Way of the Panda Tarot by Kim Tsan

I knew that the Way of the Panda Tarot would be cute and cuddly, but I was not prepared for its depth of wisdom or its exploration into a unique philosophy of life. In the same way kids say the darndest things, pandas do, too.

This deck is that stuffed teddy bear you had when you were two that you wouldn’t go anywhere without; it’s Blankie, who you wouldn’t ever let go near a laundry machine. In fact, the pandas depicted on the deck each have names and back stories, which you’ll learn about in the guidebook.

When you order the deck, you’ll get a Little White Booklet, which is packed with info on its own. You can also order an extended, comprehensive Guidebook. I’m going to talk about it all.

Click image for enlarged view.

First, the guidebook. It’s the official operation manual for your deck, and its bible. The book itself is written in such a way as to be interactive. Tsan’s writing style is whimsical, full of delights, gently-worded sanity, and a lot of wisdom.

Before we continue on, choose a card, left, center, or right. Remember your selection, because we’ll revisit these three cards at the end and give you a quick little divinatory reading.

As an interactive text, the guidebook, The Book of Pandas starts with a quiz: “How Much of a Panda Are You.” And yes, that’s a bowl of cooked instant ramen you see there in the background.

I scored between 51 and 75 points, so the “Inner Panda is Strong” within me. Hah. I love it.

After you take the quiz, there’s a three-card reading you can do based on your quiz result. So I did a reading:

  1. Center: How I can channel my inner panda to navigate this world
  2. Left: What I can do when I experience conflicting social needs
  3. Right: What I can do to make peace with myself when I don’t know if I should panda or not

The cardstock is really thick. I love the absolute matte finish, though I did find the cards a touch on the harder side for me to thoroughly shuffle.

Here are my reading results:

  1. Center: How I can channel my inner panda to navigate this world: Three of Wands
  2. Left: What I can do when I experience conflicting social needs: Queen of Cups
  3. Right: What I can do to make peace with myself when I don’t know if I should panda or not: Six of Swords

The little white book that comes in your box is structured with three sections for each card entry: a Panda Message, Light Attributes, and Shadow Attributes. I can channel my inner panda (Card 1) by embodying a decidedly optimistic outlook, though I’m also being very panda when I’m unrealistic with my expectations.

Click on any of the images for enlarged viewing.

All right now let’s start with the Majors. Celia Libelle’s artwork is a perfect pairing to Tsan’s style. The symbolism is also whip smart, but subtle with its prodigy.

I love The Hierophant card, where the panda’s head is a prism. When The Hierophant Panda shows up in your reading, it’s because this panda archetype has taken a keen interest in you. There’s resonance between you and Hierophant Panda, and as a result, because he’s smarter, more learned, and a whole lot older than you, has some words of advice to share.

The Chariot card, for instance, depicts Victor the Panda with his bae, a winged motorbike.

There’s something innovative and unique to Tsan’s depiction of the Justice card here: there are two pandas, whereas more commonly the Justice card is depicted with a solitary figure. But why are there are two pandas? Look closely at what they’re doing and you’re going to laugh out loud.

The panda spirit in Key XI: Justice is Liam, who knows how to set boundaries. Clearly one panda is getting a little too close, impinging on Liam’s space, so Liam puts up his foot and blocks that panda’s nose.

And you know what? If Liam shows up in your reading, you’ve got to embody Liam and do the same. In Way of the Panda, the Justice card is about setting boundaries and how to be an authoritative guardian of your personal space. Love it. Absolutely love it.

The panda spirits in the Major Arcana are the Major Pandas in the Panda Kingdom. They look after all the other fellow pandas in their realm– and also show up for you! When a Major Panda appears, it’s to help guide you through a transition point in your life or to have a transformative influence over you.

The suit of Wands depicts the Fire Pandas. Fire Pandas are your companion spirits when you’re embarking on an exciting adventure. They love the thrill of adventure and so when that’s what you’re doing, they will most definitely tail you!

