Face Changing Panda Bears

Trip Start Feb 24, 2006
Trip End Dec 31, 2007

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Flag of China  ,
Thursday, June 28, 2007

We woke up early to catch a ride out to the Giant Panda Research Breeding Base.  The base was set up to revitalize the panda species after they reached critical levels.  There are now about 60 pandas here, including baby pandas and the strange red panda bears.  We had to go early because pandas generally wake up, eat heaps of bamboo and are back asleep by 9:30 AM!  These crazy pandas spend 16-20 hours a day eating bamboo trying to fill their daily bamboo quota of 44 pounds (20 kg) per day!  In fact, that is one of the reasons they were in a scare of extinction - because they are such picky eaters and development was encroaching upon their eating areas.  Anyway, the base is very large and covered in bamboo - at times it seems more like a bamboo breeding farm than a panda center!  The pandas are really cute, except the strange looking red pandas, which more resemble some type of cat than panda bear.  We cruised the park a few hours, spotting hiding and solitary pandas and learned that a Chinese citizen who saves a panda can earn 2 times his salary as reward or can be sentenced to life in prison or death for killing a panda bear!

That evening we attended the famous 200 year old Chengdu opera, the highlight being the "face-changing" performers.  The performance is more burlesque than standard opera and has singers, acrobats, comedy dramas, solo singing and instrumental performances, and finishes with the dazzling face-changers.  No one knows exactly how these performers change their masks, but it's a pretty impressive show even though there is obviously some mechanism that changes the masks for them, as proved by having a doll change his face as well.  I put on a video that hopefully shows the face changing.

Tomorrow we fly off to Lhasa in Tibet to learn about Tibetan Buddhism, see the Potala Palace, and walk the koras (pilgrims circuit) around the holy shrines!   
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