This article is about the pandaren lore. For the playable race, see Pandaren (playable). For the language, see Pandaren
"To ask why we fight... is to ask why the leaves fall. It is in their nature. Perhaps, there is a better question. Why do we fight? To protect Home, and Family... To preserve Balance, and bring Harmony. For my kind, the true question is: What is worth fighting for?"
— Chen Stormstout
The enigmatic pandaren [pænˈdɑɹən] are one of the most elusive races of Azeroth. Hailing from the Pandaren Empire located on Pandaria, they are humanoid pandas with a great love of nature and strong ales.
Long ago, the pandaren were the slaves of a cruel race of powerful warlords known as the mogu, until they successfully staged a revolution alongside several other slave races, establishing their own empire in the process. During the Great Sundering, the last pandaren emperor sealed their homeland away behind a veil of mist, hiding Pandaria from the outside world and leaving their culture to flourish free of influences from the outside world.
A second civilization of pandaren dwell on the back of the giant turtle known as Shen-zin Su, who travels around Azeroth's seas. Millennia after the Sundering, a pandaren by the name of Liu Lang set out to explore the world on Shen-zin Su, returning each year to Pandaria to pick up more adventurers to join him on the back of his ever-growing companion. Eventually, the turtle grew large enough for entire buildings and towns to be constructed upon his back, and the pandaren began referring to him as the "Wandering Isle".
Shortly after the Cataclysm ravaged Azeroth, the protective mists surrounding Pandaria dissipated, and before long, Alliance and Horde warships arrived on the continent, causing the native pandaren to become involved in the conflict between the two factions. Around roughly the same time, an Alliance gunship carrying Horde prisoners crashed into the side of the Wandering Isle, and shortly thereafter pandaren followers of the Tushui and Huojin disciplines decided to leave their home to swear allegiance to the Alliance king and Horde Warchief, respectively.
While the race was first introduced with Chen Stormstout in Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne, the pandaren first appeared in World of Warcraft as a playable race with the fourth expansion, Mists of Pandaria.
Origins and early history
Couched in myth and legend, rarely seen and even more rarely understood, the enigmatic pandaren have long been a mystery to the other races of Azeroth. The noble history of the pandaren people stretches back thousands of years, well before the empires of man and before even the sundering of the world.
The exact origins of the pandaren remain a mystery. Brann Bronzebeard speculates that they are descended from an unknown Ancient Guardian. If the pandaren's own tales are to be trusted, they were around before both the kaldorei and furbolgs. Some druids say pandaren and raccoons are distant cousins, but never when a pandaren can hear them.
The pandaren were among the races who settled in the lands surrounding the Vale of Eternal Blossoms roughly 15,000 years before the First War. Thanks to their wise and peaceful nature, they forged a strong bond with four Wild Gods who dwelled in the area — Chi-Ji, Niuzao, Xuen and Yu'lon. Referring to the Wild Gods as the "August Celestials", the pandaren formed a system of worship around the four, and in turn, the Celestials granted the pandaren knowledge and helped them hone their ties to philosophy and nature. Even in the ages before the old empire, there is evidence that the pandaren love of learning had created epic poems, agriculture, and medicine.
Slaves of the mogu
Long before the Sundering, Pandaria was scorched by the endless conflict of the mogu, fighting amongst themselves. Powerful mogu warlords gathered up followers and made war on one another. Their battles waged across the land, terrifying the other mortal races. During this Age of a Hundred Kings, Lei Shen, the Thunder King, gathered together his followers and rose to power "the mogu way", eliminating his rivals one by one. The mogu flocked around the Thunder King's banner and eagerly did his bidding as he enslaved the pandaren, believing - as Lei Shen did - that the "lesser" races should serve the mogu, just as the mogu had once served their masters. Emperor Lei Shen unified the language, established a single currency and standardized weight and measures. He also created the first set of written laws in all of Azeroth, written in the unified language. The brutal codes enshrined the mogu's place above all other creatures, and the first rule was that sedition, insurrection and rebellion be punished by public evisceration.
