Suzhou, where Here Be Pandas China office and team are based in the “New District”
A story of ostrich eggs, dragons, pandas and the origin of our name
It’s small and round(ish) and old. Very old. From 1510 (give or take) and copper cast from another of its kind, older still by roughly 6 years and made from two halves of an ostrich egg; but this is not so much the story of the older one. This is the story of the Hunt-Lenox Globe from 1510 and why it’s in some ways the origin of our name.
For this globe, that now resides in the Rare Book Division of the New York Public Library, was thought for many years to be unique. Not because it’s not a book, where most of the information is on the inside rather than the outside, and therefore a globe feels out of place in a rare book division, but because until 2012 it was the only known historical map to use the phrase “HC SVNT DRACONES” (In Latin hic sunt dracones means “here are dragons“), and yet it’s where a myth of ancient maps commonly warning of dragons was born.
Often imitated and seemingly embedded in Western Psyche, “Here be Dragons” became shorthand for “We don’t know what’s here, we guess it could be dangerous, so we’ll say… dragons”. A little dramatic but probably one of the few times a cartographer can go off-script completely. Maybe it was a typical 16th century Friday and office drinks were already well underway when the inscription was made on the Hunt-Lenox globe’s “eastern coast of Asia”.
Until the Da Vinci Globe was unearthed in 2012 (The Ostrich egg globe form which the Hunt-Lenox globe was cast), the Hunt-Lenox-Globe, discovered in 1855, was the single source of this alarmist and rather unhelpful description for distant and uncharted regions.
Today, more than 500 years after the famous phrase was etched onto an ostrich egg as a note applied to the further reaches of the asian continent, China’s digital markets are often viewed in a not too dissimilar manner; large, baffling, mysterious, frustrating, and yet due to their vast potential, tantalising too many western companies. The world’s largest mobile and e-commerce market, China is home to a completely different mobile and online ecosystems, spanning infrastructure, app stores, social media, gaming, and entertainment in general. All subject to regulation that seems ever-changing with high market-entry barriers.
To those on the “Western” side of China’s great firewall looking in, “Here be Digital Dragons” might seem to be a pretty accurate assessment of the mobile and online landscape.
Having spent the best part of 10 years supporting startups and multinationals alike in establishing their digital brands, products, and services in China across many different business sectors, our founder team in China and here in Berlin have a very different perspective. As anyone who knows the Chinese market will tell you, market-knowledge and local partners are key to success in China, and with such support, China is both knowable and indeed accessible. Furthermore, embarking on your digital adventures in China with a guide to the market and local support, reduces the chances of stumbling over hidden dragons, or even crouching tigers; to use a now somewhat dated movie reference.
“Here be Pandas” was our take on this. Making the unknown, mythical, and seemingly daunting a little more relatable and friendly, even if it’s all still a little different. Whilst pandas make for difficult household pets due in part to their penchant for eating one’s bamboo garden furniture, they are viewed as more approachable than dragons.
Concluding a post littered with creatures mythical and real, if you are considering establishing your digital brand in China, or are looking for Chinese Android app store distribution / publishing services, at Here Be Pandas we know where the dragons live, so drop our team an email to start your digital journey to China with the insights and local market guidance that really matters.