Feature: Panda is popular in Southern California
Last Updated: 2015-03-03 07:38 | Xinhua
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When Yu Hu, who was born and grew up in China's Sichuan province, visited the United States for the first time recently, she was surprised to see "giant panda " at so many places in Southern California.

From restaurants to Walmart toys, from cookies in grocery store to books in library, the cute image of panda, a white and black animal living only in China and mostly in Sichuan, is used by many business in the United States.

"It seems panda is very popular here," Hu said.

"Panda Express" is a successful Chinese style fast food chain which has over 1,600 restaurants in 47 states and abroad. In Southern California where the company headquarters is located, the restaurants with the logo of a panda in a red circle can be seen in downtown of every city.

Though it is criticized by some people that the taste of the food is not authentic Chinese flavor, Panda Express is very popular in the United States, serving over 100 million customers every year.

"Authentic or not may be not the most important. What is important is that people like the food," said Panda Express founder Andrew Cherng in an interview with Xinhua.

Though panda only lives in China, in the United States it does not have to be related to anything about China. In Walmart, stuffed panda toys lie on the shelves. In a public library, photos of panda are hanging on the wall. All of them have nothing to do with China.

When asked where panda lives, 5-year-old American boy Ethan guessed Africa. "He likes panda just as he likes giraffe or penguin," said Ethan's mom who was accompanying him reading a book about animals in a public library in Southern California.

Dozens of pandas were sent or rent to the United States in the past decades from China. Some were born here. There are more than a dozen U.S. zoos that ever had pandas in their collections and four zoos are keeping pandas now, including the San Diego Zoo in the most southern city of California.

A Panda family in the San Diego Zoo are very famous and popular. It is known that panda has low birth rate and is an endangered animal, but Bai Yun gave birth to six cubs since she came to the zoo in 1996.

"Oh, almost every family in the San Diego area have been here to see Bai Yun and the cubs," said local resident Jones who was accompanying a friend visiting her from the Washington State to the zoo. "They are super stars here."

Hu and her daughter queued half an hour before entering Bai Yun family's cozy "residence." Every visitor was told to control their voices to avoid disturbing the pandas eating and playing dozens of feet away from the visitors' standing point. Kids were so excited when seeing Xiao Liwu, Bai Yun's youngest baby, but they managed to scream in as less decibels as they could.

It is estimated that several thousand people visit the panda family every day. When Xiao Liwu was born, over 60,000 local people went online to give it a name.

Hollywood's animation film "Kung Fu Panda 3" produced by the Dreamworks is going to be released in March 2016. With box office gains of "Kung Fu Panda" and "Kung Fu Panda 2" both exceeded 600 million dollars, the third is expected to continue the popularity.

"I am proud of panda," said Hu, when introducing herself to American friends -- "I am from Sichuan, the hometown of panda."

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