Cambridge exhibition remembers first panda to UK

By Sun Wei in London Source:Global Times Published: 2019/6/13 18:18:42

A painting by David Paskett on display at the Cambridge exhibition Photo: Courtesy of Cam Rivers Arts

A panda-themed exhibition is being held at the Cam Rivers Arts Center in Cambridge from June 6 to Sunday.

At the Chinese Panda Cultural and Creative Exhibition, a series of panda-themed paintings, photographs and creative cultural products are on display.   

The items were mainly designed by David Paskett, artistic director of Cam Rivers Publishing and former president of The Royal Watercolour Society in the UK, and British poet Lucy Hamilton.

According to Paskett, his bond with pandas started from the panda Ming, the first giant panda to come to Britain. 

"Santa Claus can only bring a happy night to the children, but the Chinese panda Ming was with us for six years during one of the most difficult periods in British history," Paskett told the Global Times.

There are tensions and difficulties in some parts of the world. It is of great significance to remember the hope and happiness that Ambassador Ming has brought to us, and stay calm and brave amid difficulties, Paskett added.

The legendary panda came to Britain in 1938 and settled in London Zoo. Ming was named after the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). Black, white and furry, her calmness and cuteness warmed the British people, who were living under the shadow of World War II, and became a symbol of hope for children of London. 

Thousands of Londoners went to see the panda, including the future Queen Elizabeth, who was then still a princess, and her sister Princess Margaret. 

The British who suffered from the war even regarded Ming as a spiritual idol because she became a reminder of normality and a morale-booster. 

Unfortunately, in 1944, Ming died on the eve of the end of World War II and didn't share the joy of victory with the British people. The Times newspaper even published a special obituary to remember the happy angel of the war.

In order to commemorate the panda, Chinese poet and artist Chiang Yee wrote an illustrated children's book The Story of Ming, which dramatized the panda's journey to London. Published in the UK in 1945, the book inspired Britons throughout the 1940s to 1970s. Paskett and Hamilton were among the generation who grew up reading the story of Ming. 

Paskett has been visiting China for around 30 years. His artistic work about China has recorded the tremendous changes that have occurred since the reform and opening-up began in the late 1970s. 

In recent years, Paskett and Hamilton began working on a series of art and literary creations themed around pandas. They brought together young artists and designers from China and the UK to create culturally creative products.

As the first giant panda cub to come to Britain, Ming became the spearhead of what later became known as panda diplomacy. Between 1958 and 1982, China presented 23 giant pandas to nine countries as a means of establishing friendly relations, according to a report by the Telegraph.

In 2015, China donated a life-size statue of Ming to the London Zoo to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, and promote China-UK friendship and communication. 

As this year marks the 75th anniversary of the death of Ming, Cam Rivers Publishing will publish the first volume of a bilingual series about Chinese Pandas around the world in December. The first volume, titled Chinese Pandas in Shanghai, will depict Shanghai's traditional culture and contemporary stories from a panda's perspective. 

Apart from inheriting goodwill and friendship, it is of great importance to continue spreading the seeds of friendship in the hearts of the younger generations in China and Britain, said Paskett. 

Newspaper headline: Lasting legacy


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