The Thunder King saw great potential in the pandaren, and for this reason he did not trust them. After he conquered the land, the pandaren were forbidden to learn to read or write. Their leaders and philosophers were executed and all pandaren art and literature was burned. Mogu taskmasters forbade their slaves to carry weapons. The pandaren were reduced to a race of slaves. The lucky ones clowned enough to entertain their mogu masters. Those pandaren lived in stone palaces, and their lives knew relative luxury. But that luxury ended when a joke offended and only the snapping of a spine or the popped removal of a head could inspire more mogu laughter. During these dark times, pandaren monks tried to lift the spirits of their beleaguered brothers and sisters. They were the storytellers, the brewmasters, and the healers who helped knit their oppressed society together in the midst of darkness.
As the mogu empire began to fray, the pandaren saw an opportunity for a revolution. Because they had no weapons, they trained common people to fight with their unarmed fists and feet. They mastered the use of positive energy — or chi — to empower themselves. The revolution itself was a bloody affair that shattered an empire and left a terrible toll among combatant and civilian alike, but ultimately the mogu were overthrown and a new empire was founded. Although pandaren monks have since incorporated weapons into their attacks, they remain focused on chi as a source of power and are still devastating when fighting with open hands. 12,000 years ago the pandaren, through tenacity, diplomacy, and a unique form of unarmed combat, staged a successful revolution that deposed the mogu and established an empire that would prosper for thousands of years. While the mogu were overthrown in a desperate revolution led by the pandaren, their legacy persists in thousand year-old ruins too immense to fall.
Zandalari Troll Wars
One hundred years after the revolution, the allies of the mogu, the Zandalari trolls, sought to aid their allies by attacking the embryonic pandaren empire. The Zandalari numbers were vast, and their bat riders fought in such a way the pandaren had no counter to until a girl named Jiang used a cloud serpent to strike them from the sky. The Zandalari's assault lasted several years, even bringing their dreaded dinosaurs into the fight. During the Zandalari invasion of the Jade Forest, more cloud serpents were trained to bear riders, and the newly-formed Order of the Cloud Serpent turned the tide of the war.
Before the night elves were addicted to arcane magic and summoned the Burning Legion to Azeroth, the pandaren were a close ally to the night elves. Some of them even lived with the night elves and witnessed the power of the Well of Eternity. Yet after the night elves became obsessed with the well, the pandaren decided to sever their ties and enclose their border in Pandaria.
Before they left, the pandaren decided to offer the Highborne a gift, a chest of pandaren design, said to contain all the arcane magic they would ever need. The gift was accepted and taken down into a royal vault in the Temple of Zin-Malor in Eldarath. However, when the chest was opened, it was found to contain absolutely nothing. The pandarens' gift was actually a message of advice and wisdom to the Highborne: all the arcane magic they needed was nothing, or in other words, that they did not need it at all. The chest and the message it represented continued to exist in the vault even 10,000 years later, but as history would record, the pandarens' wisdom fell on deaf ears.
During the bleak days that preceded the sundering of the world, when demons flooded onto Azeroth and threw the entirety of the mortal realm into jeopardy, the last Emperor of the pandaren discovered a way to protect his land from the devastation. His deal with fate shrouded his land within an impenetrable mist for ten thousand years, but the nature of his transaction has left Pandaria haunted ever since. Previously, ships entering the mists have lost their bearings and spun about aimlessly before returning to the open ocean. As for the pandaren, they looked out toward the mist-veiled seas and many presumed that the rest of the world had perished in the Sundering.
After Emperor Shaohao disappeared, the power in Pandaria shifted to the local level. With all threats walled off there was no longer a need for an emperor anymore, making Shaohao the last Emperor of Pandaria.
800 years before the opening of the Dark Portal a particularly bold pandaren named Liu Lang set out to see what was beyond the mists by setting sail upon the back of a giant sea turtle: Shen-zin Su. As the turtle grew, so did Liu Lang’s desire to explore the world. Others joined him, until eventually a whole colony of pandaren explorers traveled the ocean, living atop the expansive "Wandering Isle". Although the Wandering Isle hasn't made landfall in many years, those who live there are still ignited by the spirit of adventure.
