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Panda NationThe Construction and Conservation of China's Modern Icon$
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E. Elena Songster

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780199393671

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780199393671.001.0001

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Obscurity, Oddity, and Icon

Obscurity, Oddity, and Icon

The Emergence of the Giant Panda as Animal and Image

(p.9) 1 Obscurity, Oddity, and Icon
Panda Nation

E. Elena Songster

Oxford University Press

With the benefit of scientific studies, popular media, and zoo displays, this chapter traces the transformation of the giant panda from an unknown animal to a national treasure. Prior to the twentieth century the giant panda was virtually absent from or forgotten in Chinese historic cultural artifacts. China’s general populace did not take a strong interest in the giant panda until after 1949. An upsurge of scientific studies on the giant panda unveiled numerous curiosities about the panda that aroused both domestic and international interest. Because of its biological peculiarities, the panda was used as a tool for teaching communist citizens scientific thought. Although the panda was first introduced to the public through science, its attractive and unique appearance inspired adoration. Increasingly the general populace was not only intrigued by the panda, but began to embrace it as a popular symbol of the nation.

Keywords:   Giant panda, National symbol, Scientific thinking/understanding, People’s Republic of China, Taxonomy, Fossils

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