Tai Shan (giant panda)

Last updated
Tai Shan
Giant Panda Tai Shan.JPG
Tai Shan on June 10, 2007
Species Giant panda
Born (2005-07-09) July 9, 2005 (age 16)
National Zoological Park, Washington, D.C. United States
ResidenceChina Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda: Dujiangyan Base, Sichuan Province People's Republic of China
Parent(s) Mei Xiang, Tian Tian

Tai Shan (Chinese :泰山; pinyin :Tài Shān, pronounced  [tʰâiʂán] , also known as Butterstick after birth and before naming) [1] is a giant panda born at the National Zoo in Washington D.C. on July 9, 2005. [2] He is the first panda cub born at the National Zoo to survive for more than a few days. He is the oldest brother of Bao Bao, Bei Bei and Xiao Qi Ji.



Tai Shan (7 months old in picture) with his mother Mei Xiang on February 16, 2006 TaiShan MeiXiang.jpg
Tai Shan (7 months old in picture) with his mother Mei Xiang on February 16, 2006

Tai Shan is the first cub born on July 9, 2005 at 3:41 AM to Mei Xiang ( [mèiɕjɑ́ŋ] ) and Tian Tian ( [tʰjɛntʰjɛn] ), the National Zoo's second pair of giant pandas. (The first pair, Ling-Ling (female) and Hsing-Hsing (male), were donated to the United States by China in 1972, shortly after Richard Nixon's historic visit. Ling-Ling died in 1992 and Hsing-Hsing in 1999 without producing any cubs that survived for more than a few days.)

Both of Tai Shan's parents were born at the China Research and Conservation Center for the Giant Panda in Wolong, Sichuan Province. Mei Xiang, his mother, was artificially inseminated in March 2005 with sperm from Tian Tian after natural mating between the pair appeared unsuccessful. Per the agreement with China, the Chinese government can require that Tai Shan be sent to China any time after he reaches the age of two as he, like his parents, is the property of China. (Mei Xiang and Tian Tian are technically being "leased" to the National Zoo by the Chinese government in a ten-year, $10 million agreement, with the money to go to panda conservation research in China.) The National Zoo announced in April 2007 that it reached an agreement with the Chinese government to let Tai Shan remain at the National Zoo until at least July 2009. The announcement was made when Chinese Ambassador Zhou Wenzhong presented Tai Shan a "passport" with an extended stay period to July 2009, without extra charge. [3]


Tai Shan on July 8, 2006. Tai Shan, National Zoos Panda Cub at 1 year old (185094394).jpg
Tai Shan on July 8, 2006.

Following a Chinese tradition, panda cubs are not named until they are 100 days old. [4] Before he got a name, the cub was popularly referred to as Butterstick because immediately after his birth, a zoo worker described him as being about the size of a stick of butter. The name caught on with bloggers, and became quite popular. [5]

In fall 2005, the National Zoo announced that the cub's name would be chosen through an Internet poll. There were five names included on the poll; all were traditional Chinese names approved by the China Wildlife Conservation Association. The choices were Hua Sheng ("China Washington" and "magnificent"),Sheng Hua ("Washington China" and "magnificent"), Tai Shan ("peaceful mountain"), Long Shan ("dragon mountain"), and Qiang Qiang ("strong, powerful"). "Butterstick" was not included as an option. Some bloggers protested this decision; there was even an attempt to hack the poll, [1] [6] allowing voters the option of selecting the name Butterstick. Despite these efforts, the name Tai Shan , meaning "peaceful mountain," was eventually chosen, as it had won 44 percent of the 202,045 total votes cast. [7]

Media attention

Tai Shan in his favorite tree in June 2006 2006-06-03 - Tai Shan.jpg
Tai Shan in his favorite tree in June 2006
Tai Shan and mother in February 2006 Tai Shan with Mei Xiang in 2006.jpg
Tai Shan and mother in February 2006

Tai Shan made his public debut on December 8, 2005, after the National Zoo issued 13,000 free timed entry tickets. These tickets were gone within 2 hours, and some were quickly offered for sale on eBay and craigslist, with an asking price as high as $500 apiece.

The cub became widely popular; [8] he was frequently mentioned on D.C.-oriented websites, such as DCist and Wonkette , as well as traditional media outlets, including National Public Radio, The Washingtonian , The Washington Post , and The Washington Times . Fans set up sites selling cub-related merchandise, including one partnered with cafepress.com that donated approximately $1,900 in profits to the National Zoo.

The panda cub was featured in an Animal Planet documentary titled A Panda Is Born, which follows the National Zoo's giant panda breeding efforts and Tai Shan's birth. A few months after Tai Shan's first birthday, Animal Planet premiered a documentary titled Baby Panda's First Year, which followed him during his first 12 months at the National Zoo.

