Tai Shan Reveals a New Skill

By James Fallows

Tai Shan the panda -- so cute and widely beloved during his early years at the Washington National Zoo, now a lumbering near-adult recently dispatched to his ancestral homeland -- has just come out of a one-month quarantine period in China and is prepared to begin his new life. Below, with his new best friend, trainer Wu Daifu:

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In conformance with stereotypes of superior study-skills of those in Chinese academic institutions, Tai Shan has already mastered one of the trickier dialects of spoken Chinese --  the regional style of Sichuan, in which several tones are reversed from standard Mandarin. That's hard, Tai Shan! The Chinese panda-news bulletin informs us about his other achievements:
Now, "Taishan" can not only understood Sichuan dialect, but also communicate with the keeper by eye contacts, even can do something like standing, squatting, and sitting down as guided by the keeper....

The animal keeper begins its feeding with much love. He will train "Taishan" when feeding, guiding him to make different positions in whistles as well as by gestures. Currently, "Taishan" can cooperate very well under the keeper's instructions, and also can be proceeded with the routine physical examination like phlebotomizing and B Ultrasonic scanning.

"Taishan" has a strong adaptability, gentle personality and good mental state. Its appetite is also great, especially like eating bamboo and wowotou (a kind of steamed corn bread), and conserves a decent style when eating. He's such a courteous gentleman.
This last observation will make all Americans, the virtual parents of Tai Shan, especially proud. More Chinese accounts of his progress here and here. A amazingly charming two-minute Chinese-language video of Tai Shan's emergence from quarantine is here. It includes an interview with Dr. Tang Chunxiang, whom I wrote about here, saying that everything is going well for Tai Shan on his return to his homeland.

Tai Shan-like, I too am emerging from quarantine and will attempt to contribute once more to the Atlantic's website.
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For the record: The Chinese word for giant panda, 熊貓 or xiong mao, means "bear - cat." Thanks to M. Griffith for Tai Shan tips.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2010/03/tai-shan-reveals-a-new-skill/37260/