Pandaren wanderers are very rare, but the deeds of a few are recorded in recent times. One brave soul that spirited his way into the annals of Azerothian history was the brewmaster Chen Stormstout. After a chance meeting with the half-ogre Rexxar, Chen helped Rexxar, Rokhan and Thrall found the new orcish homeland of Durotar. Never one to stay put for long, Chen moved on, always seeking new ingredients for the perfect brew.
Sometime in the wake of the Cataclysm, the mists abruptly vanished. Alliance and Horde naval fleets, engaged in skirmishes around the world thanks to the new Warchief’s aggression, suddenly found a new continent where once charts showed open seas. With both factions escalating their feud into a global conflict, the war for Azeroth shifts in a new direction.
Pandaren afflicted with the wanderlust often stared out across the sea awaiting the return of Liu Lang and Shen-zin Su. To this day, when someone is caught gazing off to the horizon for any reason, they are often asked if they are "Waiting for the turtle."
Chen Stormstout is a native of the Wandering Isle, as are any players who choose to create pandaren characters. They are a rare breed, on the whole far more adventurous than their land-locked and long-lost relatives on mainland Pandaria. When the great turtle is threatened, and their whole wandering homeland is in jeopardy of being swallowed by the sea, young heroes had to accelerate their training and spring into action.
Mists of Pandaria
Following the events of the Wandering Isle storyline the Huojin and Tushui pandaren of the Wandering Isle made their way to the Horde and Alliance capitals, respectively, to pledge their allegiance to their new 'Emperor'.
Having each joined one of the two major factions, the respective pandaren groups began to train their new allies in the ways of the monk. As well as residing in the factions' capital cities, individual monk trainers traveled to areas such as the Valley of Trials and Northshire Abbey to train young members of each of their faction's races. In addition, these pandaren served to exchange customs and knowledge with their new allies.
The pandarens' homeland, Pandaria, becomes a battleground between the Horde and the Alliance during the Alliance-Horde War. Many pandarens were caught in the conflict, and the Shado-Pan leader Taran Zhu was angered that their violence was awakening the sha. Eventually, the Alliance and Horde earned the favor of the pandarens by aiding them in defending against their local enemies: the mogu, the mantids, and other domestic threats.
Pandaren are humanoid bears, generally between 5 and 6 feet tall, covered in fur from head to toe. Every pandaren has two colors of fur; one is always white but the other color ranges from black to brown to red. They have paws for hands and feet, with three fingers, a thumb and three toes. Each digit is tipped with a black claw. They refer to their hands directly as paws. While the species has a tail, there are two distinct forms. The common form is a round stub of fur, but the second form, which is long and thickens out by the end, is exclusive to red-and-white females.
Pandaren are usually very rotund, which tend to be a point of pride in their society.
The Timeless Isle was once a place of great reverence for the pandaren. It served as a sort of tournament ground, where the trials of wisdom, hope, strength, and fortitude took place in front of the great Celestials, and where warriors, heroes and aspiring leaders and emperors would show their willingness to walk in the footsteps of the great Emperor Shaohao.
For some young pandaren, riding the foul-tempered mushan is considered a rite of passage.
When preparing to travel to distant locations, Pandaren will traditionally capture a mirror strider and safely relocate it to another body of water.
No pandaren approaches their death with joy, but neither should they feel fear, nor anger, nor doubt. They know that from their passing blossoms new life — this is the truth the pandaren hold most dear, and the truth for which they live, work, and die.
A traditional pandaren funeral ceremony involves the lighting of the "Incense of Life", which not only has a pleasant smell, but also has restorative properties and can even help plants grow. The incense is made from strongly aromatic spices, which gives it its unique scent, as well as blue crab shells.
A tan-chao is a ritual object used to form a "bridge from this world to the heavens", allowing restless spirits to move on.
Pandaren are known for their love of ale and good food, and mainland pandaren frequently show concern that the races of the Alliance and Horde look too "thin".
Stuffed Lushrooms was once a favored dish of the ancient mogu, and has since become a staple in pandaren cuisine. [Spicy Vegetable Chips] is a pandaren staple, while [Skewered Peanut Chicken] is a pandaren specialty. A type of ancient spices have been a staple ingredient in pandaren recipes for millennia, since before the time of Emperor Shaohao.
