It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye, Tai Shan

Tai Shan's leavin' on a jet plane Thursday. Cling to the memories...

19 photos
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Smithsonian Institution
Cuddly AND possessing sharp claws? Yep, Tai Shan is a study in contrasts.
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Smithsonian Institution
This creature is LEAVING us? We need a hug. Like, NOW.
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Smithsonian Institution
Tai Shan enjoyed a frozen treat in December.
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Smithsonian Institution
He also got a pretty swanky cake in 2007, after the Zoo announced Tai Shan would remain at there for an additional two years.
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Smithsonian Institution
Way back on Aug. 1, 2005, the little guy's eyes were still closed.
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Smithsonian Institution
His very first birthday cake, back in 2006, was adorned with a giant "1" (naturally). Tai Shan weighed only 55 pounds.
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Smithsonian Institution
Tai Shan was up to a hearty 150 pounds by his second birthday.
8/19
Smithsonian Institution
By his third birthday, Tai Shan weighed nearly 200 pounds, and had his own yard and indoor habitat. Not bad!
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Smithsonian Institution
On July 9, 2009, Tai Shan celebrated his last birthday at the National Zoo with a giant "cake."
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Smithsonian Institution
Was he actually LAUGHING here?
11/19
AP
So... exactly how are we supposed to say goodbye to this face?
12/19
Smithsonian Institution
Smile though your hearts are breaking, panda parents.
13/19
Smithsonian Institution
Our hearts grew about three sizes this day.
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Smithsonian Institution
See, all kids love to play in snow.
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Smithsonian Institution
The technical definition of this is "om nom nom."
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Smithsonian Institution
This was taken the day it was announced Tai Shan would be going to China. Doesn't he look just a tad wistful?
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Smithsonian Institution
Tai Shan's first time playing in fresh snow was at seven months old.
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Smithsonian Institution
That tree trunk is SO lucky.
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Smithsonian Institution
Farewell, little guy.
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