American-born giant pandas arrive in China

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Two American-born giant pandas arrived in China by special cargo jet Friday afternoon and enjoyed a welcoming ceremony.

The 3-year-old female Mei Lan and 4.5-year-old male Tai Shan arrived at Shuangliu International Airport in Chengdu, capital of southwest China's Sichuan Province, at around 4:28 p.m..

The two stars were taken out of the cargo jet and onto a special truck after the jet was disinfected.

The two pandas looked at their hometown people, who had gathered to welcome and take care of them, through the windows of the truck with curious eyes.

Tai Shan and Mei Lan watched the ceremony at leisure at a distance of some 30 meters, to avoid being disturbed by the loud music and sounds.

Experts said the physical conditions of the two were good with no discomfort discovered after the 14-hour-journey.

The pandas would be kept under observation to further guarantee their health, experts said.

They needed a good rest after the long journey to overcome the jet lag, experts said.

The two cute "goodwill ambassadors" were taken home separately after the welcoming ceremony.

Tai Shan arrived in Ya'an Bifeng Gorge Breeding Base under China Conservation and Research Center for Giant Panda in Sichuan's Wolong Nature Reserve after a two-and-half hour journey. Mei Lan's new home is the Chengdu Research Base for Giant Panda Breeding.

After one month of quarantine, the two American-born pandas will began mixing with the other pandas, and at that time their fans will have a chance to see them.

The two were treated as pop idols in America, with adoring crowds and television viewers watching as they were loaded onto a special cargo jet.

American media reports said millions of people fell in love with the pandas as star attractions at zoo exhibits. Some even watched them grow up via online "panda cams."

More than 220,000 people voted in a poll to name Tai Shan and his birth was a headline of major American newspapers. The little beauty Mei Lan has had her photo taken with millions of people from across America.

Giant pandas have played a symbolic role in Sino-U.S. relations history.

The Chinese government gave two pandas to America as gifts in April 1972 after American president Richard Nixon visited China. The couple lived in America for 20 years and died there, after which a new pair, named Mei Xiang and Tian Tian, were given to the U.S. people. Mei Xiang and Tian Tian are Tai Shan's parents. In Washington, Tai Shan was called a Chinese VIP -- a Very Imported Panda.

Mei Lan has been living at Zoo Atlanta since she was born in September 2006. Her parents, Lun Lun and Yang Yang, arrived in Atlanta in November 1999.

Tai Shan, born in July 2005 and raised at the National Zoo in Washington D.C., was supposed to come to China once he reached two years of age. But the Chinese government agreed to postpone his return twice, in 2007 and 2009, at the request of the National Zoo.

Tai Shan's father Tian Tian, 13, and mother Mei Xiang, 12, are due to return to China in December next year.

According to the agreements reached by Chinese and American authorities, giant pandas are only loaned to the United States for scientific studies. Moreover, pandas like Mei Lan and Tai Shan's parents, along with their cubs, must be returned to China.

Thirteen giant pandas are in four zoos in the United States.

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