Panda Nation: New Book Looks at China’s Modern Icon

Panda Nation, first book from Professor E. Elena SongsterThe giant panda has become an internationally beloved creature—and a symbol for the emergence of China on the world scene. In her first book, Panda Nation: The Construction and Conservation of China's Modern Icon, Saint Mary’s Associate Professor of History E. Elena Songster reveals how the big bear and its image became a symbol of the People’s Republic of China. Songster challenges the Chinese government’s assertion that the giant panda was part of ancient Chinese culture and used in diplomacy during the Tang Dynasty. Instead, she details how the animal’s symbolic meaningfulness is relatively new. Songster examines local, provincial, and national information drawn from Chinese and English language sources to trace the history of the panda as part of China’s culture and landscape. In addition, she offers a rare look at the Baima people, who live alongside the giant panda habitat. Finally, Songster points to the complexity of the use of the panda as a symbol that sometimes simultaneously represents conflicting interests and concerns.