Have you seen Lin Ping, the (un)official mascot of Thailand?
Lin Ping was born in Chiang Mai about a year and a half ago. Her parents came from China and were sent on loan to Thailand, technically Lin Ping belongs to the Peoples Republic of China. In a way Lin Ping is very closely associated with the Thai National
identity just like the Thai-Chinese control the media images of what is considered to be “Thai Beauty”.
On channel 23 on True Visions there is 24-hour footage of Lin Ping in the Chiang Mai zoo. You can see Lin Ping and her mother living together in a concrete cell with iron bars and sparse furnishings. The dwelling is clean and there is a few pieces of bamboo given as well as a metal pole in the living area. In a way, Lin Ping lives like a simple Thai in a clean but austere environment.
Lin Ping regularly eats bamboo and spends most of her time sleeping, like all other pandas. I find it amusing that she is given mascot status for the country but in a way it is not surprising. If competitive sleeping were a sport, I am absolutely sure the Thais would sweep the gold, silver and bronze medals in not only the ASEAN games, but also the world Olympics.
It sure seems that Lin Ping spends all her time sleeping and eating. I would add that sleeping and eating is what bargirls tend to do with their time when they are not busy shuffling around onstage….
Lin Ping memorabilia can be found throughout Thailand, especially in Chiang Mai. Sunglasses, mobile hangar mascots, lunchboxes, notebook covers, IPhone cases, stickers, underwear and flip flops all display the visage of the mascot of the country. It will be a very sad day when China calls her back.
Pandas tend to have a very short memory and Lin Ping is no exception. For example, there was a children’s playground slide that was brought out for Lin Ping to play with. There was a ladder that climbed up about 3 meters of the ground with a slide that came back down to ground level. Lin Ping’s handler guided her up the ladder and was making all sorts of cooing and baby sounds to encourage her to get to the top and slide down. Lin Ping made it and may have had fun but then went to focus onto something else. The handler commented that pandas have such a short memory that she forgot how to climb back up the ladder to go up the slide! I’ve also seen when Lin Ping was put into the cage she would go up to the iron bars and start to try pulling them and shaking them for a spell. She would then stop and repeat this for another 10 – 20 minutes before doing something else.
In a way the lack of a good memory and living day to day is the perfect coping mechanism for this panda, a poor captive prisoner in a concrete poorly lit cell with cameras rolling all the time.
I think Lin Ping is the perfect mascot for a young Thai person, who has to deal with all the things that don’t work and items to accept – if you don’t have the right connections the chances of succeeding are by far against you. The day to day frustrations of why things are the way are (because of hierarchy and face over logic) can be exasperating: Crazy traffic, Police roadblocks for bribes (while accidents are not investigated), the very strict lese majeste laws, which are used for all manner of political assassinations. I think Thai’s have to be conditioned to have a ‘flexible’ short term memory and just live day to day. You see it all the time here- massive traffic on Friday at the end of the month as people spend most of their pay check. Poor planning and money management skills are not uncommon. Lin Ping unwittingly follows the idealized values of being Thai.
Interestingly enough, Lin Ping and her mother (Lin Hui) stay, sleep, and play together in their cell. Often the will playfully bite each other or lie on top of each other, even when one of the pandas are sleeping. It is the mother / daughter bond of one of the most powerful family relationships in Thailand. And what of the father, Chuang Chuang? He is not allowed to stay with the mother and daughter as he is considered to be aggressive and thus potentially dangerous to Lin Ping? The analogy into the Thai psyche can be drawn even further…
Next time, when you are in Chiang Mai stop by the zoo and be sure to get some Lin Ping gear for your girlfriend at the bar. She will love it and now you will know the real reason why!
I am really cynical when it comes to zoos and the keeping of wild animals in Thailand. I am no expert on this but from what I have seen and had pointed out to me it seems the conditions they're kept in aren't always great and there are perhaps some weird things going on…