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UPDATED: 09:31, May 13, 2004
Panda sculptures stirring Washington zoo
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You would think Mei Xiang and Tian Tian, Washington's celebrated and very celibate pandas, would get the hint today when 18 panda sculptures were unveiled in front of their eyes at the National Zoo.

"We hope this will give them some ideas in multiplication," said Dorothy McSweeney, chairman of the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities, which is sponsoring "Pandamania," the project that is placing 150 decorated panda sculptures throughout the city.

Unfortunately, the duo seemed blissfully ignorant of the sculptures (and each other for that matter) as they chomped away on a breakfast of bamboo branches during the morning ceremony.

"We need to get some soft lighting. Maybe we need to figure out what kind of wines they like," Washington Mayor Anthony Williams offered as an idea to ratchet up the romance level between the two bears. "Get some Barry White going on, maybe that'll help next year."

It's been four years since Mei Xiang and Tian Tian arrived from China -- with no offspring yet -- but "Pandamania" kicks into high gear this week as the sculptures hit the streets of Washington. The project is a sequel to the commission's successful "Party Animals" of 2002 in which festooned elephants and donkeys were displayed throughout town.

As with "Party Animals," the sculptures will be auctioned off in the fall to raise money for arts programs in the city.

This year, the commission received designs from more than 1,200 applicant from across the globe, including submissions from Brazil, Columbia, France and China.

Anthony Gittens, the commission's executive director, predicted a welcome, if slightly lofty, response from Washingtonians when the pandas hit the streets.

"People will be friendlier, I promise it," Gittens said today. "People will walk with more bounce in their step. They'll be amused, entertained and inspired.

"You'll stop in front of one these funny little animals with your coworker as you're going about your business in the street, and you'll engage in wonderful, whimsical, analytical, critical conversation about art."

Source: China Daily/Agencies


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The National Zoo hosted the unveiling of 15 painted panda bear sculptures at a ceremony in front of the Giant Panda bear exhibit in Washington, May 10, 2004. A total of 150 sculptures will be placed at different locations around the District. (China Daily/Reuters)

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National Zoo Director Lucy Spelman poses with 'William Shakesbeare,' one of 15 painted panda bear sculptures unveiled at a ceremony in front of the Giant Panda bear exhibit at The National Zoo in Washington, May 10, 2004. A total of 150 sculptures will be placed at different locations around the District. (China Daily/Reuters)

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Visitors to the National Zoo pose next to two of 15 painted panda bear sculptures, which the zoo unveiled at a ceremony in front of the panda bear exhibit in Washington, May 10, 2004. A total of 150 sculptures will be placed at different locations around the District. (China Daily/Reuters)

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Tian Tian chews on a bamboo treat behind "Red Pandragon," one of 15 painted panda bear sculptures unveiled at a ceremony in front of the Giant Panda bear exhibit at The National Zoo in Washington, May 10, 2004. A total of 150 sculptures will be placed at different locations around the District. (China Daily/Reuters)
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