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Sunday, December 3, 2023

Farewell to Washington’s Beloved Pandas: A Symbol of Sino-US Friendship

ChinaFarewell to Washington's Beloved Pandas: A Symbol of Sino-US Friendship

In a heartfelt move, fans of giant pandas across the United States prepare to say their goodbyes to the charming trio – Mei Xiang, Tian Tian, and their young cub, Xiao Qi Ji. Set to leave American shores by December 7, these endearing creatures’ departure prompts a mix of nostalgia and hope for future relations between China and the US.

As symbols of soft diplomacy and sources of delight for countless fans, Mei Xiang and Tian Tian’s departure has a significant sentiment attached to it, especially as they are two of the older pandas, both being 25 years old. Zoo authorities mentioned their age as one of the reasons for their return to China. Their young son, Xiao Qi Ji, whose name translates to “little miracle,” will accompany his parents. This decision, as cited by The Washington Post, is because he is on the brink of reaching the vital breeding age.

To mark this poignant moment and to celebrate the legacy of these “diplomatic” animals, the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington is hosting a special nine-day event. Termed “Panda Palooza,” this extravaganza, spanning from September 23 to October 1, promises a mix of joy and nostalgia. It allows thousands of dedicated panda enthusiasts to witness their favorite pandas up close one last time.

The celebration isn’t restricted to just live viewings. Attendees can indulge in an array of panda-centric events, including film screenings, live music sessions that resonate with the charm of these creatures, and much more.

A unique touch to this event is the cultural exhibition, held in collaboration with the Chinese Embassy in the US. Here, participants can immerse themselves in various elements of Chinese culture. From practicing the elegant art of Chinese calligraphy to experiencing face painting, there’s a lot to explore. The exhibition also offers glimpses into the traditional Chinese Hanfu clothing, furthering the essence of cultural exchange.

One of the attendees, Elizabeth, adorned in a panda-themed T-shirt, encapsulated the sentiments of many. Speaking to China News Service, she expressed her deep-seated affection for these animals. Although she firmly believes they’ll receive the utmost care upon their return to China, the very act of saying goodbye tugs at her heartstrings. Her hope? To see new giant pandas grace the National Zoo someday. She also dreams of setting foot in China to reunite with the pandas that once lived in Washington.

Mei Xiang and Tian Tian aren’t newcomers to the US. Their journey began in 2000 when they first set their paws in Washington. Their fourth cub, Xiao Qi Ji, came into the world in 2020. However, Washington’s history with pandas doesn’t stop here. Each of Xiao Qi Ji’s siblings, upon reaching 2 or 3 years of age, returned to China. This cycle, as US media sources point out, has been an ongoing tradition.

But the legacy of pandas in Washington extends beyond just these family ties. Since 1972, the National Zoo has been home to eight giant pandas. Over time, their endearing presence transformed them into an emblem of Washington, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with iconic structures like the White House and the Capitol. Their popularity can be seen in the sheer volume of panda-themed merchandise that floods the markets – from apparel and accessories like shirts, slippers, and hats to utilities like mugs, water bottles, and totes. Even Christmas didn’t remain untouched by the panda fever, with ornaments showcasing these cuddly creatures becoming a common sight.

However, Mei Xiang, Tian Tian, and Xiao Qi Ji aren’t the only pandas preparing for departure. Four of their counterparts residing in Atlanta are slated to leave next year. Unless a fresh agreement is inked, this move might result in the US lacking the presence of any giant pandas, a scenario not witnessed since 1972. The Washington Post echoed this sentiment, emphasizing the gaping void their absence might create.

Amidst these farewells, questions arise about the broader implications, especially concerning Sino-US relations. Responding to Bloomberg’s query on whether the pandas’ departure hints at escalating tensions between China and the US, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Mao Ning, provided a broader perspective. He emphasized the solid cooperative bonds both nations share, particularly in the domain of endangered species conservation. According to him, these pandas have not only spread happiness among Americans but have also bridged hearts across the two nations.

Mao Ning further highlighted that giant pandas, while being China’s national treasures, also function as ambassadors of global friendship. Their universal appeal is a testament to this. China, he asserted, remains committed to fostering collaborations with global partners, including the US. This is in a bid to amplify efforts in conserving endangered species.

In conclusion, as Washington gears up to bid adieu to its beloved pandas, the overarching sentiment remains one of hope. Hope that these charismatic animals continue to be symbols of friendship and cooperation in an ever-evolving

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