A Panda's Presence
I believe everything in moderation can be a good thing.
This being said, I’m the kinda gal that found herself on a train to Cornwall reading a brief introduction to post-structuralism, sipping a pint of lager whilst humming along to OneD. Let's just be clear, it was playing on shuffle so I just rolled with it.
As should you. This is a safe space.
This point in my trip landed me in Chéngdū. Nothing comes in moderation in Chengdu. Not when it comes to sightseeing anyway.
There are lots of Pandas in Chéngdū. They sort of use them as a currency. The pandas are based in a Breeding Research Centre, which is in the capital of the Sichuan Province. They breed them, make sure they get signed off on a survival 101, and then they are released into the wild.
March to May is apparently the falling in love period (whatever that means). Not sure if that was a joke or not, but it meant we got to see little baby pandas when we got there. In the wild, the mum usually has twins and discards one of them so she can focus all her attention on one kid. The research centre had a crafty scheme of rescuing the panda that had been neglected, and every so often they would swap it in and take out the other twin without the mum noticing, so she was actually looking after both of them.
They're not the brightest bunch, but my-oh-my they were spectacular.
Anyway, with the research centre’s focus on getting these super shy black and white things to breed, it is one of the most popular attractions in China.
We were tipped off to visit at the crack of dawn for a couple of reasons. First, because it was their feeding time so they were all out and about.
(photo taken just as we were leaving the park)
Pandas are lazy srekcufrehtom (one of the many reasons they don’t really survive in the wild) and they spend most of their time eating, sleeping or lazing in trees.
The atmosphere was 100 emoji. So much excitement was running through everyone, you could feel the buzz. These creatures hold so much respect and history, to be able to see them in China was an experience. They held their own. Aura is officially an official art term you know, thanks to Walter Benjamin. His essay Art In The Age of Mechanical Reproduction is something everyone reads within the first few weeks of art school. He basically argues that the ‘aura’ or atmosphere of a place cannot be replicated with mechanical/print/by any photographic means. There are obvs two sides to this argument and it was published in 1936 so we gotta give it some slack when it comes to commenting on technology. BUT he does say:
"Even the most perfect reproduction of a work of art is lacking in one element: Its presence in time and space, its unique existence at the place where it happens to be."
I can tell you about the buzz we felt, watching the pandas, but I can’t replicate it. Not really. It’s exciting partially because it’s only a buzz that can be felt in that particular time and place. I could make an artwork commenting ON the buzz, but not of the actual buzz itself.
Got ya thinking there for a second, eh?
It’s like listening to a piece of music on your iPod. Nothing is equal to when you saw that band (The Killers) play that song (Mr. Brightside) live at V Fest 2 rows from the front of the stage jumping up and down while you had a girl next to you piss herself because she couldn’t face going to the loo and missing her space in the crowd (unfortunately this is a super true story).
It can certainly remind you of the time, but it doesn’t hold the existence in space and time, it’s just the memory spark.
To make the most of Chéngdū, we also visited the People’s Park. One of my favourite parks, ngl. It was like real life tinder. But instead of swiping pictures, you walked around the park looking at CVs/bios/pay grades.
Oh, and instead of it being you swiping, it was your mum (or dad, or granny etc). They would literally swap your digits if they liked the sound of someone. Super awks.
Ed (the Edventurer) found a nice and shady spot and seemed to fit right in..
There was lots of dancing and general happy vibes.
Street dancing, board games, tea-drinking.
This walk through the park gently led us round to the Wénshū Temple.
It is (apparently) the largest (of course) and the best-preserved (yep) Buddhist temple from the Tang dynasty. I always feel very disrespectful taking photos next to something so religious (when in use), so I didn’t snap anything inside, but it was pretty cool.
There was a sense of serenity and solitude which was nice to step into after the breeze of the dating-park-slash-dancing-nightmare. Also, I felt I needed to calm myself after the excitement of seeing so many pandas. Not much could beat that.