Today in Things that Are and Aren’t From China: Golf, Pandas

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4:00 PM HKT, Thu November 9, 2017 1 mins read

A few recent stories circulating to scramble our ideas of who owns what, in terms of grandiose soft power politics. Since US President Donald J. Trump is currently in Beijing, let’s start with golf, his favorite sport and one that’s explicitly banned amongst Party cadres. has some tough talk for anyone who’d dare to claim that golf is not Chinese:

The Scots may well have codified golf as we know it — including, after a few false starts, making it a game of 18 holes. But the jury’s still out on who first came up with the idea of an open-air game that involves using a stick to hit a ball towards a target. The Romans played a game called paganica, in which a ball stuffed with feathers and wool was hit with a bent stick, while the Dutch played a stick-and-ball game called colf as early as the 13th century.

BUT, they say, “a game called chuiwan (捶丸) – chui meaning to hit and wan meaning ball – became popular in the Song dynasty (960–1279) and was featured in paintings as late as the Ming dynasty (1368–1644).” They have marshaled quite a few old paintings to justify their claim; judge for yourself here.

If China is to steal golf from the Scots, however, it’s only fair if Europe claims something in return. That would be pandas. New Scientist touts the claim in a headline reading The first ancestors of giant pandas probably lived in Europe:

A bear very similar to a panda lived in what’s now Hungary 10 million years ago. The creature ate a similar diet to modern giant pandas, suggesting their unusual bamboo-chewing lifestyle has survived through evolutionary time. The finding also adds to the evidence that pandas originated in Europe, not Asia.

Ouch. Tough blow for panda diplomacy.

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