A DREAM came true for a Peebles schoolgirl at Edinburgh Zoo last week when she met one of the city attraction’s most illustrious residents.
The newly arrived giant pandas Tian Tian and Yang Guang have proved a huge draw for the zoo since going on public display in mid December.
But long before their arrival, seven year old Tian Tian Brunton, a primary three pupil at Kingsland, was excited at the prospect of meeting her namesake – so excited, in fact, that she wrote to Scottish culture and external affairs secretary Fiona Hyslop MSP saying how delighted she was that the pandas were coming.
But the youngster did not leave it that and, when the world’s media proclaimed the arrival in Scotland of the pandas, she wrote a special letter of welcome to Tian Tian, enclosing a photograph of herself.
She pointed out that not only did they share the same name – which means “Sweetie” in Mandarin – but they were also almost the same age and, most significantly of all, they shared Chinese descent.
On Thursday, young Miss Brunton, with her five-year-old sister Lulu, her mum Nana, who is from China, and her Edinburgh-born dad Ian were guests of honour in the zoo’s specially-constructed panda enclosure.
They were accompanied on their special occasion by Ms Hyslop who had helped arrange the visit with the Royal Zoological Society for Scotland (RZSS).
After seeing her celebrated new friend in the flesh for the first time, Tian Tian said: “The best part was meeting the panda and getting my photo taken with her.
“I brought a special sparkly panda bag and teddy to see the pandas. I’ve been to China before and today was just like when I went there with everybody gathering around and being all excited.”
Mum Nana said: “The first time we heard about the pandas was through the news and it was the name of one of them that naturally caught our eye. Since then it has been non-stop.
“People we know have been coming up and saying ‘your Tian Tian has the same name as one of the pandas’.
“In China, the panda is well known as a symbol of friendship...these animals have really always meant a lot.”
Ms Hyslop, on her first visit to see the new arrivals, told us: “Tens of thousands of people have already been to see the pandas...great news for Scotland’s economy and our tourism sector.
“Securing the loan of the two giant pandas is a considerable honour and a strong symbol of the growing relationship between Scotland and China. I’m delighted to make my first visit today with Tian Tian Brunton and her family who epitomise the coming together of the two cultures.”
Hugh Roberts, chief executive of the RZSS, said: “We were really touched to receive Tian Tian Brunton’s letter and photograph and were only too happy to arrange for her to meet her namesake.
“Having the giant pandas is an amazing educational opportunity for children all over Scotland and the UK and it was particularly lovely to hear of this special connection with a wee girl from Peebles.”
z Visitors to Edinburgh Zoo are not being charged extra to see the pandas, but due to high demand, time-ticketing is in operation allowing visitors to select a visting time in half-hourly intervals. All visitors are encouraged to pre-book their panda viewing online when buying zoo entry tickets on www.edinburghzoo.org.uk. About a third of panda tickets will be put aside for zoo visitors, available on a first come, first served basis.
Little girl’s letter to her Chinese compatriot
I am really looking forward to you coming to stay in Edinburgh because we have a lot of things in common.
The first is that we have the same name. This has made me quite famous at school as everyone has heard about you coming from China to live in Edinburgh.
The second is that I am half Chinese as my mummy is Chinese – she is from Tianhin which is very close to Beijing – and my daddy is Scottish.
The third is that we are almost the same age as you were born in 2003 and I was born in 2004. I don’t know if you have any brothers or sisters, but I have a little sister. She is called Lulu and is five years old.
I hope to be able to come and see you lots of times. Not many people here in Scotland can speak Chinese, but some are learning. We can have a chat because I can speak Chinese.
I know that your are bringing a friend, Yang Guang, with you so hopefully you will not be too lonely.
The people of Scotland are really friendly, just like in China. One thing I notice when I visit my granny and grandad in China is that the food is different. I think you eat bamboo shoots, but I don’t know what they taste like.
I think that a lot of people will be coming to see you and Yang Guang. So that you can recognise me I have enclosed a photograph of me as well.
Lots of love
Tian Tian Brunton