I’ve been thinking and dreaming a lot lately about these amazing creatures as I just re-watched one of my favorite movies, Kung Fu Panda. So I did a little research and found that not only are these animals extremely unique (and endangered), but they also have symbolic value within Chinese philosophy and spirituality. Here are a few awesome and important facts about pandas:
1. Even though they are evolved to eat meat, 99 percent of their diet consists of bamboo of which they can only extract 20-30 percent of the nutrients. The result is that they eat for up to 16 hours of the day.
2. The Chinese name for panda is daxiongmao, which means ‘large bear-cat.’ Apparently, this is because unlike all other bears, their pupils are not round, but are vertical slits. They are also very skillful climbers.
3. Female pandas are fertile only once a year for 2-3 days.
4. There are only about 1,600 pandas remaining in the world today. They have been endangered since 1990.
5. In Chinese philosophy/spirituality, the panda is a symbol of Yin and Yang. Its black and white fur in addition to its gentle nature symbolizes peace and harmony when Yin and Yang are in balance.
Unfortunately, many ecologists and other environmental and evolutionary scientists believe that the panda’s survival is unimportant on the grand scale of ecological disruption. This may be true as the giant panda has no natural predators and only one food source. As a result, their presence has minimal impact on their environment. It’s almost as if they do not exist at all. They are natural Taoists.
However, we must think of the meta-physical repercussions to allowing and, in many ways, encouraging the extinction of these majestic beasts. The panda is endangered because it faces the threat of poachers in addition to its natural habitat rapidly being consumed by humans. What does it say about us if we allow this? I’m not a bleeding heart talking about the cruelty of it all. Cruelty like most negative emotion and action is a result of unconsciousness. There is so much to be learned from the panda. Not seeing that indicates a lack of presence.
I’ve written so much about being present and how to go about it, so I will spare you and myself another lecture. Yet, I will say that the panda’s presence may not be necessary to our survival or the earth’s survival, but neither is getting an education, or falling in love, or making money for that matter (contrary to popular belief). The panda shows us that the most precious things in life are often the simplest and most unnecessary.
By Terence Stone
Animals: Tiny Buddhas
Chief Editor and Founder of Urban Spiritual, I’m a classically trained singer and actor living in New York City, who has performed in the U.S. and Europe. I’m also a writer, traveller, meditator, arts-lover, and well-being enthusiast.