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Panda Ming

In 1937, Ming was born in Sichuan, the hometown of giant pandas. In the era when people still didn’t have the concept of animal protection, she was captured and resold several times, and eventually fell into the hands of the American banker Floyd Tangier Smith.

Smith is known as the “Panda King”. He appeared in the Sichuan and Xikang areas all year round, and he has acquired more than ten living giant pandas, but about half of them died unfortunately before even being sent. Because of several resales, no one knew where “Ming” came from. All we know is that “Ming” boarded a journey to Europe with 7 other pandas.

At that time, the Chinese people were fighting against the Japanese invaders. The original plan of descending along the Yangtze River to Shanghai could not be implemented. Only through land, from Sichuan to Guizhou, Guangxi, and Guangdong, and after several rounds, they finally arrived in Hong Kong.

According to Smith’s memories, there were a lot of mobs and the road was bumpy. The giant pandas were transported in a cage and by truck. One of the trucks turned over midway and there were two giant pandas escaping temporarily. When he loaded the ship in Hong Kong, he found that another panda had died.

The five surviving giant pandas were loaded onto the deck of a freighter. After a difficult voyage in January, they finally arrived in London in a snowstorm on Christmas Eve in 1938. Unfortunately, a panda named “Grandma” unfortunately contracted pneumonia and died two weeks later. 

The remaining four giant pandas, one of them called “Little Happy”, was bought by a German animal dealer and was moved to various zoos in Germany. It was finally sold to the United States. The names of the remaining three pandas were “Bei Bei”, “Little Fool” and “Little Angry”. “Ming” was still a little cub at that time, and it was called “Bei Bei”.

The London Zoological Association, which manages the London Zoo, has acquired “Bei Bei”, “Little Fool” and “Little Angry”. The new owner has studied a lot about Chinese history. The three pandas are named after the Chinese dynasties – “Tang”, “Song” and “Ming”.

“Ming” quickly became a star of London at that time, and its image frequently appeared in cartoons, postcards, toys, newspapers and magazines in the UK, even TV programs that had just started were enthusiastic to take videos of Ming.

In 1939, World War II broke out. The following year, Germany launched an unprecedented bombardment of Britain. The appearance of “Ming” had injected a rare hint of joy and pleasure into the tense atmosphere, which is especially valuable to the unsettled British children. 

At that time, the Chinese writer and artist Jiang Yi, who was living in London at the era, went to the London Zoo and saw the British people queue up outside the giant panda pavilion.

They were all looking forward to having closer contact with the giant pandas. Jiang Yi subsequently authored two illustrated books – “The Fairy Tales of the Ming Dynasty” and “The Book of Treasures and Giant Pandas”.

The famous British photographer Bert Hardy once took a photo that has spread all over the world. In the photo, the panda “Ming” seems to be playing with the tripod to take pictures of the photographer’s younger son, Mike. It looked pretty serious and people couldn’t help but burst into laughter after seeing this picture.

Later, the war became more and more serious. From 1940 to 1941, German aircraft bombarded 16 British cities including London, killing more than 40,000 citizens. The giant panda “Ming” was transferred to the Hewlett-Packard Snyder Zoo in the east of England, but was still often brought back to London to “meet his friends”. The panda “Ming” was like a stream of light in the dark, warming people’s hearts.

Unfortunately, it didn’t survive long enough to see victory. One day after Christmas 1944, it passed away with an unknown cause.

That day, it was snowing. The death of the giant panda “Ming” has caused mourning throughout the whole of Britain. The Times specially published an “obituary” for Ming, “it has brought happiness to so many souls. If it’s aware of this, then I’m sure it could leave happily. Even during these turmoil times in war, its departure is still worth remembering.”

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