We’ve reached the end of this year’s Lunar Festival, and I have to say: it was even more disappointing than usual.
I know, that sounds difficult to achieve. The Lunar Festival’s in-game purpose has always been to celebrate the defeat of the Legion in the War of the Ancients, an enormously important event in lore that led to the reshaping of Azeroth itself, and it has always failed to convey even a pittance of the story.
In fact, it’s failed to do so even whilst ushering the player around a seemingly endless series of elders who could provide jigsaw snippets of the lore for the player to piece together. Instead those elders spout the same meaningless lines. Then they spam your mailbox with useless crap.
Well, this is certainly engaging and informative.
This is an event that’s actually quite accessible even for new players far from the level cap, and it opts not to draw us into important lore content many of us will have missed if we didn’t play the original Warcraft games.
But yes, this year, it’s actually worse.
How? Well, the Lunar Festival is timed to coincide with, and draws inspiration from, the Chinese Lunar New Year. We can see that fairly clearly in the style of the dresses sold for Coins of Ancestry, in the fireworks and the lanterns, and in the practice of honouring the elders.
What or who else draws heavily from different parts of Chinese culture? Ah yes, the Pandaren.
Building bridges with the Pandaren
This shared source material lends itself first to some real visual links between the older races of the Horde and the Alliance, specifically the Kaldorei and the tauren, and the Pandaren. There's the style of dress:
And the lanterns:
These similarities would invariably draw comment from the Pandaren when our revellers set up shop in the Vale. On the whole, they're depicted as an inquisitive people, and I don't think it's too presumptuous to assume a fair few tauren and night elven soldiers would take the time to honour the festival in a way, perhaps by folding lanterns, so it would have a visible presence in Pandaria.
So, once that opening inquiry had been made, where might it lead?
Considering the nature of the Festival, I imagine the first port of call would be the past. We’ve seen that the Pandaren put great stock in the wisdom of their ancestors, seeking their advice even in things as personal as marriage, so I imagine they’d enjoy a tour through the rest of Azeroth’s history, summarised as it would undoubtedly have to be.
In all likelihood, the Pandaren would take the stories they’d been told and apply them to their understanding of the other races. They do seem to put a good deal of stock in inheritance, what with family legacies such as that of the Stormstouts, and the institution of the Lorewalkers set up to chart the broader lineage of their race as a whole.
And what will they be interweaving with their present knowledge of the other races? A long history of warfare, of bloody-mindedness and arrogance, and of corruption. They will also see self-sacrifice, perseverance, unlikely alliances, and a remarkable ability to turn things around.
A lot of the people of Azeroth have worked hard to escape their bloodlust and find redemption. Others have endeavoured to challenge corrupt regimes at personal risk. The dangerous streaks within both factions are troubling to the Pandaren but that is already the case: they already know what viciousness we’re capable of.
It’s past self-awareness and willingness to work against lingering brutality that I think would stand out to them. While a good number of our soldiers and heroes have been scarred by a lifetime of warfare that has left them with survivor mentalities and festering racial tension, they’ve overcome all those barricades to defeat Ragnaros, Hakkar, Kil’Jaeden, Algalon, the Lich King, and Deathwing the Destroyer. The world has been saved. Rage and hatred have been routed.
There are echoes of the Pandaren's on-going fight with the Sha, and I do believe it’s the sort of thing that would foster a link between us at a time when we could really do with a bit more shared ground: something beyond combat and necessity.