The Panda or Ailuropoda melanoleuca (Literally : black-and-white-cat-foot) is one of the most widely known and internationally recognized symbols of balance and harmony in the world. This big adorable bundle of happiness has made its way to representing the World Wildlife Fund and even the Beijing Olympics of 2008. Along with magnificent, fire-breathing dragons, the panda has become a national symbol for the People’s Republic of China.
In fact, this had spawned the earliest known exchange of culture between the PRC and the West; termed – ‘Panda diplomacy’. The PRC essentially loaned out pandas to the rest of the world, at first in the form of gifts and later (beyond 1984), with due fees and on strict terms. Someone probably gave them the memo that if they were good at something, they shouldn’t do it for free. With great power comes great responsibility and the PRC has shown their love for our furry friend by successfully removing the Giant Panda from from the list of endangered animals through decades worth of perseverance and dedication.
“The Dragon Warrior!”
Speaking of uniting different cultures, the panda figuratively and visually embodies the meaning of the ancient Chinese philosophical ‘Yin-Yang’ concept. This beautiful ideology describes how seemingly opposite or contrary forces may actually be complementary, interconnected, and interdependent in the natural world, and how they may give rise to each other as they interrelate to one another. This notion of dependent dualities perfectly resembles the mathematical concept of a Mobius Strip ( discovered by German Mathematician August Ferdinand Mobius); a 3-dimensional object which gives the illusion of 2 separate surfaces while in reality there exists only one.
The panda is no longer limited to the animal or its symbolic value these days. It has immersed itself in the modern era as a pop-culture icon through heavy westernisation and blending of a multitude of interpretations. The song ‘PANDA’; debut single of the rapper ‘Desiigner’ rocketed itself to the top of the Billboards earlier this year. The Brooklyn-born rapper’s futuristic style and an infectious, pumping background track saw our Chinese hero hold the No.1 spot for quite some time.
Even tech giants like Google have borrowed from this cultural phenomenon and branded their ideas with a new face. ‘Google Panda’ is an update to the prioritisation algorithm of search results which was initially rolled out back in 2011 and has received several updates since.
“Let me google that for you..”
Of course, the most well-known panda of the century is accredited to DreamWorks for their academy award nominated, animated movie ‘Kung Fu Panda’. The film was very well received and was declared an instant classic! Millions were made in franchising toys and homeware. The movie’s success was so massive that it spawned 2 sequels and an animated series after it. The fact that such a successful film based on Chinese culture was created by the American film industry has led to some Chinese introspection. Po ( voiced by Jack Black) became a superhero overnight. Mixing in themes of comedy and action, the film also garnered praise for its breathtakingly beautiful animation style and the message it conveyed.
“He’s not a big fat panda… he’s THE big fat panda!”
By choosing cultural syncretism as the theme this Festember we set out to dissolve differences, break down barriers and to unite as one. The panda is a living personification of that goal and hence ‘Polo the Panda’ has become the figurehead of our mission. Rockin wild-west style cowboy attire and a mighty fine looking beard, Polo represents us all in our own unique ways and is the purest representation of the magical harmony brought out by bonding boundlessly.
So, what does the Panda say?