Shopping Cart -

Your cart is currently empty.
Upgrade to today
for only an extra Cxx.xx

You get:

plus This issue of xxxxxxxxxxx.
plus Instant access to the latest issue of 310+ of our top selling titles.
plus Unlimited access to 27000+ back issues
plus No contract or commitment. If you decide that PocketmagsPlus is not for you, you can cancel your monthly subscription online at any time. Auto-renews at $14.99 per month, unless cancelled.
Upgrade Now for $14.99 Learn more
This website use cookies and similar technologies to improve the site and to provide customised content and advertising. By using this site, you agree to this use. To learn more, including how to change your cookie settings, please view our Cookie Policy
Pocketmags Digital Magazines
Pocketmags Digital Magazines
   You are currently viewing the Australia version of the site.
Would you like to switch to your local site?
Read anywhere Read anywhere
Ways to pay Pocketmags Payment Types
Trusted site
At Pocketmags you get
Secure Billing
Great Offers
Web & App Reader
Gifting Options
Loyalty Points

The Giant Panda: Discovered in the Land of Myth


Joe Nickell, PhD, author of numerous books, including Entities and Tracking the Man-Beasts, is a skeptical cryptozoologist.

Its immense popularity today belies the fact that the panda was once among the world’s most obscure creatures, “as mythical and elusive as Bigfoot” (Edwards 2009). Bigfooters are prone to emphasizing such creatures that were only discovered comparatively recently—for example a giraffe relative, the okapi (1901), and a “living fossil” fish, the coelacanth (1938)—because they “symbolize the search for Bigfoot is not over” (Edwards 2009). Inspired by my encounter with pandas during a trip to China in 2010 as a visiting scholar (see Figure 1), I have since looked into their fascinating history.

Figure 1. “Self-portrait with panda” at Giant Panda House, Beijing Zoo, 2010. (Author’s sketch)

Legendary Creature

In ancient China, the panda was an exotic creature—rare, even mythic (like the dragon). Texts from very ancient times describe a lumbering, black-and-white animal believed to have been a panda.

The Dowager Empress Bo was reportedly interred in her tomb (ca. 170 bce) with a panda skull—whether as treasure or talisman, or both, is unclear (Schaller 1994, 61–62). Also, ancient poetry tells of the gift of a pelt that may well have been from a panda (“Pandas” 2017). Such pelts’ distinctive appearance and rarity gave them great value—not to mention alleged magical properties. According to the earliest Chinese “encyclopedia” (or reference book), Erya, dating from the Qin dynasty (221–207 bce), sleeping on panda fur supposedly regulated a woman’s menstrual cycle. The later poet Bai Juyi (772–846 ce) attributed to the pelts both curative properties and the power to exorcise evil spirits.

Purchase options below
Find the complete article and many more in this issue of Skeptical Inquirer - January February 2018
If you own the issue, Login to read the full article now.
Single Digital Issue
January February 2018
This issue and other back issues are not included in a new Skeptical Inquirer subscription. Subscriptions include the latest regular issue and new issues released during your subscription.
Annual Digital Subscription
Only $ 4.33 per issue

View Issues

About Skeptical Inquirer

A SKEPTIC'S GUIDE TO RACISM Critical Thinking Approaches to Confronting Racism Why Pseudoscience Should Be Taught in College A Cancer Nurse Examines Alternative Medicine

Other Articles in this Issue