Since the dark days of the old kingdom, the pandaren have turned to the mystical art of brewing to keep their spirits and strength high. The mighty brewmasters travel the world in search of exotic ales and the finest brewed spirits. These affable warriors rarely seek out danger or trouble, preferring instead to spend their time concocting new and tasty beverages for any brave enough to imbibe them. Wanderers by nature, brewmasters can be found roaming all over Pandaria searching for rare ingredients and concocting new brews. Nothing makes a pandaren happier than an untapped keg, and a pandaren worker without brew "just won't be very productive". Pandaren booze gets stronger with age.
The pandaren have a rich history of tea. While much care is given to its brewing, the secrets to properly enjoying tea have always been equally valued.
There are six different "Ways" of traditional pandaren cooking:
The Way of the Brew, based around brewing tea and alcoholic beverages.
The Way of the Grill, which focuses on strength and good health and produces foods that increases one's physical strength.
The Way of the Oven, which produces hearty, sustaining meals that increases one's stamina. To be skilled with the oven, one need to have endurance and patience, but the results are considered very much worth the effort.
The Way of the Pot, whose cuisine helps expand one's intellect.
A great meal can lift one's spirits, and none more so than food from the Way of the Steamer.
The Way of the Wok, which produces dishes that increase one's agility. To "cook with the wok", one needs to be nimble.
Pandaren law is an ancient law of the Pandaria pandaren. After the Siege of Orgrimmar, the trial of Garrosh Hellscream was held according to the pandaren law. Baine Bloodhoof acted as the Defender, Tyrande Whisperwind as the accuser, Taran Zhu as the judge (fa'shua) and the August Celestials as the jury.
Despite the lack of a central pandaren government, the otters in Lonesome Cove are protected by law.
Song and poetry
The harmony of light and dark bell flowers on the songbell plant has inspired pandaren song and poetry for millenia.
The Song of the Vale is a very old pandaren poem that describes the sacred Vale of Eternal Blossoms.
"When waking a tiger, use a long stick. Better yet, tell your friend to wake the tiger instead."
"The timid feel fear before trouble starts; the cowards feel fear as trouble happens. The bravest among us feel fear only after the troubles have been taken care of."
"Fear is not a criminal we must lock away. It is a teacher we must seek to understand."
"With deep doubts comes deep wisdom."
When they first settled in the land later known as Pandaria, the pandaren formed a system of worship centered around four Wild Gods that they called the "August Celestials", believing the powerful beings to be benevolent deities. After Lei Shen defeated the Celestials during his conquest of Pandaria, worship of the animal spirits was outlawed on pain of death. Many of the pandaren's ties to the Wild Gods were lost, but a few brave individuals secretly continued preserving their teachings.
The pandaren do not worship their ancestors, but they revere their memory and the wisdom that they have passed on to them.
Pandaren fighting tactics
During the dark days of the mogu dynasties, pandaren slaves were not permitted weapons of any kind. When training in secret, pandaren monks would often use farm tools or simple bamboo staves for practice. Emphasis was also placed on unarmed strikes.
In contrast, the favored weapons of the mogu were based on fear rather than practicality. They were large, cumbersome, and difficult to wield. Pandaren monks took advantage, developing fast strikes and the skill to quickly move around the battlefield. The larger, slower mogu were often completely disoriented by the speed of pandaren monks in open combat.
Over the years, fighting styles have changed dramatically, incorporating any number of other abilities, weapons, styles, etc. But the core foundation of pandaren fighting techniques remains the same: Defeat an opponent of any size with your bare paws if you have to.
The first monks
In the days of the mogu dynasties, slaves were the lifeblood of the empire. Pandaren, hozen, and jinyu worked fields, dug mines, and built the mighty fortresses of their masters. To help combat fatigue, maintain morale, and return the wounded to work, the mogu permitted a special caste of slaves that specialized in the brewing of remedies. Simple teas and poultices were their specialty at first. Over the years these specialists became healers, community leaders, and brewmasters. A noble tradition was born, and these early "monks" became symbols of hope and pride amongst the pandaren. It was these heroes who first learned how to fight without weapons, in secret. Monks taught the other slaves the secrets of martial arts. When the revolution came, the monks were the first into battle, inspiring the humble farmers, smiths, and masons to follow...
