The existence of the Giant Panda went undiscovered for much of the history of Imperial China. The panda's absence from Chinese paintings prior to the 20th century – in spite of the fact that "all things bamboo-related" was otherwise one of the most common Chinese landscape themes throughout Chinese history, and in spite of the fact that other types of bears were frequently depicted in paintings – is ample proof of the absence of the Giant Panda from the life of the Imperial court, as well as from the life of Imperial China's literata, i.e., its writers, painters and poets.
Yet, the Giant Panda was certainly known during the Han (BCE 206 – CE 220) Dynasty, for the skull of a Giant Panda was later unearthed in the vault of the mother of Emperor Wen of Han, who reigned from BCE 179-157. Many centuries later, historical reference is made to a gift of two pandas from the grandson of Emperor Taizong of the Tang (CE 618-907) Dynasty, who reigned from CE 627-649, to the emperor of Japan during the Hakuho (CE 673-86) Period, when Japan was very much under the influence of the Tang Dynasty.
1) Though it will grow to be a giant – if it lives (in nature, almost one-half of infant pandas do not survive, for a number of reasons, including the threat from predators such as eagles, wild dogs and snow leopards, and, of course, from a lack of proper nutrition that is ultimately owing to the loss of habitat caused by human encroachment, though about 90% of panda infants in captivity survive) – the infant panda is born a midget at only 15-17 centimeters (6-7 inches) in length and weighing, on average, 150 grams (5 ¼ ounces). It will not open its eyes for 6-8 weeks, and is born with a long tail that quickly shrinks to a more normal size as it grows (the adult panda has the second-largest tail among bears, measuring between 10-15 centimeters (4-6 inches).
Today, the numbers of Giant Pandas are up for a number of reasons: better breeding in captivity and release into the wild and reclamation of lost habitat/ removal of humans from key panda habitats, but also because a reevaluation of the original numbers of Giant Pandas in existence when the first "panda census" was taken – based not on direct but indirect evidence – revealed that there were in fact hundreds more Giant Pandas in existence in China than was originally believed.
However, as will be seen in the following, the threat to the Giant Panda is still real, and changing global climatic patterns may yet spell bad news, but the good news at present is that human intervention is indeed making a difference while at the same time a general global awareness of the need for a reduction in carbon emissions, which can also help to preserve Giant Panda habitats, is spreading.
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