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In a surprise move, first ladies Michelle Obama and Peng Liyuan today announced the name of Mei Xiang and Tian Tian‘s new cub: Bei Bei.
The American and Chinese first ladies selected the name, which means “precious or treasure,” from suggestions offered by keepers at the National Zoo (which put forth Ping Ping) and the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda.
The process is an outrage.
Bei Bei’s name selection process differs from his sister Bao Bao‘s in two ways. One, Bao Bao’s fans voted to select her name out of five choices. (Tai Shan aficionados also selected his name democratically.) Two, she received her name 100 days after her birth, a Chinese tradition. The National Zoo notes in a release:
Historically, as giant pandas are indigenous only to China, the National Zoo has named panda cubs when they turn 100 days old in a nod to Chinese culture and traditions. Centuries ago, it was common for parents to name their newborns when they reached 100 days. Parents in China no longer wait to name their children, but it is still customary to host a celebration when a baby turns 100 days old. Scientists and keepers at giant panda breeding and research centers in China do not wait 100 days to name cubs born at those facilities.
The zoo timed the announcement in “celebration of [Chinese President Xi Jinping‘s] state visit and as a special honor for the cub,” the zoo says. “I’m sure it will bring it good luck,” Liyuan said of Bei Bei’s name.
Photo courtesy National Zoo