Fanfare surrounds pandas' arrival

Updated: 2014-02-23 07:43

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Fanfare surrounds pandas' arrival

Belgian Ambassador to China Michel Malherbe (second from right) and Pairi Daizi Zoo's president Eric Domb (right) feed the panda Xing Hui at the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda in Sichuan province, Feb 22, 2014. Xing Hui and another panda, Hao Hao, were scheduled to arrive at the Belgian zoo on Sunday. [Photo by Heng Yi/For China Daily]

Fanfare surrounds pandas' arrival
 Special coverage
Fanfare surrounds pandas' arrival
Photo collection of panda Xing Hui 
Fanfare surrounds pandas' arrival
 Photo collection of panda Hao Hao

Belgian Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo and 10,000 compatriots were scheduled to welcome on Sunday a very high-profile Chinese couple upon the first trip to Belgium - 4-year-old pandas Xing Hui and Hao Hao.

The visit's scale and cost outrivals those by royals and superstars.

The animals from the breeding center in China's Sichuan province will live in Belgium for 15 years after they arrive at the Pairi Daizi Zoo on Sunday.

The pandas' arrival will strengthen Sino-Belgian friendship and enhance understanding and connections between China and Europe, Belgian Ambassador to China Michel Malherbe told China Daily.

"China and Belgium have had very deep cooperation in foreign trade and investment, and the panda pair's arrival will further promote the two countries' cultural and people-to-people exchanges," Malherbe said.

This is not the first time for the cuddly Chinese species to visit Belgium.

In 1987, Wan Wan and Xi Xi were loaned to Antwerp Zoo for six months.

Belgian Jeroen Jacobs, 28, recalled his childhood visit to see the animals.

"That was the start of my passion of pandas," he said.

The experience inspired an obsession that led him to start, which brought him to Sichuan to cover the journey of Xing Hui and Hao Hao.

"I am so excited to come to the pandas' hometown to report the pair to my hometown," he said.

Pairi Daizi - the name of which means "enclosed garden" in ancient Persian - is built on the walled site of a ruined Cistercian abbey. It is acclaimed among Europe's best zoos and features the continent's largest Chinese garden, replete with cranes and red pandas. The garden will, naturally, become the new pandas' abode.

The zoo's founder and president Eric Domb told China Daily he feels like a couple preparing for their wedding ceremony while getting ready for the pandas' impending arrival.

He jokingly said new couples start to feel happy in the days after the big event when they are no longer so busy.

"I will feel better when I see the pandas eating bamboo and sleeping well in my zoo," he said.

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