January 26, 2012

Edinburgh Zoo Unveils Special Tartan To Welcome Giant Pandas

Tartan Commemorates Arrival Of Pandas Tian Tian And Yang Guang

Kirsty Franey models the special tartan (Image: Edinburgh Evening News)

Kirsty Franey models the special tartan (Image: Edinburgh Evening News)

This week, Scotland’s Edinburgh Zoo debuted a special tartan designed to commemorate the recent arrival of two giant pandas from China, the culmination of a five-year effort. As the zoo noted in a statement, the new tartan, produced by the renowned local designers Kinloch Anderson, “reflects the huge cultural significance of Tian Tian and Yang Guang’s arrival on Scottish shores.”

Echoing in many ways the Gillespie Tartan — in honor of Thomas Gillespie, who established the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland in 1909 — the new design has already been approved by the Scottish Register of Tartans.

Along with being a great form of publicity, the tartan itself is strong on cultural cues and symbolism. Meant to reference the colors of the giant panda, the tartan is predominantly black and white, with deep greys throughout to depict the gradations seen in panda fur. Green highlights call back to the panda’s favorite food, bamboo, while red overchecks in blocks of three represent China, good luck and birth.

Tartan detail

Tartan detail

Combining two of the most significant symbols of Scotland and China, the tartan is meant to stand for the blossoming relationship between the two countries. In recent years, Sino-Scots trade has soared as demand for Scottish products like cashmere and salmon has grown among China’s emerging middle class, while wealthy Chinese have turned to golf as their preferred leisure activity and increased their appreciation of Scottish whisky.

According to the Edinburgh Zoo, the “Panda Tartan” will be available at the zoo gift shop starting in early April.

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