The Reason Pandas Are So Important To Chinese Culture

Over the centuries, some countries have come to be associated with animals. For example, as Great British Magazine notes, the humble bulldog has become the symbol of all things British over the years, while over in Russia (per Russian American Youth), the bear has become a symbol of the country, for good or for ill. Australia, for its part, toes the line between being associated with kangaroos or koala bears. And of course, here in the United States, the sight of a bald eagle — preferably when it's accompanied by its characteristic screech — is almost guaranteed to stoke patriotic fervor in any American.

Over in China, the country has come to be associated with a pudgy, shy, vegetarian relative of bears: pandas. More specifically, the black-and-white giant panda (there are other species of pandas as well, including red pandas). The reasons for this association go back centuries and have to do with the fact that the animals epitomize desirable aspects of what makes someone Chinese.

Giant pandas represent Chinese ideals

You may think that the panda is the exact opposite of what a Chinese person should strive to be. After all, the animals spend most of their day eating, and when they're not eating, they prefer not to be seen (via China Highlights). However, as Adam Wang writes in The Daily China, you have to look a little deeper. Specifically, in some ways, they epitomize the qualities of a warrior — they can climb trees with little effort (a manifestation of agility and strength), and they can endure freezing temperatures and find food for themselves (symbolizing stamina and resourcefulness). Conversely, they're peaceful critters that don't attack others, symbolizing peace and friendship.

In a meta sense, the dual nature of pandas' warrior-like qualities juxtaposed with their peaceful qualities are themselves manifestations of the yin and the yang, writes Adam Wang, as are their colors (black and white). And finally, the Chinese consider the pandas their neighbors since the animals and the Chinese people have existed side by side for thousands of years.