In addition to readings with the deck, you can work specifically with any of the panda archetypes. The Fire Pandas are here for you when you need to unleash your creativity or are innovating and developing new projects. When you need to mobilize, you need to call on one of the Fire Panda spirits to guide you.

Now the Air Pandas… well.. in Tsan’s own words, “were a handful.” Yeah. I bet they were. Now… while a critical one might call these panda spirits a little on the snobby side, elitist with their erudition, and a little bit unapproachable, don’t let them intimidate you. They’re good-hearted and genuinely do care about your greater good.

They are the brainiacs and the scholars of Panda Kingdom, wax poetic and debate philosophy over dainty cups of bamboo tea, and are some of the most posh pandas you’ll ever come across.

Hugo

When you need to stimulate your brain muscles for tackling a difficult decision or problem you’re facing, call on one of the Air Pandas. Take, for instance, Hugo, the panda in the Two of Swords pictured above, who drinks his English Breakfast tea with soy milk and a paw of sugar. He’ll help you sharpen your critical thinking skills.

Jack Parrow

Or Jack Parrow, the noble rebel, pictured on the Seven of Swords. ARRRRRR! Whether you look at jack with admiration or with distaste, you can’t help but to acknowledge his ingenuity. And sometimes, he is just the panda spirit you need to help you get the tide turning in your favor.

Bailey

Then of course, there’s cute, sweet, lovable Bailey, the token nerd in the Panda Kingdom, who you’ll find on the Page of Swords.

Valerie, the Cool Mama Bear

And me, I definitely resonate with Valerie, the Queen Panda of the Swords suit. She drops truth bombs, dishes out tough love, but also rules with diplomacy and grace. Love her!

Clover

Clover, though, the panda in the Three of Swords, can be a drama queen. You look at her and I know you’re really alarmed, thinking oh no, she’s dead, but no. That’s just Clover being Clover. Though now I’m being a little insensitive myself! … Truth is, Clover has been through some tough times, so if anyone gets to grieve and lament, it’s her. Given what she’s been through, it’s no wonder she’s a panda with a broken worldview and a bleeding soul.

Now the Water Pandas are affectionate, naturally social creatures. They dwell in the Cosmic Garden of Panda Kingdom, wide-eyed, often found with random butterflies resting on the tips of their noses and flower wreaths on their pretty bear heads.

Little Olive

Aww!– look at Little Olive in the Ace of Cups! She is cuteness overload!

Water Pandas teach you self-love, self-care, and guide you in the ways of trusting your own intuition. They help you to attract the kind of friends and love into your life that will enrich you. If you’ve got trust issues to overcome, wounds to heal, especially childhood trauma, or want to open up that heart chakra of yours, connect with the Water Pandas.

Kaia and Avery

In the Two of Cups, you meet Kaia and Avery, who are from the same soul tribe and are bonded with so much love for each other in between.

Juniper, a hipster panda, Darcy, a dapper panda, and Sora, a nerdy panda

In the Three of Cups, meet Juniper, a hipster panda, Darcy, a dapper panda, and Sora, a nerdy panda, who are friends forever.

Prince Charles

Oh, and everybody swoons a little when they see Prince Charles, the heart throb bachelor of the Panda King, the Knight of Cups!

Harry and Ashe the Cat

By the way, Harry’s cat friend Ashe is adorable! Check out the Six of Cups. And that knitted cat ears hat– a reference to the Pussyhat Project, a social media mission to advance feminism and women’s rights.

The suit of Pentacles features the Earth Pandas. They’re the most practical of the bunch. These panda spirit guides help you to be more productive, to do everything you need to do for achieving abundance and prosperity, and they help you to work toward better physical health and wellness.

Luke

There’s Luke in the Ace of Pentacles, who is an excellent musician (flutist, to be exact). There’s Spartacus in the Four of Pentacles, who is a panda spirit that will help you with work productivity. The personality of these pandas really come to life and leap out of the cards at you.

