WASHINGTON – After 100 days and 202,045 votes,the results are in: The giant panda cub at the Smithsonian Institution's National Zoo has a name,Tai Shan,or “peaceful mountain.”
Amid colorful traditional lion dancers and the music of a drum,gong and cymbals,visitors gathered Monday to hear the decision.
Chinese naming traditions decree that babies are named on the 100th day of their lives. The National Zoo filled that time with a contest to name the cub.
A plurality,44 percent of the voters,including people from China,Poland and Brazil,voted for Tai Shan. The other possibilities were Qiang Qiang (“strong,powerful”),Sheng Hua (“Washington China,magnificent”),Long Shan (“dragon mountain”) and Hua Sheng (“China Washington,magnificent”).
Sisters Rhiana and Brighid Hughes,Friends of the National Zoo members since birth,voted for the name and rolled out of bed extra early to make it to the naming ceremony with their mother,Linda Barrow. That the panda cub was still not on display did not matter to them.
“It's good to be close to the cub,even though we can't see him,” Rhiana,8,said. “It's nice to know his name.”
Brighid,6,was still rubbing sleep from her eyes but said she was excited about the cub's new name. The girls have watched the cub on the zoo's Web cam since his birth,Barrow,45,said.
The three will return to the zoo from their Annandale,Va.,home for a members' day the zoo will hold about a week before Tai Shan is put on public display. After postponing a November debut,the zoo said it now plans on a December date still to be determined.
Members' days acclimate baby animals to people looking at them,said Sarah Taylor,zoo spokeswoman.
At 14 weeks,Tai Shan is about 2 feet long,weighs 13 pounds,has grown teeth and is almost walking,said John Berry,the zoo's director. Tai Shan was born July 9 to mother,Mei Xiang,and father,Tian Tian. The panda parents came to the National Zoo in December 2000 on loan from China until at least 2010.
“Giant pandas are one of the most critically endangered species in the world,” Berry said. “Today is exciting,but it is only one day in the effort to preserve the species so it is more abundant for our children and grandchildren.”
Yan Xun,deputy director of the Conservation Department of China's State Administration,and Zheng Zeguang,deputy chief of mission of the embassy of the People's Republic of China,also spoke at the ceremony.
“Giant pandas are a valuable resource in China and a great gift for China and the American people,” Xun said through an interpreter. “I hope Tai Shan has a long and happy life at the National Zoo,and I hope it represents a long and prosperous relationship between China and America.”
Zeguang said the panda cub's birth and development have been closely watched in China as well as in the United States and that panda preservation work has lead to a population that is increasing in the wild instead of decreasing.
Teri,Hannah and Grace Hinton missed the ceremony,but still got to see traditional Chinese dancers from the Fairfax County (Va.) Chinese dance troupe and the Beijing Opera. Visitors could write congratulatory wishes on red ribbons that were tied on potted bamboo plants and were given red-dyed eggs,a traditional Chinese gift at 100-day ceremonies.
Hannah,10,and Grace,8,were born in China,and Chinese customs and traditions are strong in their household,Hinton said.
“We came knowing we couldn't see the panda,but we wanted to see the ceremony,” she said. The girls,who study the Chinese language,recognized the Chinese symbols for Tai Shan's name on red signs beside the podium.
They moved to Fairfax,Va.,from Chicago in July,a move that Hinton said the pandas made easier for the girls.
“They knew they were moving by the National Zoo with pandas,” Hinton,48,said. “There are no pandas in Chicago.”