Warning: Contains spoilers for the Pandaren starting zone, The Wandering Isle, and the Pandaren entrance quests to the Horde.
Have I mentioned how much I despise and loathe Garrosh Hellscream yet?
Meet my budding Pandaren shaman, Fengxing.
Her name, translated from Cantonese and Mandarin Chinese, means “The Phoenix Star.” It’s echoes the Chinese name my mother crafted for my daughter, who is named “The Phoenix of the Family.”
In Chinese tradition, the phoenix has become a symbol and embodiment of the feminine. She’s usually seen with the dragon, who is— can you guess?— the embodiment and symbol of the masculine. Her nature is full of grace, virtue, strength, and justice. The multicolored plumes of her body represent the Confucian principles, which includes altruism, loyalty, and upstanding citizenship. Wherever she went, her presence meant nothing but good things to the people.
And that’s precisely what my shaman intends to be for the Horde. Fengxing didn’t just learn some new spells and tricks when she left the Wandering Isle. She took the heavy lessons of her trial with her, too: the rift that formed between Aysa and Ji after they saved the ancient turtle; the deep roots of her people’s culture and how it is, ultimately, tied to the world they live; how two seemingly opposite natures can be the same in their core.
What affected the bright-eyed Pandaren girl the most, however, was her reception upon arriving in Orgrimmar. She knew she was strange to the citizens of the Horde— they were just as strange and odd to her, after all. Everything seemed fine and peachy up until Ji and Fengxing walked into Grommash Hold and met their new warchief. All illusions of maintaining any semblance of their former lives were dashed. They were just another cog in the great Horde war machine.
Then came the whispers and mutterings from bystanders. “Funny-looking,” said the goblin in a mage’s attire.
“You’d best move quickly through here,” said a burly orc in the Drag. I thought he meant we would get pick-pocketed in the markets if we weren’t careful, but that wasn’t the case. “The warchief doesn’t take too kindly to non-orcs in this area.”
Ji Firepaw’s choking response said it all: “He– he segregates the city?!”
It’s worth noting here that whoever voiced Ji Firepaw did an amazing job, especially in the Orgrimmar quest sequences. While I was busy making sure I didn’t miss anything, hearing Ji’s voice become more and more despondent as we made our way through the city brought me back to the terrible reality my character was experiencing.
My own skin began to crawl in real life. I thought of a day in third grade, as the new kid at a small-town elementary school; kids had taunted me by pulling back the corners of their eyes with their fingers and chanted nonsense like, “Ching chang chong.” My dad used to talk about finding old park signs that said, “No dogs and Chinese people allowed.” I was reminded of the stories out of Angel Island and the railroad camps in California: their hardships, their indignities, their shaming— but also their perseverance, their willingness to keep working despite the lot given to them in life with hopes of a better tomorrow.
As a long-time Horde player, even I was having doubts about my decision to join the Horde instead of the Alliance— the same doubts harbored by immigrants who questioned if they had truly come to a land that would give them a better life. It made me wonder what it would have been like if I’d joined Aysa instead and traveled to Stormwind City. Surely King Wrynn would not have thrown me and my Pandaren counterpart into an arena to display my prowess in battle and prove my worth.
Someone at Blizzard did their homework and studied their history, and it shows in the storytelling of the game.
It is said that if a phoenix were to come upon a place and forsake it after seeing its true colors, it meant that place and its people were without honor and filled with corruption. But my shaman is ready to live with her choices and, ultimately, its consequences. She is, at the very least, persistent and willing to see if she can change the Horde from the inside out. Fengxing also knows that not everyone in the Horde is cut of the same cloth. In fact, she now knows that the Horde needs her and her skills more than the Alliance.
She’ll carve her own path, creating a niche for herself in the Horde. Fengxing is willing to chip away at the rock and refuse to find the core of the true Horde, no matter what it’ll take. She can’t— and won’t— give up. Not yet.