years ago this April, Jill Robinson first walked onto a bear bile farm. On that day in April 1993, Jill could have walked away, but she chose to act and do what she could. Today, you also have a choice. If everyone reading this donated just US$20, it would pay for the care of over 150 bears at our China sanctuary for a full year. Please help us celebrate 20 years of progress. Donate US$20 today (or whatever you can afford).
Historically, cats have fared better in China, and indeed throughout Asia, then in Europe. Asian cats were not persecuted in the Middle Ages and life has always been relatively safe for them.
The Chinese were the first to note that the pupils of a cat's eye change shape according to the hour of the day, growing narrower until midday, when they are as thin as a hair, and wider again after noon. So, you can use a cat to tell the time!
The Chinese were also the first to observe that cats have psychic skills that enable them to predict danger, which is why they are, even now, featuring prominently in a Chinese earthquake warning scheme. 100,000 cat watchers are on permanent stand-by to monitor any strange behaviour by China's felines.
The Chinese word for a cat is pronounced 'mao', but cats were all the rage in China long before the eponymous Chairman.
In a Chinese legend, the cat is the result of mating a lioness with a monkey. The monkey made the cat playful and curious, while the lioness made it dignified and strong.
Such qualities made cats natural favourites at the court of the Ming emperors. One emperor went so far as to banish all dogs from court, replacing them with cats.
But felines had long been making their presence felt at the Chinese court. Along with many of her subjects, the Empress Wu of the earlier T'ang dynasty had embraced the old superstition that humans turned into cats when they died. She had one of her ladies-in-waiting executed. Just before her death, the hapless victim had threatened to turn her into a rat! The Empress decided to take no chance ... She ordered the removal of all the palace cats.
In China, cats are credited with the ability to make the dead rise again. As this might, understandably, worry relatives hoping to inherit from a will, it is a tradition that felines are kept well away from any Chinese funeral!