Hold A Panda? In Chengdu You Can Do!

Panda Taxi

Even the taxis in Chengdu have pandas on them!

Where in the world can you hold a giant panda, a bear, and an endangered species? In China of course! In the US I am pretty sure you can’t even look at them because they are endangered, well in China for a donation you can hold one. This is something I had to do and it is the last big thing on my list of places to go and do in China. When you go through airports in Asia I noticed slogan signs for Chengdu and it is “Chengdu Can Do” want to make sure I give credit where credit is due, I didn’t make that one up but catchy!

national treasure

 Panda Facts

  • Pandas are the National treasure and they hate noise (according to the sign) That doesn’t stop the tour groups from using their Mr. Microphone to give a tour of pandas. What are they even talking to the group about?  “There is a panda, he eats bamboo shoots” I don’t think a tour is necessary but regardless it is loud and annoying.  Anyone with sound experience looking for work, China is a big opportunity because I hear they make things you can put in you ear and listen to someone talk.
  • There are only 47 pandas in the world that live outside of China and only 1600 remain in the wild. Darn shopping malls, there are a lot of malls in China.
  • In the US there are only 3 zoos (Washington, Memphis, and San Diego) that have pandas.
  • Pandas can eat up to 82 pounds of bamboo a day but prefer bamboo shoots. That is the equivalent to eating just the lobster tail in my opinion. Of course they only eat bamboo shoots if someone made you the option to just lobster tails wouldn’t you just eat that? Of course! Who has time and energy to deal with claws and such…. to be the National Treasure.
  • More panda facts can be found at the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and if you want to sponsor the pandas they will take money too!




Getting There Panda Entrance Panda Sign

We stayed in downtown Chengdu and took a cab to the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding. It took around 45 minutes one way and cost around 50RMB. We went early in the morning because we heard that is when the pandas are most active. By active it means eating from a pile of bamboo shoots place in front of them so they can be seen by tourists. That is all they do. We had friends come at 2pm for the holding session and after that walked the panda park and the bears were all passed out. After you eat 82 pounds of food what else is there?  Best to go early to see them. To get back home, there is not a taxi line but lots of taxis out front, they are shady cabs meaning they don’t want to run the meter and try to get you to pay a  flat fee of more  than it cost to get out there. At first I was mad and argued but then realized a much higher fee is like $2 more and just paid it. Principle, principle, shady cab drivers!


The donation in May 2014 the cost to hold a panda was 2,000RMB (approx. $320) per person. I said to the lady, I want to hold the panda, not buy the panda. I think it was lost in translation. I did ask for a fapiao (another favorite ridiculous thing in my opinion about living in China, the damn fapiao) because this is a donation I will find a way to have it take off my taxes and I has a donation certificate to prove it. For your donation you do get a panda swag bag full of goodies. I guess in a way I did buy a panda, a panda plush. That is one expensive panda plush but he/she is wearing a t-shirt.  I have heard the price is so crazy because it limits the number of people who will do it and what is even crazier is how much it has gone up! I swear when I moved to China I heard it was 500RMB.

Park Experience

It costs 58RMb to get into the panda park and holding the panda is an extra donation. We did not make a reservation to hold the panda. We were told we could just walk up. So we did and trekked to the panda donation center. They do 2 holdings a day. One around 10am and the other around 2pm. We we were unable to get into the 10am but we did get into the 2pm. That goodness for if I didn’t get to hold a panda after the trip to hold a panda that would be a disappointment. Why else would I be in Chengdu? For the food, maybe some people not me, heck no.  If you want to do this make a reservation, your hotel can make one for you or call the Panda place (speak Chinese or have someone to for you).  So we spent 4 hours, until our time to hold a panda walking around the large panda park. It wasn’t too hot of a day and the grounds are really nice. They have red pandas which I read on a sign are not even pandas but called that, doesn’t matter they are cute! and the giant panda. and a peacock.  That is all. The park is well maintained and have the nicest restroom I have ever come across in China. There was a fish tank, a robo toilet, incense burning, clean, the nicest ever in china. Between panda looking, using the amazing toilets we were able to spend 4 hours until our panda holding time.

Panda BambooRed PandaPanda LifeBamboo

Another funny in the park all the panda have a bio sheet talks about their weight, their hobbies, what they like to eat. It is like dating profiles and if interested their stud number is listed. Cracked me up and we spent a good amount of time reading the signs.

Panda ProfileDing Dian

Ai Li Ke Bi

Panda Holding Experience

At 2pm we went back to the panda holding center where we were placed into 2 groups. 1 was Chinese speaking and the other English speaking.  We had about 10 people in our group total.  The experience is made of 3 parts.

  1. Talking about pandas and what they do at this facility
  2. Prepare the panda food
  3. Hold the panda for 1-2 minutes

Experience 1: Talking about pandas. We went into a room and watched some videos about pandas, what they do at the center, how pandas do not like to mate and what they do about it, watched some panda mating what we call panda porn (proof that have gotten pandas to mate I guess), panda births, and then some cute videos of little pandas wrestling. In typical China fashion the videos were just that videos and pulled up one by one to show us. You would think they would have had them edited into one video to show. Any video editors looking for work? Call up the Panda place.

