News & Politics

National Zoo’s Panda Cub Is Named “Bao Bao”

The name, meaning “precious” or “treasure,” was chosen in an online vote.

Bao Bao the panda will make her public debut in early 2014. Photograph courtesy National Zoo.

One hundred days after her birth, the National Zoo’s giant panda cub was named Bao Bao today at a zoo ceremony gorged on panda pageantry.

Bao Bao—which translates into “precious” or “treasure”—won an online vote of five Chinese names, including Mulan, as in the Disney animated movie of the same name. Consistent with Chinese tradition, the zoo allowed 100 days to pass before giving the female cub its name. More than 123,000 votes were cast over three weeks.

The naming ceremony packed zoo visitors and Smithsonian officials in the plaza outside the panda exhibit, though the bears themselves were not on display. Speakers included Smithsonian Secretary G. Wayne Clough and Chinese Ambassador Cui Tiankai. First Lady Michelle Obama and Peng Liyuan, the wife if Chinese President Xi Jingping, delivered video messages.

Bao Bao, born August 23 following an artificial insemination procedure, and her mother, Mei Xiang, will finally go on public display in early 2014. The cub will live at the National Zoo through 2017, when she will be returned to China.

Staff Writer

Benjamin Freed joined Washingtonian in August 2013 and covers politics, business, and media. He was previously the editor of DCist and has also written for Washington City Paper, the New York Times, the New Republic, Slate, and BuzzFeed. He lives in Adams Morgan.