Letter To The Editor: Universal Icon For World Peace

Los Alamos

The first Christmas gift I received many years ago was from an American friend. It was a Teddy Bear! For someone who just arrived on the other side of the Pacific Ocean and barely experienced the so-called culture shocks, receiving such a lovely gift was a pleasant surprise. The legendary story about Teddy Bear introduced me to learn American History and to explore Western culture concurrently with Chinese culture.

Teddy Bear is an iconic American Children’s toy and has become among the most popular gifts often given to adults on special occasions. It is associated with the legendary story of the 26th United States President Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt. In order to honor President “Teddy” who refused to shoot a bear cub tied to a willow tree during his famous hunting trip in Mississippi, Morris Michtom, a toymaker in New York, inspired by the goodwill of President “Teddy”, made the first Teddy Bear almost 120 years ago in 1902. 

President “Teddy” was also a world leader of peacemaking. He made mediating efforts in ending the Russian-Japanese War, a war fought between the Empire of Japan and the Russian Empire during 1904 and 1905 over rival imperial ambitions in LiaoDong Peninsula of China for taking control of a warm water port. Because of his role in ending the Russian-Japanese War, President “Teddy” became the first American who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1906. 

In comparison, the iconic Chinese children’s toy is Giant Panda. The giant panda, or panda bear, is a bear exclusively living in south western China with its distinctive black-and-white fur. Unlike other members of the bear family who are mostly carnivorous, the giant panda is unique for dining almost entirely on bamboo. The fairly placid personality makes giant pandas a perfect icon for world peace and mankind brotherhood. 

In ancient Chinese literature, giant pandas were described as a legendary creature ZouWu “驺虞”, that symbolizes “righteous” animal, only appears during the rule of a benevolent and sincere monarch. The armies in ancient China usually painted giant panda figures on their battle flags to send cease-fire messages to the opponents on the battlefield. 

In modern China, giant pandas have become very well welcomed diplomats and been sent to zoos around the world because of their symbolic identity. Between 1957 and 1983, 24 pandas were gifted to nine nations. Chinese gift pandas to the United States took on a special significance because of its association with the breakthrough in the China-US relations. Its root can be traced back to the Nixons’ groundbreaking trip to China in February 1972.

In a dinner party held for the then Chinese Premier Zhou En-lai and US President Nixon, Mrs. Nixon, who was seated next to Zhou, chatted with Zhou about her visit to Beijing Zoo where she got to see giant pandas. Zhou knew that the first lady loved giant pandas so much that she even bought lots of panda toys during her tour of Beijing. While chatting with Zhou, Mrs. Nixon remarked to the giant pandas decorated on a box of “Giant Panda” brand cigarettes on the table in front of her, “Aren’t they cute? I love them.” “I’ll give you some,” Zhou happily replied… 

Two months later in April 1972, 70 years after Morris Michtom made the first Teddy Bear, a pair of one year old panda cubs, Ling Ling and Xing Xing, arrived at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington D. C. Since then, Teddy Bear also welcomed his live bear brothers in San Diego Zoo, Atlanta Zoo, and Memphis Zoo. Millions of American children have made life long best buddies with live panda bears, just like their favorite toy Teddy Bear. 

Both Teddy Bear and Panda Bear have become a universal icon of world peace and mankind brotherhood. Teddy Bear carries its signature because of President “Teddy” in ending the war fought between two foreign empires on China’s territories. Giant Panda carries its signature because of US President Nixon and Chinese Premier Zhou En-lai in ending the cold war between the two giant countries on two sides of the Pacific Ocean. 

Half a century has almost passed since the first pair of panda bears arrived in the US, the world has changed a lot. The world leaders are facing unprecedented challenges to promote world peace and mankind brotherhood, most of all, how not just to stop long endless wars, but to prevent future wars from starting.