Experience 2: Prepare the panda food. We left this room and walked outside to where there were 2 crates of bamboo shoots.  A demonstration was given on how to wash the bamboo shoots where they spray it with a hose and move it from one crate to the other. I didn’t understand this much, why the 2 bins. We were then asked if anyone wanted to prepare the food. This was a lame preparing in my opinion, this is really how you prepare the food for the National Treasure? Oh and heck yeah I want to do it, I want to do everything in this experience after paying 200oRMB, I held that hose and sprayed the bamboo shoots! I don’t think these are the ones used to feed the pandas. I think it is all a farce.

I am taking my work very seriously

I am taking my work very seriously

Experience 3:Hold a panda!  After preparing food, we finally get to the main event but before we do we are given booties to put over our shoes, gloves, and a smock, what are we doing with these pandas? Never told why.. I assume it is because they are endangered and they don’t want our germs up on the pandas but I do wonder why we didn’t wear masks and/or maybe it is to protect us from panda poop. The pandas do need a bath they are dirty.

Julie, Jeff, Todd and I waiting in our suits to hold a panda

Julie, Jeff, Todd and I waiting in our suits to hold a panda

It seems many are confused as to why we wear the surgical suits (minus the masks) to hold the pandas, telling the story to a friend back in Shanghai  (not Chinese) he said the reason is to protect us from getting syphilis. Say what? He said it is because of panda pee and panda pee contains syphilis. Huh? That is nuts because we didn’t sign a release of any kind and we didn’t wash our hands before or after (then again TIC-this is China) and I have been married a really long time but I thought syphilis is a STD. I did pay a lot of money… maybe it is not buying the panda but buying a different kind of panda experience… After this declaration of the reason for the protection protocol, Todd declares if he gets syphilis it is because of the panda not because of any other reason.  Nice Todd, nice. After our questioning and probably looks of you are crazy our friend looked it up, got back to us and said he couldn’t find anything on it and that he might have dreamed it. 🙂

Looking at the photos you may think how cute! The panda is holding a bamboo shoot, how stereotypical and a great photo op. Not the reason, the reason is so he doesn’t claw you eyes out. After all it is a bear and this may not be the smartest thing to do, hold a bear. Although I am sure there is some risk that the bear could claw you eyes out, the bamboo shoots are covered in honey and given to the bear as a treat. This is to keep him still, on your lap so you can have the money shot taken. Tell me you wouldn’t be a little pissed after buying a panda donating to panda research and not holding one. How do you get a panda to sit in a strangers lap? Honey on a bamboo shoot. When people say oh how cute just sitting there, on your lap, eating bamboo. I am like give me a bag of M&Ms I will sit on your lap and be quiet too. After the bag is gone, look out! Isn’t that parenting 101? Give them sugar to keep them quiet. What do I know about these things.

Todd's Friend

How cute! Todd is not too bad in this photo either.

You might be wondering how old this panda is. He is 8 months old. I have heard you hold them when they are around this age and not younger because of  syphilis their immune system. I got to hold him for like a minute and they had someone taking photos and our guide had my camera and took lots of photos. They are really nice, they take lots of photos and allow if you are with a group to have a group photo with the panda as well as individual but must be fast. My panda boy did get a little fussy, I said he wanted to claw my eyes out, Todd thinks he wanted more honey, same thing in my book and the handler picked him up and would say “maa, maa, maa” to him. Similar to the sound of a sheep but “maa” instead of “baa”.  I wonder if this is “maa” is the soothing sound a mama panda makes to her young or was the trainer speaking Chinese to the panda?  In Chinese when asking a question you put a ma at that end of the sentence and that is like the question mark  in a way and how you know it is a question. Maybe the trainer was like maa? maa? As in whats up? Whats wrong baby bear? Do you want to claw her eyes out?

Proof that he was trying to claw my eyes out!

Proof that he was trying to claw my eyes out! His paw had to be restrained.

To get through our group 3 different pandas were brought out. Some didn’t mind to be held and the last one, the final panda when all the others have had enough of being held and in a sugar comma of honey covered bamboo shoots and want no more of this, the one panda who doesn’t like to be held was brought out. The last folks in our group had to sit next to him for photos.  Well thank goodness we didn’t get him! I would be mad if I didn’t get to hold the panda after all that!

The one that didn't want to be held but of course he will eat bamboo

The one that didn’t want to be held but of course he will eat bamboo

After the experience we were able to take off our surgical gear and were given our panda swag bag and that was it.

All the panda swag you could ever want

All the panda swag you could ever want

We held a PANDA!!! Where else can you hold a panda. In Chengdu you can do!!

Holding a panda


I have panda fever and had to get a panda hat

I have panda fever and had to get a panda hat


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Ben L.
    Jun 18, 2014 @ 22:43:50

    Rebecca, I would never wish an STD on anyone but to get one from a panda?? If ever there were a piece of personal information to post, let’s say, on one’s business card, that would be top of my list. Great story! Love the pics! -Ben


    • Rebecca
      Jun 19, 2014 @ 06:07:15

      Well In Chengdu… you can do! Well maybe not as it was determined my friend dreamed up that beaut of STD education which is good… that would be a nightmare. Amazing experience! Next I am going to look into Elephant care taking.


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