Like any good character, you don't begin life as a pandaren as a blank slate. No, your very first login greets you with a quest warning you of an unassailable truth: You have Much to Learn. Thankfully, it doesn't take a great deal of heroic effort to complete the quest. Just trot down the hill and speak to Master Shang Xi.
Master Shang Xi, a monk, wastes no time in warning you that your life won't be filled with bare-fisted shenanigans, despite what movies may have said about martial artists. You must learn The Lesson of the Iron Bough. Run down the hill and grab a training staff from the (many) weapon racks. Equip it, and return to Master Shang Xi.
Master Shang Xi congratulates you for your mastery of the "hold a stick" technique and sends you off to beat up some training dummies. Despite the presence of a big, honking stick, this training time is called The Lesson of the Sandy Fist. Don't worry about the Training Targets attacking back; despite many hours drunkenly threatening them with my stick, they never killed me. It was close a couple of times, but since the targets never actually attack, I was safe.
Once your oppressive campaign against the training dummies is over, you graduate to beating up your fellow trainees. In a move reminiscent of the death knight starting area, you're sent off to rough up other monks in The Lesson of Stifled Pride. Let that be a lesson to you: Pandaren like knocking each other down a peg.
The small horde of trainees around the weapon racks and training dummies aren't trainee enough for this lesson. Jump inside the temple and simply start attacking pandas. Now's a great time to start humming Eye of the Tiger. Your fellow trainees will thank you for roughing them up and tell you things like "I must learn more from you" and "I must train more." They must learn things like "go get a big stick," I guess.
Now that you're through the basic combat mechanics, you start getting deeper into the philosophy of what it means to be a hero in Azeroth: setting stuff on fire. You're given a mystical fire to set fire to a scroll at the top of the temple. You don't need to leave the temple; just turn around and run up the stairs. You complete the Lesson of the Burning Scroll by right-clicking on the Scroll of Temperance and setting it ablaze.
Jog back down the stairs and talk to Shang Xi once more. The irony of setting fire to the scroll of moderation and temperance doesn't escape Shang Xi, who affirms that some bad stuff is about to go down. He wanted you to burn the scroll as a symbol that the pandaren need to be ready to throw down with whatever's coming. OK, sure, I'll buy that.
A final demonstration of purity
Shang Xi then announces that he sees great purity in your spirit; he must not know about our college days. But to prepare for the final challenge, you must find one last student and beat him up. (Pandaren Lesson #2: Purity of spirit equals beating the snot out of each other.) The Disciple's Challenge thug target is Jaomin Ro, who can be found across the bridge outside the Shang Xi Training Ground.
Once you've established who's the main panda on the island, go back to the bridge, where Shang Xi is ready to send you off into real danger. The spirit of fire, Huo, must be returned to the Temple of Five Dawns. Like any good hero on a quest, you must gather two allies, both gifted students of Shang Xi, to aid you. The first is Aysa Cloudsinger, whom you can find at a pool to the west of the bridge. That's where we'll begin our next installment.
It's open warfare between Alliance and Horde in Mists of Pandaria, World of Warcraft's next expansion. Jump into five new levels with new talents and class mechanics, try the new monk class, and create a pandaren character to ally with either Horde or Alliance. Look for expansion basics in our Mists FAQ, or dig into our spring press event coverage for more details!