Panda Folklore

In China, the giant panda is widely revered and features prominently in history and mythology. In ancient times they were known as pixiu and were symbols of both peace and strength. Pandas embody the symbolism of the yin yang representing balance and harmony. 

In Chinese and Tibetan folklore there is a folktale that explains how the panda got its black markings. It was said that originally pandas were all white. Then one day a shepherdess was out with her sheep when she saw a panda being attacked by a tiger. She grabbed a stick and attacked the tiger, which allowed the panda to escape from its jaws. Unfortunately the beautiful shepherdess was then killed by the tiger. At that time, it was a mourning ritual to rub soot on the body. Many pandas came to the funeral out of respect for the shepherdess. They sobbed and rubbed their eyes with their paws, staining their fur black. They also rubbed their noses, and put their paws over their ears to block out the sound of crying. So it is said that this is how the pandas got their distinctive black markings. 

The giant panda was also seen as a symbol of strength and bravery and was used by emperors for protection and even healing. In later times pandas were given as gifts to other countries as a symbol of peace and friendship. 

In Chinese 'panda' is 'xiongmao' which literally means bear cat. Apparently this is because the pandas eyes have slit shaped pupils the same as a cat. 

You can read more about the mythology of the giant panda here.

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