The Unsolved Mystery of China’s Dwarf Village

Yangsi, a remote village in southwest China’s Sichuan Province, has baffling scientists for decades. Around 40 percent of its inhabitants are several heads shorter than the average human being. 36 of the village’s 80 residents are dwarfs – the tallest one is about 3 ft. 10 inches tall and the shortest, 2 ft. 1 inch. That’s too large a percentage to be categorized as random occurrence, but so far no one has been able to provide a better explanation.

Today, because of the large number of height-challenged residents, Yangsi is known as the ‘Village of Dwarfs’. According to village elders, their peaceful, happy life was ruined on a summer night many years ago, when a vile disease struck the region. Several locals suffered from a mysterious condition that mainly affected young children between the ages of 5 and 7. These children just stopped growing, remaining at the same height for the rest of their lives. Apart from their inability to grow taller, some of the victims also suffered from various disabilities.

Scientists and experts visited Yangsi, to study the water, soil, and grain in the region. They also examined the affected individuals in the hopes of gathering a few clues. However, they were unable to determine the cause behind the condition. It remains as mysterious today, as it was some 60-odd years ago.


According to the writings of the District officials, the strange disease was discovered in 1951. The victims back then were described as having short limbs. A census was conducted in 1985, discovering about 119 such cases in the village. Apparently, the disease did not stop with the original victims; it was passed on to the next generation as well.

While Chinese authorities aren’t exactly denying the existence of the village, they haven’t opened the place to foreigners yet. So all we have to go by are a few photographs of the natives and some very bizarre rumors. Although the condition was officially recorded in 1951, reports of dwarf sightings date as far back as 1911. In 1947, English scientist Dr. Karyl Robin Evans claimed to have seen a few hundred dwarfs living in a remote valley, in the area where Yangsi is located.


While the dwarfs themselves might not be unusual, it’s the sheer number of them that’s perplexing. At one point, as many as 120 of them were spotted, which just could not be a matter of chance. The probability of stunted growth is about one case in 20,000, which means that there has to be a very specific reason for the phenomenon at Yangsi village. In 1997, a new theory suggested a high concentration of mercury in the soil, but it hasn’t been proven yet.

Naturally, the villagers began to believe that evil forces were at work. Some blamed the bad feng shui of the area, while others thought it was because their ancestors were not given a better burial. But the most bizarre explanation so far states that a long time ago, a man named Wang spotted a black turtle with strange feet. Some of the villagers wanted to let it go, but they ended up roasting and eating it. When the disease struck, they started to believe that they might have been better off releasing the turtle.


Some people blame toxic gases from when the Japanese invaded China many years ago. But the Japanese never reached the village of Yangsi, a fact that the villagers are not willing to accept.

Throughout the years, several residents have left the region in fear of being affected by the strange condition, but things seem to be improving. While many of the older locals are up to 80 centimeters in height, the new generation seems to be unaffected by the weird dwarfism phenomenon.

Sources: WFPA, China History Forum,

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