Mustela sibirica. The Siberian weasel. A near-mythical denizen of Beijing’s ancient hutong alleyways. In Chinese, this animal is called a 黄鼠狼 (huang shu lang) – literally ‘yellow mouse wolf’. Most folks have never seen one. Many question their existence at all. But with their long, lithe bodies and little legs, these elusive creatures can dart across grey rooftops like gold streaks of lightning. Adult males grow up to 40cm long, with soft, thick fur well adapted to Beijing’s brisk winters.
Elderly locals say it’s good luck if you manage to encounter one of these noble beasts; and inversely unlucky if you bring harm to one. It is also said in China that the Siberian weasel is a wandering spirit (shen) that can steal and replace people’s souls. Eek.