Japanese fans cheer at meeting giant panda Xiang Xiang virtually

2024-04-10 Editor : Li Yan ECNS App Download
Takahiro Takauji (left), a fan of the panda Xiang Xiang who has been photographing pandas at Ueno Zoo since 2011, shares his story with Xiang Xiang with Ryo Takeuchi, a documentary director, and other panda enthusiasts in Tokyo on Tuesday. (Photo by Jiang Xueqing/China Daily)

Takahiro Takauji (left), a fan of the panda Xiang Xiang who has been photographing pandas at Ueno Zoo since 2011, shares his story with Xiang Xiang with Ryo Takeuchi, a documentary director, and other panda enthusiasts in Tokyo on Tuesday. (Photo by Jiang Xueqing/China Daily)

The Japanese fans of the giant panda Xiang Xiang had a video call with her and an offline meeting in Tokyo on Tuesday, after she returned to China, witnessing her current life in China.

Xiang Xiang, born in Tokyo's Ueno Zoo in 2017, has been living in the giant panda base in Ya'an, Sichuan province, since returning to China last year. She has now adapted to the environment and climate of Ya'an, as well as the feeding management system of the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda, according to the keeper Zhao Lanlan.

When Xiang Xiang first returned to China, she experienced significant stress reactions, Zhao was quite nervous and worried about her.

"Later, I found out that Xiang Xiang likes to eat apples, so I increased the time and frequency of feeding her apples. To build mutual trust between us, I communicate with her in the panda enclosure, allowing her to become familiar with my voice and scent," Zhao said.

"Xiang Xiang was initially timid and sensitive to sounds, running away at slightly unfamiliar noises. Now she can calmly eat on the feeding platform in front of the public. This is a great progress for her.

"Additionally, she used to find a place she considered safe to rest after eating, where the public could hardly see her. Now, she can rest in a relatively safe place in front of the public," Zhao said.

During the day, the keepers feed Xiang Xiang 30 kilograms of bamboo, 400 grams of apples, about 1,000 grams of steamed buns, and 3,000 grams of bamboo shoots, adjusting the feeding based on her eating situation.

Zhao said to the Japanese panda enthusiasts, "Xiang Xiang now enjoys the environment of her hometown and has adapted to the feeding management system here. She is doing very well. We welcome everyone to come to China to visit her when they have time."

Under the care and protection of various circles in China and Japan, Xiang Xiang has grown up healthily and has always been loved by the Japanese people, said Wu Hailong, president of the China Public Diplomacy Association.

Together with other pandas in Japan, Xiang Xiang has brought laughter and joy to the Japanese people, leaving behind beautiful and unforgettable memories, and has made unique contributions to enhancing the friendly feelings between the Chinese and Japanese peoples, becoming a bond of friendship between the two countries, Wu said.

"Although Xiang Xiang has returned to China, many Japanese people have been missing and yearning for her. Therefore, we organized this online meeting between Xiang Xiang and the Japanese people, allowing her fans to once again witness her appearance and her life in China.

"We also welcome the Japanese people to come to China to visit Xiang Xiang and her companions, hoping that they can continue to bring more joy and friendship to the peoples of China and Japan," Wu said.

In 1972, China's giant pandas Kang Kang and Lan Lan set foot on Japanese soil for the first time and came to live in the Ueno Zoo, sparking a wave of panda fever and becoming one of the iconic events in the normalization of China-Japan diplomatic relations. In the long history of Ueno Zoo, the most popular attraction has always been pandas.

In 2017, Xiang Xiang was born at Ueno Zoo, attracting many visitors as she grew up. Thanks to Xiang Xiang, the number of visitors to Ueno Zoo exceeded 2 million in 2018, said Yutaka Fukuda, director of Ueno Zoological Gardens.

"Xiang Xiang lived in Ueno Zoo for five and a half years. During this period, we accumulated a lot of knowledge and experience about giant pandas. Last year, she returned to China to prepare to become a mother. We heard that the staff at the panda base in Ya'an took very good care of her, and she quickly adapted to the local life, meeting the public again in October 2023. Xiang Xiang's birth, growth, and return to China have significant meanings," Fukuda said.

In 2021, Ueno Zoo welcomed two more panda cubs, Xiang Xiang's younger brother and sister. Ueno Zoo will further strengthen cooperation with the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda to contribute to the cause of panda conservation and the development of friendly relations between China and Japan, Fukuda said.

Panda cooperation has always been an important platform for people-to-people exchanges between China and Japan, leaving behind many wonderful stories to promote friendly relations between the two countries, said Chinese Ambassador to Japan Wu Jianghao.

"The image of pandas is gentle and kind, representing the Chinese cultural symbol of benevolence, kindness, trustworthiness, and harmony. The people of China and Japan who cherish pandas should coexist peacefully, be friendly for generations, cooperate mutually, and develop together.

"We look forward to more people from both countries forming good relationships through the adorable pandas, participating in friendly exchanges and cooperation between China and Japan, and contributing to the healthy and stable development of Sino-Japanese relations," Wu Jianghao said.

He takes this opportunity to welcome more Japanese people to find time to visit China, especially Sichuan province, to care about Xiang Xiang's life after returning home, and to continue writing new stories of panda affinity between China and Japan.

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