The other day, as I was randomly flipping through the channels, I somehow landed on YTV. KungFu Panda was just about to play. As it turned out, I sagged in my couch and watched 3 hours of KungFu Panda 1 and 2, and totally enjoyed it. In light of Kungfu Panda 3 coming to the big screen. Here is a post about the real Panda and its incredible charm and political power.
Long ago, China used to gift Panda bears to other countries as a way of extending olive branch. The first pair of Panda was given to the former Soviet Union in 1957. I found the story very interesting.
In May of 1957, former military officer Voroshilov of Soviet Union paid a visit to China. At the time, Panda bears were no biggies. Everyone was struggling with the most essential things in life, no one had the luxury of idolizing after a panda. The Beijing Zoo was the only zoo in China that housed panda bears. There were three of them. When Voroshilov visited the zoo, the pandas were just doing their things, being cute and "staying true to who they are". Voroshilov was totally amused. He had never seen a panda before. He was completely blown away by such adorable creature. Without sugar coating it, Voroshilov asked:"how about give us a pair?" Prime Minister Zhou agreed right away.
By 1959, the first pair of panda bears immigrated to Soviet Union, a male named PingPing, a female named QiQi. The Russians had no experience raising panda bears. Years gone by, the panda couple was still childless. They didn't know that a female panda ovulates only 4 days per year. It's almost impossible to conceive the pandas without intervention. Therefore, they guessed that the two pandas must be of the same sex. They thought QiQi was a male as well. Therefore, they asked to send QiQi back and in exchange for AnAn, one of the panda bears Voroshilov saw in Beijing Zoo. Speaking about impossibility, AnAn was ironically a male.
An Austrian business man saw this as an opportunity. He approached the Chinese government and asked if he could bring QiQi to his country. He was willing to pay. The Chinese said they didn't want money. The Austrian man came up with another proposal, what about trading? They were willing to give 7 beasts in exchange for 1 beauty --- 3 giraffes, 2 rhinos, 1 zebra and 1 hippo for a panda bear. That seemed fair. After QiQi went to Austria, she became a star. She went on a national tour and even traveled to Germany. Around 1963, the Austrian man wanted to sell QiQi to the Americans for $10,000. The American government opposed the idea. Technically, Panda was a "Communist", ain't no welcome during the Cold War.
The British heard about this, they wanted QiQi and they paid $12,000. The first panda in England brought a lot of buzz. Everyone loved her. However, as QiQi grew older, she became increasingly irritable during mating season, to a point where she was violent toward the zoo keepers. The British wanted to reach out for help, but at the time they had no diplomatic relationship with China during the Cold War. The only other countries that had panda were the North Koreans and the Russians. By that time PingPing had already passed away, only AnAn was still alive and well. It took about 1 and half years to reach an agreement to bring the two pandas together. In 1966, QiQi was sent to Moscow to live with AnAn. Unfortunately, the two had no chemistry whatsoever. They were fighting and biting each other all the time. After nine months, it didn't seem like a baby would ever come out of them, like ever. As a result, QiQi got sent back to Britain. Because of QiQi's fame and affiliation with that many countries. Her image was used as the logo for World Wildlife Fund
|logo of World Wildlife Fund|
When Richard Nixon paid a visit to China in 1972, Prime Minister Zhou offered a pack of cigarette to Pat Nixon. She declined politely:" I am afraid that I don't smoke". Zhou said:" you see the two pandas on the cover? I am giving you a pair of pandas." "OMG!"Pat Nixon had only seen drawings of pandas, she had never seen live ones before. That was an ice-breaker for the two countries.
Between 1957 to 1982, China gave 23 pandas in total to countries like England, France, Germany, Japan, Spain, America, Mexico, and North Korea. Pandas became ambassadors that greatly enhanced diplomatic relationships.
In the 80s, the Chinese government realized it wasn't a wise idea to just give our national treasure away. Plus the fact that money was desperately needed to preserve and nurture these animals. Therefore, they began to lease pandas. In the beginning, it'd cost $100,000 to rent a panda bear. And today, the cost to rent a pair of pandas is $1 million dollars. Each year, pandas makes $100 millions in total, you might think it's a lot, but it's only about 1 percent of what Micky Mouse makes. China lacks the inspiration and creativity to expand Panda's franchise. Funny enough, it's the Americans who are doing that on the Panda's behalf --- Kung Fu Panda. I will probably pay to see it this time.