.

Descriptions suggest that Xizi has a texture and color resembling a woven mat, blending seamlessly into its surroundings, thus evading easy detection. This camouflage ability makes it a particularly elusive creature, difficult to spot even in its natural habitat.

One of the most striking aspects of Xizi is its alleged behavior as a bloodsucker. Tales recount that this creature lies in wait, appearing as a harmless mat or patch of ground.

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When an unsuspecting animal or human steps on it, Xizi springs to life, enveloping its prey and draining it of blood. This gruesome feeding method has earned it a fearsome reputation among those who dwell in regions where sightings have been reported.

The origins of Xizi’s legend are difficult to trace, as is often the case with folklore. However, the creature has been a part of Chinese storytelling for generations.

The creature attacks people by wrapping around them and trying to drown them. Cryptozoologists have speculated that errant freshwater stingrays or possibly freshwater cephalopods are responsible. Credit: Icarito

The 1788 work What the Master Would Not Discuss (子不語), a collection of supposedly true stories collected over many years by scholar Yuan Mei, claims that in Spring 1771 an underwater diver was “tightly wrapped by a reddish, large dustpan-like animal equipped with many suckers” in a river in Zhengjiang, Jiangsu.

In Summer 1976 or 1977, a young girl swimming in a pond in Yunnan’s Ruili County was allegedly attacked by a xizi, which wrapped itself around her arm so tightly that her father was obliged to cut her arm off. Some weeks later, a “floating shadow” seized a man swimming in the same pool, prompting the locals to drain it. Supposedly, they subsequently found the man’s body, “still wrapped tight by the moss-covered creatures suckers”.

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In Autumn 1993, two brothers searching for frogs in a grotto near the Daluo River in Mengla County stumbled over a “greenish woolen blanket” on the ground. The “blanket” immediately rose up and wrapped itself around one of the brother’s legs, but released him and fled into a deep pool when the other brother burned it with his torch.

Some speculate that Xizi could be inspired by real animals or natural phenomena misinterpreted by ancient observers. For instance, certain species of flat, camouflaged animals, like rays or flatworms, might have contributed to the development of the Xizi myth.

Alternatively, Xizi could be a symbolic representation of natural dangers lurking in the wild, warning people to tread carefully in unfamiliar territories.

The accounts of Xizi vary widely, reflecting the diverse regions and cultures of China. In some versions of the tale, Xizi is a solitary creature, while in others, it is depicted as part of a larger group of similar beings.

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The common thread in all these stories is the creature’s dangerous nature and its ability to blend into its environment seamlessly.

Himantura polylepis. Credit: Animalia.bio

David C. Xu suggests that a stray Southeast Asian giant freshwater stingray (Himantura polylepis), or an unknown Chinese species similar to it, might have given rise to stories of the xizi.

Alternatively, it has been speculated to be a type of freshwater cephalopod, which have been reported as cryptids in their own right in Africa and North America. No known cephalopod is adapted to live in fresh water, but some species have extensive webbing, like the vampire squid (Vampyroteuthis infernalis) and the blanket octopuses (Tremoctopus spp.), which might disguise their arms.

Researchers and cryptozoologists continue to study these stories, hoping to uncover any possible basis in reality. While skeptics dismiss Xizi as a mere myth, the persistence of its legend suggests that it holds a significant place in the cultural consciousness of the regions where it is known.

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Reference: Xu, David C. (2018) Mystery Creatures of China: The Complete Cryptozoological Guide, Coachwhip Publications

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Zoe Mitchell

Zoe Mitchell is an independent researcher and writer specializing in extraordinary topics. With a degree in journalism, she delves into the mysteries that lie beyond the surface of our reality.