Chengdu appoints national darling Panda Hua Hua honorary tourism chief

It’s not hard to describe how famous giant panda Hua Hua is.

Visitors queue for up to three hours to catch a glimpse of her.

More than 1,000 visitors wait at the gate even before the facility opens at 7:30 a.m. to see her.

Perplexed by what he saw, a security guard at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in Chengdu City, Sichuan Province, once asked Hua Hua’s fans over a megaphone what was so special about her when the base has so many.

Giant Panda He Hua, nicknamed Hua Hua, at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, Chengdu City, Sichuan Province, southwest China, January 19, 2024. /CFP

Giant Panda He Hua, nicknamed Hua Hua, at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, Chengdu City, Sichuan Province, southwest China, January 19, 2024. /CFP

Tourists crane their necks to glimpse giant panda Hua Hua at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in Chengdu City, Sichuan Province, southwest China, August 9, 2023. /CFP

Tourists crane their necks to glimpse giant panda Hua Hua at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in Chengdu City, Sichuan Province, southwest China, August 9, 2023. /CFP

In fact, Hua Hua’s star power has given the tourism industry in Chengdu such a boost that the base where she lives leaped to the second most popular tourist destination in the entire country during the Labor Day holiday last year.

The panda has become a symbol of Chengdu’s tourism, and the city government made it official Wednesday by appointing the “big shot” an honorary chief of the city’s tourism bureau.

The bureau posted a video on Chinese social media platform Douyin on Wednesday, announcing the news. The video features a picture of the 3-year-old bear “holding the appointment certificate” and an introduction to her resume.

A still from the base’s video shows Hua Hua’s head atop a cartoon body dressed in a suit and holding an “appointment certificate,” declaring her an honorary chief of the tourism bureau of Chengdu City in southwest China’s Sichuan Province. /CMG

A still from the base’s video shows Hua Hua’s head atop a cartoon body dressed in a suit and holding an “appointment certificate,” declaring her an honorary chief of the tourism bureau of Chengdu City in southwest China’s Sichuan Province. /CMG

The video sparked heated discussions in the comment section, with fans congratulating Hua Hua on the new job. “It’s Chief Hua now,” said one comment.

The decision was a direct response to the overwhelming online calls for the appointment, according to reports on Thursday, citing the bureau’s staff.

The bureau hopes that the move will further uplift Chengdu’s tourism industry.

Hua Hua has captivated the hearts of people in and out of China because of her cute appearance, mild temper and interactions with her devoted keeper, Tan Jintao or “Grandpa Tan.”

She is shorter than her sister and other pandas her age and thus looks chubbier, which perhaps is a part of her charm. Some have compared her seated pose to an Onigiri or a triangular Japanese rice ball.

Giant panda Hua Hua at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, Chengdu City, Sichuan Province, southwest China, April 7, 2023. /CFP

Giant panda Hua Hua at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, Chengdu City, Sichuan Province, southwest China, April 7, 2023. /CFP

Unique traits

Due to developmental delays, her right leg lacks the strength to enable fast walking and tree climbing.

She is also different from other giant pandas because of her white fur, rather than the more common beige.

As a not particularly strong member of the animal, Hua Hua had a hard time keeping her bamboo from other hungry pandas. Fans say she gives up too easily and thus feel sympathetic toward the furred star.

Her keeper would “secretly” give her snacks while training her legs, creating many touching moments.

Giant panda Hua Hua and her keeper Tan Jintao, or Grandpa Tan, at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in Chengdu City, Sichuan Province, southwest China, January 19, 2024. /CFP

Giant panda Hua Hua and her keeper Tan Jintao, or Grandpa Tan, at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in Chengdu City, Sichuan Province, southwest China, January 19, 2024. /CFP

So, let’s hope Hua Hua breaks a leg on the new job, but not the right leg!