There are few references to the Giant Panda found in folklore, most likely because Giant Pandas in the wild are difficult to see and very shy. Giant Pandas are known to have been kept by the emperor in the Han Dynasty (202 BC to 220 AD). During the Tang Dynasty (616 AD to 907 AD), two Giant Pandas were sent to the emperor of Japan as a gift.
One Tibetan legend focuses on how the Giant Pandas got their unique color markings.
Long, long ago, the Giant Pandas lived in the high mountains of Tibet. Their fur was completely snow white. They were friends with young shepherdesses, who watched their flock in the mountains around their village.
One day a mother and her cub were playing with the shepherdesses and their flock when a strong and hungry leopard attacked the cub. The shepherdesses tried to save the cub but were unsuccessful and the leopard killed them.
All the Giant Pandas in the area were very sad and held a memorial service for the shepherdesses and to remember their sacrifice for the cub. The local custom in the mountains was to cover your arms with ashes to honor the deceased.
The Giant Pandas wept. They wiped their eyes with their paws, covered their ears to block the sounds of crying and hugged each for comfort. The ashes blackened their fur. The Giant Pandas did not wash the black off their fur as a constant reminder of the girls.
A Second Variation
When the Giant Pandas came to the funeral, they wore black armbands as a sign of respect. They were so sad during the funeral service that they began to cry. As they cried, they wiped their eyes with the black armbands. As the black armbands became wet with tears, the dye began to run. When they wiped away their tears, large black marks were left on their eyes and ears. As they hugged each another, the black dye stained their fur.
A Third Variation
One other variation of the story has the Giant Pandas turning the girls into a mountain with four peaks to ensure they always would be remembered. This is the Four Girls Mountain Range located in the Sichuan province overlooking the Wolong Panda Reserve.
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