I do love a debunking, and Victor Mair provides a good one at the Log:

If you do a web search for “Hsigo”, you will find thousands of references and hundreds of images. I won’t give specific references, because they’re all complete and utter nonsense, but you can read detailed descriptions of these fake, mythical Chinese monkeys — including pseudo-learned discussions of their name — in works like the following: Erudite Tales, Creepy Hollows Encyclopedia, Mythical Creatures Guide, Encyclo, Societas Magic, Monstropedia, etc., etc. Hsigo are supposedly flying monkeys with bird-like wings, the tail of a dog, and a human face. […] It all started with a typo.

Do read the whole thing; it’s quite entertaining.


  1. It reminds me of the argument by some Hebrew scholars that the Virgin Birth is a consequence of mistranslating “young woman” as “virgin”. Or the more recent argument that correcting a linguistic error would alter the 72 virgins of Islam into 72 raisins.

  2. David Marjanović says

    A few clicks later, I found our esteemed host’s Wikipedia userpage.
    And smiled.
    Don’t misundreshtmate your language skills so ridiculously. I might count as ru-2: I can slowly read scientific papers in Russian while occasionally consulting a dictionary. You read Russian literature for fun. You’re at least ru-4.

    the Virgin Birth is a consequence of mistranslating “young woman” as “virgin”

    Yep, the Septuagint gets it wrong in a prophecy of Isaiah… which, incidentally, isn’t about the distant future but the very near one in the first place.

  3. Wait, isn’t it the same word in greek? wouldn’t both young woman and virgin be “parthenos”? Or is there something else going on?

  4. s/o: At some point parthenos transitioned from meaning ambiguously ‘young woman’ or ‘virgin’ (at least in principle they were the same thing, as women were married off pretty much at puberty) to its Modern Greek meaning of ‘virgin’. Whether that had happened when the Septuagint was written, I don’t know. In any case, Hebrew almah definitely means ‘young woman’, not ‘virgin’, but there is no doubt that the Gospel of Matthew uses parthenos to mean ‘virgin’; it’s not even clear whether its author knew or understood the Hebrew text.

  5. You read Russian literature for fun. You’re at least ru-4.
    That’s kind of you to say, but my fluency is almost entirely passive. Here’s what they say about level 4: “for ‘near-native’ level – although it’s not your first language from birth, your ability is something like that of a native speaker.” My reading ability is something like that of a native speaker, but my speaking ability is something like that of a bumbling foreigner. I’m sure I could get up to speed relatively quickly if I were in a Russian-speaking environment, but I haven’t had anybody to speak Russian to in fifteen years. And I have strong feelings about people claiming fluency in foreign languages when they can barely make themselves understood.
    the Septuagint gets it wrong
    I recently finished reading a book the generous bulbul sent me, When God Spoke Greek: The Septuagint and the Making of the Christian Bible, by Timothy Michael Law, and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in the Septuagint. One of the many things I learned from it is that differences between the Septuagint and the (current) Hebrew Bible are not necessarily errors; the Septuagint sometimes preserves earlier readings that have been edited out of the Masoretic text. Obviously this is not such a case, but I wanted to plug the book, which I probably won’t get around to doing a separate post on. It never really occurred to me that the Septuagint was the Christian Bible (O.T.) for centuries, and deserves a lot more attention than it gets.

  6. J. W. Brewer says

    Hey, the LXX is arguably still *the* Christian Bible, except among the heterodox. Anglophone cultures are majority-heterodox, but that’s just a historical accident. In any event, I doubt that “almah” was Hebrew for “young woman who is specifically known not to be a virgin.”

  7. John Cowan: parthenos is used in Genesis 34:3 to translate na’ara (“girl”) in a context where ‘virgin’ is probably not intended. Of course, different sections of the Septuagint were done by different people so this is not entirely conclusive about Isaiah.

  8. J. W. Brewer says

    I see that NETS renders the LXX as “maiden” in Gen 34:3 but “virgin” in the passage in Esaias. I guess the KJV’s “damsel” in the Genesis passage was too archaic for them? The Vulgate has “virginem” at the end of Gen 34:2 (Englished as “virgin” in Douay-Rheims) but seems to reflect a variant textual tradition (so the timing of the reference is mid-rape rather than immediately post-rape).

  9. marie-lucie says

    Perhaps almah meant ‘young woman of marriageable age’ rather than specifically ‘virgin’.

  10. J. W. Brewer says

    Forms of “almah” apparently occur 7 places in the MT; the KJV uses (ignoring singular/plural distinctions) four different English words to translate it (damsel/maid/maiden/virgin). More recent English translations that use the same Hebrew vorlage may not handle the same 7 in exactly the same way, but I doubt any well-known translation uses the same English lexeme in all 7 places. Translation is like that.

  11. David Marjanović says

    Obviously this is not such a case, but I wanted to plug the book

    🙂 This sounds like a book that’s worth plugging!

  12. John Cowan – that makes sense, thanks.

  13. Indeed, until around the 2C, the LXX was the Jewish Bible too; the center of Jewish life for several centuries was in Alexandria, which is where the LXX was translated.

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