The Shepherdess in Wolong Valley


Caroline Young, artwork and text

According to legend, a young shepherdess lived in the Wolong Valley.
She was much loved by everyone for her beauty and kindness.

At that time, pandas were pure white, without their distinctive black markings. Every day, a young panda would come and play with the flock, perhaps mistaking them for one of his own.

One day, a leopard attacked the panda cub. Hearing his cries, the shepherdess picked up a stick to beat off the leopard, without a single thought for her own safety. The cub escaped, but the girl was killed.

At her funeral, all the pandas came to mourn her. As was the custom, they covered their limbs with ashes. They hugged each other and wiped away tears of grief from their eyes. As the weeping grew loud, they covered their ears from the sounds of grief.
Wherever they touched themselves, the ashes stained their white fur black, and since that day, they have carried those distinctive markings.

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As an adopted child of Chinese-American expatriates, I have always been intrigued by how the Chinese culture explained the mysteries of the universe.