Giant Pandas Legends Habitat Diet Breeding Conservation

Legends

The existence of the giant panda was regarded a myth by the west until 1869.

Historical records show that the giant panda has been known by many names. The Chinese adored this gentle giant, regarding them as a symbol of peace. As such, they are offered as valuable gifts to royalty and a gesture of goodwill to foreign countries. Considered symbols of might and bravery, the early Chinese emperors kept them to ward off evil spirits and natural disasters and warriors were often compared to giant pandas.

In one such record written by Sima Qian of the Han Dynasty, tamed wild animals such as tigers, leopards and the giant pandas were used in tribal wars. Giant pandas were then known by its ancient name "pi xiu" (貔貅) to symbolise victories in wars. On the other hand, in the West Jin Dynasty, the panda was seen as an "animal of justice" for it was believed that it ate only bamboo and did not hurt other animals. The giant panda was also known by the name "zhou yu" (周瑜). It was said that when two armies met in a battle, and if one army displayed a flag with the markings of "zhou yu", the battle would be halted as according to the ancient principles of war, it was the symbol of peace and friendship.

Other records show that in China, they were originally called "mao xiong" (猫熊), meaning "cat bear". After the Chinese language went through a reform, with characters read from left to right, the giant panda subsequently became known as "xiong mao" (熊猫) meaning "bear cat".

Giant pandas were also known as bamboo bear, white bear, speckled bear, flowery bear and monk bear. With the belief that pandas ate metal, they were even called "iron-eating beasts"! It is also believed that the word "panda" originated from the Nepali word "poonya" which means "bamboo eater".

Tibetan folklore tells a story on how they got their unique colors. It is said that a long time ago, all giant pandas were white. One day, a prowling leopard attacked a panda cub. In the midst of saving the cub, a shepherdess was killed by the leopard. In mourning, the pandas wore customary black armbands at her funeral. As they wept, they wiped their eyes with their armbands, covered their ears to block off the sounds of crying and hugged one another. The armbands blackened their fur and that’s how they became black and white.