Peter and Wenwen

In the Five of Pentacles, we see dejected Peter the Panda who has two left feet and tripped over himself, breaking the golden pentacles he was carrying. His good friend Wenwen has come to comfort him, however, though Wenwen also never holds back! One time, Peter was wallowing in so much self-pity over his losses that Wenwen simply slapped Peter across his face (gently, and without harm, of course). It shook Peter out of his self-pity and got him back on the right track, however! That’s what friends are for!

And here’s the reveal for the three cards. You remember which one of the three you picked, yeah?

Click for enlarged view

Now let’s get into your messages from the panda spirits. I’m paraphrasing directly from the guidebook The Book of Pandas and the little white book for the deck.

Seven of Pentacles, Way of the Panda

If you went with the left side, your card is the Seven of Pentacles. Meet your panda spirit guide, Bobo, who is reviewing his intentions and figuring out how best to launch his grand panda plans. How can he best work with the resources he’s got to actualize what it is he wants? And that might just be you, too, right now.

Your divinatory message? This is a validation from the panda spirits that all is going according to plan for you. That being said– doh!– there is… one or two minor adjustments you’ll need to make, so anticipate, be prepared, and don’t stall in making those necessary tweaks.

When you move around your assets so they’re optimized and you proceed strategically, you win. Don’t be disorganized, don’t run off with distractions and don’t let anything disrupt your current flow. And finally, don’t be impatient. The Thing will manifest when it’s the right time. Trust.

Key III: The Empress, Way of the Panda

If you had gone with the center card, your message is: Key III. The Empress.

Know in your spirit that Queen Mother looks at you with Adoring Eyes. You are so Loved and tenderness from the universe will be shown to you. Empress Panda wants you to know that She is present. She is also feeling a bit over-protective of you at the moment. She wants to keep you safe. She wants only the best for you. Know that of her children, you are one of her beloved gems.

One of the ingenious features Kim Tsan has included are the follow-up tarot spread recommendations after the Majors. So, if you draw Key III: The Empress, then there’s an Empress’ Pink Staff tarot reading for you to do.

And here’s the spread for you to work on:

  1. Center: What stirs in your heart-space right now; what is it that you seek to nurture and grow
  2. Left: What beauty and voice are you becoming, that you will become
  3. Right: How can you hold space and channel power from a place of love, to nurture what it is you seek fruition

If you got The Empress card, then go ahead and get your favorite tarot deck to do the three-card Empress’ Pink Staff tarot reading for yourself. =)

Ace of Swords, Way of the Panda

And if you picked the right-most card, you got the Ace of Swords. Your panda spirit guide is the impressive, formidable Arry, one of the leading philosophers and thinkers in the Air Panda Kingdom! He’s a professor over at the University of Pandas and has received over 78 academic awards for his research on human behavior.

In the same way panda professor Arry hijacks the guidebook manuscript from its author, Kim Tsan (see the photograph above), you embody that same spirit of willfulness, fierce independence, and wanting to be the author and narrator of your own story. Don’t let others learn about you through hearsay. Get your point of view out there. Broadcast. Publish. Express.

Here are a few prompts:

  • What makes you who you are?
  • What opinions do you have on the subject matter of most interest to you?
  • What made you think the way you do and act the way you do?
  • What made you who you are now?

These are your own stories to broadcast, to share directly in your own voice.

Arry’s Panda Message: The professor quotes from the renowned rationalist panda philosopher Rene Pandascartes. “I think, therefore I am.” (Haha okay the books never actually reveal the philosopher Pandascartes’ first name, but I’m just going to take a guess that it’s Rene…)

The Light attributes revealed about you from the Ace of Swords is your quest for truth and clarity; your perspicacious perspective, and the great value of your opinions, so share them! The Shadow attributes, however, include mental constipation, confusing yourself with the amount of conflicting information and thoughts you’re hoarding, and possible identity crisis. These are the mental obstructions to work through at this juncture point of your life.

