Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Tuan Tuan and Yuan Yuan: The Next Generation's Commitment to Peace

Tuan Tuan and Yuan Yuan: The Next Generation's Commitment to Peace
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
December 23, 2008

The two pandas born in Wolong, don't know they have been chosen as cross-Strait goodwill gifts. They don't know that two years ago the Taiwan authorities rejected them. The don't know that today they are scheduled to fly to Taiwan, and to live out their lives on this unfamiliar island. They don't know, given Taiwan's complex politics, whether everyone on Taiwan welcomes their arrival.

These two pandas may not know the meaning of their names. But Tuan Tuan and Ruan Ruan are already quite familiar with their sound, and can accurately respond to their breeder's instructions. Of course they don't know how heavy a burden they are carrying. But that will not affect their ability to bring joy to people. For many people, just seeing these big fuzzy cartoon characters play, utterly carefree, rolling about, chewing their food, an even sleeping, is enough to distract them from their cares.

Pandas have charm, not merely because of their rarity, but also because of their unusual behavior, the difficulty of breeding them, and their unique sense of joy. Their large, soft bodies are ingeniously decorated with a monochrome, black and white color scheme. They almost look like giant babies, wearing diapers, or flannel dolls, wearing bibs. Despite their bear-like bodies, they also resemble cats. The mainland refers to them as "bear cats." Taiwan refers to them as "cat bears." The genus and species are difficult to classify, and it is impossible to arrive at a single name. All of this adds to their colorful background. Their manner is mild. Their movements are slow. When they sit, they resemble human babies. This may be the reason no one ever tires of watching them.

Tuan Tuan and Ruan Ruan's arrival on Taiwan has coincided with a severe economic downturn. But for a year that can be summed up as chaotic, they are a precious New Year's present. For many parents at least, they are a story to tell the next generation. For many children, visiting the pandas will be the happiest event of the New Year. It will also be an important biology lesson. Don't look down at these two four year olds. In May they survived a magnitude 8.0 earthquake. They have been sent from Wolong to Ya An Chi Ti. They have crossed the sea to Taiwan as ambassadors of peace. For children, such a tale should be deeply moving.

Indeed, animals can sometimes teach human beings a thing or two. They can achieve something more profound than humans. Before this, reports that Australia's koala bear in the Taipei Zoo had died giving birth, and images of Emperor Penguins sharing the burden of hatching an egg, attracted public attention and public sympathy. Projecting these situations on human society provides us with valuable lessons in life. In recent years, the relentless incitement of political hatred on Taiwan, has occasionally made us think of the animal world and pure instinct. The arrival of the pandas may allow us to lower our psychological defenses, and find a common language. If we leave aside politics, and return to the animals as animals, Tuan Tuan and Ruan Ruan's arrival on Taiwan should allow us to find the meaning of peace.

From a more solemn perspective, for Taiwan these pandas, are not merely a gift. They are a trust. Mainland China has always adopted a lease system for Pandas. For Taiwan, it has generously made an outright gift. Naturally the gesture implies the politics of reunification. But from a conservationist perspective, we have taken Tuan Tuan and Ruan Ruan from their original habitat to Taiwan. We must ensure their physical and emotional well-being. We must conduct valuable scientific research on panda breeding and reproduction, in repayment of this debt. If in the future, a new generation can be successfully bred in Taipei, it would demonstrate that Taipei has made a contribution to panda ecology.

Tuan Tuan and Yuan Yuan's names may connote political reunification. But the larger meaning of the pandas' arrival on Taiwan is that they symbolize the spirit of peace. This dream of peace may not be something the current authorities on the two sides can achieve. But the two sides, by exchanging pandas, mei hua deer, and other animals, may allow the next generation to see the results, and ensure that the two sides never go to war.

Those who are welcoming Tuan Tuan and Yuan Yuan have set aside politics, and forgotten their age. They have returned to their childhood, and are looking at the pandas through the eyes of a child. That is why the pandas are such welcome angels of peace. Many people on Taiwan will give their children a rare New Year's surprise. Politicians seeking re-election, please don't undermine this common dream of parents and children.

2008.12.23 02:50 am


這兩隻貓熊不會知道自己的名字有什麼意義,但對團團、圓圓這個疊音的呼喚已經十分熟悉,並能準確回應飼養員的指令。牠們當然也不會知道自己肩負著多大的任 務,但這完全不影響牠們所能帶給人們的歡樂和期待。許多人光是看到這兩個毛茸茸的大玩偶無憂無慮地嬉戲、翻滾、嚼食、酣睡,就足以解愁忘憂。

貓熊的魅力,不僅在於其物種之稀有,更在於牠罕見的習性、艱難的繁育和獨特的喜感。牠們龐大柔軟的身軀,經黑白二色的巧妙點綴,像極了包尿布、穿圍兜的絨 布玩偶。牠們雖有「熊」的體態,卻長相似「貓」;在對岸被稱為「熊貓」,在台灣卻被稱為「貓熊」;難以分類的科別、無法統一的名稱,更增添牠們身世的姿 彩。牠們性情溫和,行動緩慢;尤其在坐臥之間,透露出一股宛如人類嬰兒的憨態,這或許是世人對貓熊百看不厭的奧妙所在。

雖然正逢景氣嚴冬,但在以「亂」字總結的一年即將結束之際,團團、圓圓來到台灣,應是一個彌足珍貴的新年佳禮。至少,對許多家長而言,他們有一個可以向下 一代講述的大故事;對許多兒童而言,探訪貓熊將是他們新年的一大快樂,也是他們人生中重要的一課生物啟蒙。別小看四歲多的團團、圓圓,牠們五月間曾歷經八 級的強烈地震,幸運逃過一劫,從臥龍被送至雅安基地,隨即又渡海來台充當和平大使。這樣的故事,兒童聽了應會心動。

的確,動物能夠教給人類的東西,有時比人類自己能做的還深刻得多。在此之前,澳洲無尾熊在台北動物園產子乃至病故的報導,國王企鵝如何分工抱蛋的畫面,都 曾經深深吸引人們的關注與同情。這些,放在人類社會情境中,都是極珍貴的生命教育。台灣社會近幾年的發展,不時因政治對立而陷入仇恨動員的境地,偶爾回顧 動物世界的純真本能,或許能教人們放下心防,找到共同的語言和感情。團團、圓圓來台,如果撇開政治,回歸動物為本的立場,應不難找到可以共同的和平意義 吧?

更嚴肅一點看,台灣接受這對貓熊,不只是一項「禮物」,也是一項「任務」。中國大陸對貓熊出境一向採取「租借」制度,對台灣能慷慨相送,自有特殊的「統 戰」考量。但站在保育的觀點,我們把團團、圓圓從原生地接來台灣,除須妥善照料牠們的身心健康,也應該對貓熊的飼養和繁殖提出有益的科學研究,以為回饋。 未來,若能進一步在台北成功繁殖團團、圓圓的下一代,那才證明台北也對貓熊生態作出了回饋與貢獻。



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