Panda in Chinese Culture

Chinese Giant Panda

Symbolism and Meaning

Panda is one of the most recognized animals from China. Regarded as a symbol for friendship and peace, these pandas have attracted many people around the world by their beautiful coats and playful nature. Panda has a special place in Chinese culture, its many characteristics and qualities of the animal are qualities revered by Chinese society as a whole.

Some local people call the panda “maoxiong” means catlike bear, some call it “xiongmao” means bearlike cat, others call it “huaxiong” which means banded bear. It is said that the most suitable name for this lovely animal is “daxiongmao” meaning great bearcat.

Giant Panda Eating Bamboo

According to the American Heritage Dictionary, the English word for panda is derived from French. This is probably because the first westerner who saw a panda in 1850 in Baoxing was a French missionary, P.A David. The people of that area used the Nepali word “nigalya-ponya” (means eater of bamboo) to describe the panda, but David possibly altered to the modern word “panda”.

Pandas were thought to be rare and noble creatures in the past; the mother of Emperor Wen of Han was said to be buried with a panda skull in her vault. During the Xizhou Dynasty, panda was given a special name ‘Zouya’ by people in Pingwu. The Zouya was thought to be a gentle animal that never hurt a man or beast. Thus, panda became a symbol of peace. At that time, when an army raised a flag with an image of the Zouya during the battle, they would stop the fighting immediately and a temporary peace would ensue. Today, the panda is still a symbol of peace and China has given its many pandas to many nations such as Soviet Union, Japan, North Korea, United States, Britain, France, Federal Germany, Spain and Mexico as a gesture of peaceful relations. In certain places, panda is seen as a symbol of good luck.

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The giant panda was thought to be a physical manifestation of the Yin-Yang as its body is both white and black, the two colors standing in stark conttrast to one another on the animal’s pelt. The panda’s placid nature is a demonstration of how the Yin and Yang, when perfectly balanced, contribute to peace and harmony. While dragon has historically served as China’s national emblem, the giant panda has served as an emblem for the country too in recent decades. Its image appears on a large number of modern Chinese comemorative gold, silver and platinum coins.

Panda - Endangered Species

There are 2 types of pandas. The black and white variety is called the giant panda while the black and red coat which is a much smaller variety is called the red panda.

Due to their expanding use of the lands and destruction of their habitat, these cute animals have become an endangered species, only about 1000 left in the world. It had been very difficult to raise pandas in captivity. Today, it is illegal in China to hunt panda (punishable by death until 1997 and now carries 20-years sentence), they were hunted for their coats and as pets (especially the red panda).

There is an old Chinese saying “A remarkable place produces outstanding people”. Chinese people used this to explain why these pandas inhabit the Sichuan Province. Sichuan is a rugged country, with many rivers, steep hills and variable vegetation. This remarkable terrain is said to be well suited to such wonderful animals.

In 1368 – 1644 AD, during the Ming Dynasty, the panda was described as having great medicinal value. It was believed that the panda’s pelt has a magical influence that could prevent tumors and repel plague. They also believed that drinking panda urine can dissolve impurities consumed by an inattentive patient.



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