One of the two primary philosophies followed by pandaren of the Wandering Isle is the way of Tushui. It encourages living a venerable life through meditation, rigorous training, and moral conviction. Aysa Cloudsinger is one of the pandaren that have mastered this way and can be recognized as somewhat of a leader of the Tushui monks. This philosophy is very close to the ways of the Alliance, and Aysa has decided to join this faction along with the pandaren who uphold this belief.
Another philosophy is the way of Huojin. It states that inaction is the greatest injustice, and that there is no shame in defending one's homes and loved ones regardless of cost. Ji Firepaw is a staunch follower of this way, and the first of them who recognized the similiarities of this way in the races of the Horde, and all that find themselves closer to this belief have decided to follow Ji and stand united with all these Horde races, whose desire is to live free.
The Wanderer's Way is a philosophy of the Wandering Isle pandaren, made famous by Chen and Li Li Stormstout.
In the RPg
The pandaren are originally from central Kalimdor where they established the Pandaren Empire. They were allies of the night elves until they saw their obsession with magic getting out of control. The clans severed ties and left Kalimdor behind eventually establishing a new home on an island they named Pandaria. After the Sundering, some pandaren returned to the "new" Kalimdor to explore it. "Where once the pandaren were a mighty empire, standing proud beside their night elf allies, now they are a simple people who want only peace and a safe home." Since the Third War, more pandaren have come to visit Kalimdor.
Hailing from their own secret empire, the pandaren are a race of humanoids resembling panda bears. This appearance leads some to underestimate these noble creatures, thinking them harmless and "cute". They may be cute, but they are not harmless. Pandaren have a long tradition of mystic warfare and are exceedingly strong and agile. The traditional pandaren fighting style focuses upon mobility, speed and precision, as well as stunning acrobatic tricks. Many pandaren are skilled at fighting bare-handed.
Only the pandaren know the intricacies of their society, but alcohol is a central feature. All pandaren are connoisseurs of ale and stronger drink, leading to a unique kinship with Ironforge dwarves. A caste of wandering pandaren warriors called Brewmasters is highly respected in their culture. A few Brewmasters have been spotted in Kalimdor, searching for new beverages to sample and ingredients to add to their own brews. Pandaren are affable and noble, trained in battle but always seeking peace. Pandaren philosophy centers on a harmony of opposites — male and female, calm and chaos, existence and non-existence. Pandaren feel a strong link to the natural world and seek to maintain a peace between all races and nature. Very few pandaren ever leave their hidden island homeland of Pandaria, although there is a place called Pandaren Settlement within the Stonetalon Mountains, but those that do have proved themselves to be strong warriors specializing in Drunken Brawling with great command of the elements.
Each pandaren belongs to a shao'din, which is their word for “clan”. Pandaren society has changed from its origins. Where once the pandaren were a mighty empire, standing proud beside their night elf allies, now they are a simple people who want only peace and a safe home. Yet the world is a dangerous place, and only through an acceptance of the violence that comes with life can the pandaren continue to prosper. Pandaren society is, in many ways, compartmentalized. At their core, the pandaren treasure peace and creativity. Most pandaren are poets and singers, and the craftsmen of their culture are truly revered. The danger of their lives, however, has necessitated the evolution of a class of warriors to defend those ideals — it is these warriors, from the simplest pikeman to the great shodo-pans, who ensure that pandaren culture survives.
They mainly speak Pandaren. Many have also learned Common, Darnassian, Dwarven, Taurahe, and Thalassian in their travels.
Pandaren are known for their art of acupressure. Acupressure points such as the one in the right arm, can quicken the heart rate and cause the muscles to contract. Other points on the left arm can calm a user down if needed.