First birthday

At the National Zoo in Washington D.C., Tai Shan and thousands of fans celebrated his first birthday on July 9, 2006. As early as 7 a.m., National Zoo visitors started to line up outside the panda exhibit, with the opening three hours away.

One of his gifts was a giant custom-made fruitsicle with the number "1" on top. [5] Such ice treats gave Tai Shan some gastrointestinal problems which he has now recovered from.[ citation needed ]

After 2007, Tai Shan lived on his own at the zoo, because cubs leave their mothers at about 2 years of age and fathers play no role in cub rearing.

Move to China

Tai Shan on his final full day at the National Zoo in Washington D.C., February 3, 2010 1002AB02-TaiShan.jpg
Tai Shan on his final full day at the National Zoo in Washington D.C., February 3, 2010

The National Zoo announced on Dec. 4, 2009, that Tai Shan would leave the zoo and be sent to China, in accordance with previous agreements. Zoo officials had asked for Tai Shan to remain in Washington for another year, but China declined the request. [9] According to the original agreement, Tai Shan was to return to China two years after he was born. China had already allowed him to stay for another two and a half years beyond the initial agreement. He left D.C. for China on February 4, 2010 (on the same flight as Mei Lan from Zoo Atlanta). [10] He moved to the Bifengxia Panda Base, in Ya'an, Sichuan, but in 2014 moved again to the Dujiangyan base of Sichuan Province's China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda. [11]


Tai Shan recently made his first few steps of fatherhood by mating with Wen Yu. Tai became the father of twin cubs, a boy and a girl, by female panda Xiao Bai Tu. (This content has yet to be validated by something other than rumor.)

Related Research Articles

Giant panda Species of bear

The giant panda, also known as the panda bear, is a bear species endemic to China. It is characterised by its bold black-and-white coat and rotund body. The name "giant panda" is sometimes used to distinguish it from the red panda, a neighboring musteloid. Though it belongs to the order Carnivora, the giant panda is a folivore, with bamboo shoots and leaves making up more than 99% of its diet. Giant pandas in the wild will occasionally eat other grasses, wild tubers, or even meat in the form of birds, rodents, or carrion. In captivity, they may receive honey, eggs, fish, yams, shrub leaves, oranges, or bananas along with specially prepared food.

National Zoological Park (United States) Zoo in Washington, D.C., and Front Royal, Virginia

The National Zoological Park, commonly known as the National Zoo, is one of the oldest zoos in the United States. It is part of the Smithsonian Institution and does not charge admission. Founded in 1889, its mission is to "provide engaging experiences with animals and create and share knowledge to save wildlife and habitats".

Panda diplomacy Chinas use of giant pandas as diplomatic tools

Panda diplomacy is the practice of sending giant pandas from China to other countries as a tool of diplomacy.

Su Lin (1930s giant panda)

Su Lin was the name given to the giant panda cub captured in 1936 and brought to America by the animal trafficker Ruth Harkness. The first panda kept outside of China, it would die just two years later, but marked the beginning of an extensive series of pandas being taken abroad from China.

Hua Mei

Hua Mei is a female giant panda. She is the first giant panda cub to survive to adulthood in the United States. She was born to Bai Yun (mother) and Shi Shi (father) at the San Diego Zoo. Millions of people around the world watched Hua Mei grow up via the zoo's Panda Cam.

Mei Xiang Female giant panda

Mei Xiang is a female giant panda who lives at the National Zoo in Washington D.C.

Ling-Ling and Hsing-Hsing Pandas given to the US by China after Nixons 1972 visit

Ling-Ling and Hsing-Hsing were two giant pandas given to the United States as gifts by the government of China following President Richard Nixon's visit in 1972. As a gift, the U.S. government sent China a pair of musk oxen.

Tian Tian (male giant panda) Male giant panda

Tian Tian is a 275-pound male giant panda at the National Zoo in Washington D.C. The panda was born on August 27, 1997, at the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda at the Wolong National Nature Reserve in Sichuan Province, to Yong Ba (mother) and Pan Pan (father). Tian Tian is the half-brother of Bai Yun, formerly at the San Diego Zoo.

Mei Lan

Mei Lan, is a male giant panda. He was born at Zoo Atlanta in Atlanta, Georgia on September 6, 2006, after his mother's, Lun Lun, record-setting 35-hour labor. Originally identified by zoo staffers as female, Mei Lan was determined to be male by staff in China at the Chengdu Research Base of Panda Breeding. He is the first offspring of Lun Lun and Yang Yang, who are also the parents of Xi Lan, Po, and two pairs of twins, namely Mei Lun and Mei Huan, and Ya Lun and Xi Lun. Mei Lan was relocated to Chengdu, China on February 4, 2010.