Finally, the Way of the Panda Tarot includes four bonus cards: The Caffeinated Panda, The Stargazing Panda, The Witchy Panda, and Dream Space. Psst… in either the first reading I did or one of the first (can’t remember now– I’ve been playing and tinkering with this deck for several months already), I pulled The Witchy Panda when I asked the deck which panda spirit did I most embody. Love!

There’s a great video over on the Fables Den YouTube channel all about how to work with the wild cards from this deck. So definitely check that out: Wild Cards from Way of the Panda: What They Mean and How To Use Them.

This deck is medicine. The magical writing of Kim Tsan pierces straight through all your grown-up BS to reveal your inner child and that inner child’s wisdom. While this deck is playful, coy, and tender, I hope the card reading result you received also demonstrates its power of luminosity and acuity.

Although I was gifted this deck, it was not with any expectation or exchange for a review. It was just a gift from a friend to a friend, so I’m not sharing this review to try and convince you to get the deck. I’m sharing this with you because I love this addition in my collection and I love the readings it gives me.

Way of the Panda Tarot is unpretentious, but not in any way “fluffy.” On that note, Tsan made a provocative video worth your watch: Why is “fluffy” or “cuteness” a bad thing in the spiritual community?

I think of a “fluffy” deck (or anything) in the context of the spiritual community as something that’s, well, padded up with superficial, frivolous content of no intellectual or emotional weight. A deck that superficially appears to be badass and deep could very well be fluffy.

Meanwhile, a deck like Way of the Panda is the opposite. There is nothing superficial or frivolous about this deck, its guidebook, or all the design and planning that went into creating these cards. If you get the inside jokes in the panda names and all the hidden Easter egg references to philosophical treatises or historic figures, you won’t find it to be intellectually “Lite.” And the emotional dexterity of this deck is also impressive.

Beautifully done, Fables Den! Be sure to check out her website to order your copy of Way of the Panda and also, check out all her other incredible offerings. Right now she’s giving away a free e-book, the Adventurer’s Guide to Tarot. You can also find her on YouTube, here and over on Instagram.

6 thoughts on “Way of the Panda Tarot by Kim Tsan

  1. Pingback: Way of the Panda Tarot by Kim Tsan — benebell wen | ravenhawks' magazine

  2. Ann!!

    You convinced me. I have been a tarot lurker (mostly on your blog) but had yet to get a deck. Way of the Panda Tarot is going to be my first. I think I need the playfulness that Kim Tsan has put into the deck.

    I also appreciate the decentering of European imagery. I think one of the things that has kept me on the sidelines of tarot, despite my curiosity, has been how much it feels like a set of myths and archetypes that have historically have not included immigrants, especially Asian diasporic immigrants. I think the other tarot deck that made me go OOOOOH was the Slow Holler Tarot, but that is a deck that I’m a visitor/guest to the imagery and stories, whereas I think the Panda deck can be a place I make a home in, as a newly arrived immigrant to tarot. ^_^

    p.s. I think three of the wild cards are in the Kickstarter edition only and not in the regular deck.
    p.p.s. thank you as always for your generosity in sharing and teaching!

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  3. OMG Kim is a truly magnificent tarot innovator! Can’t wait to see the new deck (or decks!) with her own artwork…I was slow to the party…I can only spend so much on all this stuff I spend money on…that my entire family looks at and says…why? Because I can’t let this genius pass me by is why..when you people rummage through all my stuff after I’m gone – you’ll see. Way of Panda Tarot…a true gem.

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  4. I adore this deck! I’m only said I didn’t back it on kickstarter and get the 3 additional cards, mine only came with the Dream Space card. My loss, because Kim did a fantastic job. I used it today for my full moon reading and those Pandas really gave me some straight talk.

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