Mei Xiang (Chinese 美香 Měi Xiāng [mèiɕjɑ́ŋ] "beautiful fragrance") is a female giant panda who lived at the National Zoo in Washington D.C.

Mei Xiang
Mei Xiang at the Smithsonian National Zoo in August 2021.
SpeciesGiant panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca)
(1998-07-22) July 22, 1998 (age 25)
China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda
OwnerGovernment of China
ResidenceNational Zoo in Washington D.C.
Parent(s)Xue Xue and Lin Nan
Offspring7, including Tai Shan, Bao Bao, Bei Bei, and Xiao Qi Ji
Weight230 lb (104 kg)
Named afterBeautiful fragrance

Mei Xiang has given birth to seven cubs, all at the National Zoo and fathered by Tian Tian. Four of her cubs have survived to adulthood. Mei Xiang's most recent cub is a male, named Xiao Qi Ji, born on August 21, 2020.



Mei Xiang was born on July 22, 1998, at the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda in Wolong, Sichuan Province; she weighs about 230 pounds. Her mother was Xue Xue and her father was Lin Nan; both parents were wild pandas. She and Tian Tian, a male, are the National Zoo's second pair of giant pandas.[1]

Giant pandas are thought to be solitary creatures, except for mating season and mothers with young cubs. In keeping with the habits of wild pandas, Mei is generally alone, although Mei and Tian are occasionally together outside of breeding season. Tian and Mei are trained to participate in a full medical examination, including a blood draw, without anesthesia.


Mei Xiang and Tai Shan outside in the snow at the Smithsonian National Zoological Park in Washington D.C. in February 2006.
Mei Xiang outside in the snow at the Smithsonian National Zoological Park in Washington D.C. in February 2010.
Mei Xiang outside at the Smithsonian National Zoological Park in Washington D.C. in June 2014.
Mei Xiang munching on bamboo at the Smithsonian National Zoological Park in Washington D.C. in November 2017.

Mei Xiang has given birth to seven cubs. Tai Shan, a male, was born July 9, 2005. He was the first panda cub to be born at the zoo and live for more than a few days. He lived at the zoo until February 4, 2010, when he moved to China, as per an agreement between the United States and China.

Mei Xiang was artificially inseminated twice in April 2012 with Tian Tian's sperm. Zoo officials estimated her chances of pregnancy at 10% after she had previously had five false pregnancies, in which she acted pregnant but was not.[2] Another cub was born on the night of September 16, 2012, and was a surprise to zookeepers.[3] As of September 17, zoo officials did not know the sex of the cub. The cub, whom officials believed to have been a female, was found deceased on September 23, 2012, after Mei Xiang expressed distressed, honking-like sounds. Initial findings from the necropsy ruled out the possibility that it could have been crushed by Mei Xiang. However, it showed fluid in the giant panda cub's abdomen (which is usually abnormal), and some discoloration of some of the liver tissue. The liver was also hard in places. The cub's death was determined to be the result of insufficient oxygen to the liver. This was because the lungs were not fully developed, and consequently, the lungs were unable to pick up oxygen for the red blood cells to deliver to the liver.[4][5]

On March 30, 2013, veterinarians at the National Zoo artificially inseminated Mei Xiang after natural breeding failed to occur.[6] At approximately 5:30 p.m. local time on August 23, 2013, it was announced that Mei Xiang had given birth to her third cub.[7] Mei Xiang gave birth again the following night, Saturday, August 24, 2013, to a stillborn cub, a female.[8] The surviving cub was later revealed to also be female. She was later named Bao Bao ("treasure", colloquially meaning "baby") when she turned 100 days old. She lived at the zoo until February 21, 2017, when she moved to China.

In August 2015, veterinarians found what was believed to be a giant panda fetus on an obstetric ultrasound. She had been displaying behaviors consistent with a pregnancy or pseudopregnancy: spending more time in her den, sleeping more, cradling objects, and licking her body.[9] She went on to give birth to two live male giant panda cubs, both fathered by Tian Tian.[10] She gave birth to the first live cub at 5:35pm on August 22, 2015, and delivered the second, larger cub later that night at 10:07 PM[11] On August 26, 2015, the National Zoo announced that the smaller of the two cubs had died. The surviving cub was, like Bao Bao, a high-profile birth for the zoo. On September 25, 2015, the cub was officially named Bei Bei, which means "precious, treasure." The name was chosen by First Ladies Michelle Obama of the United States and Peng Liyuang of China. He lived at the zoo until November 19, 2019, when he moved to China.

In March 2020, shortly after the National Zoo closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Mei Xiang was artificially inseminated using only frozen sperm to avoid too much close contact.[12] In August 2020, the National Zoo announced that Mei Xiang was pregnant. A few days after announcing that they had detected fetal tissue, the zoo tweeted a short video of an ultrasound showing a panda fetus. On August 21, Mei Xiang gave birth to a live male cub who was later named Xiao Qi Ji (English: Little Miracle), making her the oldest panda in the United States to give birth, at 22 years old.[13][14][15] This meant the first success for this type of procedure.[12]

On November 8, 2023, Mei Xiang, Tian Tian and their cub Xiao Qi Ji left the National Zoo and returned to a panda reserve in Chengdu, China.


  1. ^ "Meet Mei Xiang and Tian Tian". National Zoo. Archived from the original on 3 June 2010. Retrieved 17 September 2012.
  2. ^ DiMargo, Carissa (17 September 2012). "Cub is born to National Zoo's giant panda". NBC News. New York City.
  3. ^ "National Zoo Panda Cub Dies". NBC New York.
  4. ^ "Female panda cub died of insufficient oxygen to liver". USA TODAY. October 11, 2012.
  5. ^ Ruane, Michael E. (17 September 2012). "National Zoo welcomes baby panda". The Washington Post. Washington, D.C.
  6. ^ Sutton, Jane (30 March 2013). "Giant panda artificially inseminated at U.S. National Zoo". Reuters. Retrieved 30 March 2013.
  7. ^ "Breaking: MEI XIANG IS IN LABOR". Smithsonian. 23 August 2013. Archived from the original on 23 August 2013. Retrieved 23 August 2013.
  8. ^ Nuckols, Ben (25 August 2013). "National Zoo panda cub healthy, vibrant". USA Today.
  9. ^ "Smithsonian's National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute". Facebook.
  10. ^ "National Zoo's surviving panda cub is a boy – and he is growing up quickly". The Guardian.
  11. ^ "2015 Panda Updates August 23". Archived from the original on 2015-08-26. Retrieved 2015-08-29.
  12. ^ a b Khalil, Ashraf (2020-08-23). "'The whole world celebrates' birth of panda cub". News & Observer – via Associated Press.[permanent dead link]
  13. ^ "Baby Panda Seen "Kicking and Swimming" on Mei Xiang's Ultrasound, National Zoo Says". NBC4 Washington. Retrieved 2020-08-18.
  14. ^ "Giant Panda Cub Born at Smithsonian's National Zoo". Smithsonian's National Zoo. 2020-08-21. Retrieved 2020-08-22.
  15. ^ "National Zoo welcomes panda cub, an unexpected arrival from aging Mei Xiang". Washington Post. Associated Press. 2020-08-21. Retrieved 2020-08-22.