Bai Yun

Bai Yun was the first female giant panda who was born at the Wolong Giant Panda Research Center in China. From September 1996 she lived at the San Diego Zoo for more than 20 years, until being returned to China in May 2019. Bai Yun gave birth to her sixth cub in 2012 since arriving at the San Diego Zoo, considered the most surviving pandas born at a breeding facility outside of native China. Bai Yun returned to China with her last-born as the 23-year conservation loan of the pandas came to an end between China and San Diego Zoo Global.

Mei Sheng is a male giant panda born at the San Diego Zoo. He is the second panda to be born at the zoo and is the first offspring of Bai Yun and Gao Gao. He is the half-brother of Hua Mei and the brother of Su Lin, Zhen Zhen, Yun Zi, and Xiao Liwu.

Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding

Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, or simply Chengdu Panda Base, is a non-profit research and breeding facility for giant pandas and other rare animals. It is located in Chengdu, Sichuan, China.

Bifengxia Panda Base

Bifengxia Giant Panda Base is a giant panda research and breeding facility in Bifengxia Town, Ya'an, Sichuan, China. Since opening in 2004, it has become home to several more giant pandas. This includes the U.S.-born Hua Mei and Mei Sheng, who were relocated there after the May 12, 2008, Sichuan earthquake severely damaged the panda breeding center at the Wolong National Nature Reserve. Both facilities are managed by the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda.

Bao Bao Female giant panda (born 2013)

Bao Bao is a female giant panda cub who was born at the National Zoo in Washington D.C. She lived at the Zoo for four years until February 2017. She is currently located at the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda in Sichuan Province. She is the sister of Tai Shan, Bei Bei and Xiao Qi Ji.

JoGayle Howard American zoologist

JoGayle Dillon Howard (1951–2011) was an American zoologist and theriogenologist specializing in the captive breeding of endangered species such as pandas, clouded leopards, and black-footed ferrets.

As of 2019, there are 26 zoos in 20 countries outside of mainland China that have giant pandas. These zoos have contracts with China to house these pandas for a few years. An exception are the four pandas held at Taipei Zoo in Taiwan. Giant pandas are on the IUCN Red List so part of the reason these contracts exist between China and international zoos is to try to help the species reproduce before they are brought back to their native land. For this reason, pandas are treated very well.

Bei Bei is a male giant panda cub who was born and lived at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., in the United States. He was part of US-China relations panda diplomacy, and was sent to the People's Republic of China on November 19, 2019 at the age of 4. He is currently at the Ya’an Bifengxia Base of the Giant Panda Conservation and Research Center in southwest Sichuan province. He is the brother of Tai Shan, Bao Bao, and Xiao Qi Ji.

Xiao Qi Ji Panda cub born at National Zoo, Washington, D.C.

Xiao Qi Ji is a male giant panda cub who was born at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. on 21 August 2020. The fourth surviving cub of Mei Xiang and Tian Tian, Xiao Qi Ji is a result of an artificial insemination of Mei Xiang on March 22, 2020. Xiao Qi Ji is the youngest brother of Tai Shan, Bao Bao and Bei Bei.

Meng Xiang nicknamed Pit, is a male giant panda born on August 31, 2019, in the Berlin Zoo in Germany. His father is Jiao Qing and mother is Meng Meng, both from Sichuan, China. They arrived in Berlin on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of diplomatic relations between China and Germany in 2017.


  1. 1 2 "Pandamaniacs Want 'Butterstick,'" The Washingtonian , Garrett M. Graff, October 5, 2005.
  2. "Cub Arrives With a Squeal", Washington Times , Denise Barnes and Tarron Lively, July 10, 2005
  3. "Panda cub to remain at National Zoo until 2009", Baltimore Sun, April 24, 2007
  4. "National Zoo's panda gets a name: Tai Shan". Associated Press. Retrieved 2005-10-17.
  5. 1 2 Lumpkin, Susan; Seidensticker, John (2007). Giant Pandas . London: Collins. ISBN   978-0-06-120578-1.
  6. "'Qiang Qiang'? 'Butterstick'? Cub Naming Contest Nears End," Washington Post , Karlyn Barker, September 29, 2005.
  7. "DC Zoo Panda Cub Gets a Name: Tai Shan," USA Today , Jacob Adelman, October 17, 2005.
  8. "Paparazzi Get an Audience With the Panda", Washington Post , Karlyn Barker, November 30, 2005
  9. "After winning D.C.'s heart, Tai Shan is off to China," The Washington Post , Michael E. Ruane, December 4, 2009.
  10. "Goodbye to Tai Shan," The Washington Post , Brandie Smith, December 4, 2009.
  11. "Giant Panda Tai Shan Leaves Smithsonian's National Zoo for China". National Zoological Park. Feb 4, 2010. Archived from the original on 2010-03-04.