They take the same stance regarding their martial arts as they do every other part of their lives. They use what works, perfecting it with terrifying results, and they don't use what doesn't work. If an injured leg won't allow the pandaren to kick very high, he gives up that kind of kick and perfects another. If up against a massive opponent, the pandaren will not waste time trying to match strength with strength, as the opponent represents the rock in the river to them. They find a clever way to best their opponent while expending the least strength necessary. They are formidable monks, following their philosophies to the letter and perfecting their martial arts as they see fit. Even the lowliest pandaren is capable of defending himself, using the fangs and stubby but needle-like claws that are a natural part of his body. All pandaren can use these natural weapons to fight and hunt, as pandaren grow up playing rough and tumble games meant to hone their abilities while learning the admonishments of their elders that such things are a last resort. In general, pandaren prefer to use the weapons they craft, feeling that their natural weapons hearken back to a primal time. Pandaren are bipedal creatures, but their pseudo-ursine forms allow them to move at tremendous speed on four limbs. When a pandaren drops down to all fours, his speed increases greatly. He must have nothing in his hands to use quadrupedal movement.
All of the races that reside on Kalimdor view the pandaren with interest. Claiming to come from an island named Pandaria, which no one has ever visited, these gentle beings bring their love for beer, their quiet contemplations and their formidable fighting techniques to Kalimdor to experience life on the continent. The pandaren are the smallest of the bestial races and seem positively tiny next to the hulking bulk of the furbolgs. However, they seem much less like beasts than their apparent cousins. They value honor, discipline and friendship above all else. Gain the companionship and trust of a pandaren, they say, and you have a friend and protector for life. The pandaren are an independent race and any encountered outside the Barrens are wanderers and travelers, belonging to no affiliation. Their outlook meshes well with the Alliance, and most pandaren in Kalimdor are found in the company of Alliance races. Pandaren are eccentric, however, and some feel more at home around the Horde. In any case, they rarely stay in one place for long. Pandaren friendliness and combat prowess make them good allies and honorable enemies. Pandaren are on good terms with all non-evil races.
Although they have been on Kalimdor a short time, the pandaren have already developed a special bond with the Ironforge dwarves. The dwarves are a race that appreciates good ale and a good story, and they have many tell of their own. The pandaren have enjoyed their stops at Bael Modan and the things they have learned of the Alliance, the Horde and the Scourge there. Being a race that honors their ancestors as well, they aid the dwarves in their search for titan artifacts when they can. They believe knowing where one comes from is an important aspect to living a full life. They have also made friends in the half-elves they have encountered, as the half-elves are beginning to adopt the same life-accepting philosophies as the pandaren, and they find them to be ideal traveling partners. Most pandaren have recently arrived on Kalimdor, but there are some that fought in the recent conflicts surrounding Illidan. A number of pandaren were visiting the dwarves of Bael Modan when the call came to the Alliance to prevent the blood elf and naga army traveling to Northrend. To honor their hosts, the pandaren visitors joined the fight. It was during this battle that they formed most of their opinions regarding the other races.
The pandaren have liked most of the other independent races they have met. Deciding to remain neutral themselves, they appreciate the other races' reasons for standing safely in the middle. They, understandingly, identify more with the races that they have philosophies in common with. Some pandaren spent many months recently with the furbolgs, learning of their simple life in Ashenvale Forest. They sympathize with the half-orcs they have met, and simply do not understand the goblins. They, like the other races of the continent, do not care for the blood elves and naga (there are exceptions as one was last seen fighting alongside the sin'dorei). The trolls are puzzling, as they practice divine magic, but for evil purposes, which doesn't coincide with the pandaren philosophy. Their fondness for the Ironforge dwarves doesn’t put the pandaren in a likely position to join the Alliance any time soon. They feel the Alliance gives too much weight to politics, treaties, and arcane magic when, really, all one needs to do is step outside one's door, taste the air, feel the earth and take one’s cues from there. Overall, the Alliance is unnecessarily complicated for the pandaren, and although they do enjoy visiting Theramore (especially for the taverns), they don't plan on setting up homes there any time soon.
They have much in common with the Horde when it comes to spirituality, but they are unlikely to join their forces either. The Horde is formed of races in the midst of healing, the pandaren believe, and they need to find themselves before they can allow anyone else to join their fold. Besides, the pandaren are just visiting.
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