At an event at the Smithsonian National Zoo on Friday, first ladies Peng Liyuan of China and Michelle Obama unveiled the name they picked together for the Giant Panda cub born Aug. 22 in Washington, D.C.

“Bei Bei” was the name printed on the two yellow rolled scrolls the first ladies untied in front of a crowd of children. The name on Peng’s was written in Mandarin Chinese; Obama’s was its English translation. Pronounced “bay bay,” the name means “precious treasure.”

CCTV’s Jim Spellman reports.

Screen shot of the National Zoo's PandaCam. Mom Mei Xiang and cub Bei Bei nap together.

The 3 pound boy cub will be 5 weeks old on Saturday, and his name compliments that of Bao Bao, his 2-year-old sister. Together, the words “Bao Bei” mean “precious.” Which they indeed may be, given the dwindling numbers of pandas in the world and that Bei Bei’s twin died several days after birth.

First lady Michelle Obama and China’s first lady Peng Liyuan, reveal the name of the panda born at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington on Aug. 22 to Mei Xiang, during a visit to the zoo in Washington, Friday, Sept. 25, 2015. The name is Bei Bei, which means “precious treasure.” It was chosen by both the Chinese and American first ladies. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

“Michelle once said that the giant panda exemplifies the common bond between China and the United States,” Peng said through an interpreter. “That’s a lot of responsibility for a cute animal like giant pandas.”

Panda keepers at a partner conservation center in Wolong, China had suggested the name Bai Bai.


First Lady Michelle Obama and Madame Peng Liyuan, First Lady of the People's Republic of China, pose with students from Washington Yu Ying Public Charter School after their performance at the Smithsonian's National Zoo on September 25, 2015 in Washington, DC. AFP PHOTO/MOLLY RILEY

China gave a pair of giant pandas to the National Zoo in 1972 following President Richard Nixon’s groundbreaking visit to the country. The bears, Ling-Ling and Hsing-Hsing, lived out their lives at the zoo. The current pair of adult pandas, mom Mei Xiang and dad Tian Tian, came to the zoo in 2000.

Giant Panda Cub


Another of the couple’s surviving cubs, Tai Shan, now lives in China.

More details:

Panda Diplomacy with the U.S. goes back to the 1970s when then-U.S. First Lady Pat Nixon visited the Panda house at the Beijing Zoo.

Earlier in the day, the Obama administration announced the “One Million Strong” initiative- aiming to increase culture ties between the US and China by teaching one million U.S. school children to speak Mandarin by the year 2020.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.