CHINA> Highlights
Plucky porker tops 'Moving China' animals list
By Hu Yinan (China Daily)
Updated: 2008-12-20 10:33

First it miraculously survived the May 12 Sichuan earthquake after 36 days under the debris. Then it was given a human name, adopted by China's largest private museum and received a decade's worth of insurance.

Zhu Jianqiang, or "Strong Pig", at Jianchuan Museum in Sichuan. [Chian Daily] 

Now, the all-famous "Strong Pig" is back in the spotlight by topping an online poll of "10 animals that moved China in 2008".

Zhu Jianqiang, which literally means "Strong Pig", received unanimous support from online voters on the popular Red Net forum.

According to the forum's webmasters, the 2-year-old pig "vividly illustrated the spirit of never giving up, and has hence become a banner for Chinese entrepreneurs during this harsh economic winter".

It marked the second straight year a pig has won the award. In 2007, a sow that went furious and injured a butcher to save its "husband" from being slaughtered became netizens' favorite animal of the year.

For its part, "Strong Pig" survived more than a month under the debris of a house that collapsed in the earthquake, without a clear source of food and water. By the time soldiers found it in Pengzhou of Sichuan province on June 17, its weight had dropped from around 150 kg to a mere 50 kg.

Then its fortune began to change. The pig's owner sold it to Jianchuan Museum curator Fan Jianchuan for 3,008 yuan ($438). Fan gave the sow its now widely popular name, and promised to keep it as long as it lives.

The pig gained instant rock star popularity, so much so that it was given 10 years of premium-free insurance by a local firm. Every day people throng the museum to catch a glimpse of the porcine hero.

But as the year draws to a close, the museum's staff are getting increasingly worried about the pig's diet and temper. Huang Yi, a staff member, told China Daily on Friday that the 150 kg porker can be quite a meany.

"It's gotten fatter and lazier by the day," she said. "We used to take it out for a walk every morning and afternoon, but now it's too lazy - and too fat - to do it. So we're feeding it only twice a day."

"Strong Pig" has its own yard. Some days when the weather is good, and when there are many visitors, it would come out to its reception room for an hour or two. But it has developed a temper its fans may not want to see.

"In the first few months after it got here, 'Strong Pig' would still raise its head when reporters and visitors came to take photos.

"Now, it just blocks the door to its bedroom when there are too many visitors outside. It's been increasingly difficult for us to convince it to open the door," Huang said.

Dogs swept the majority of the remaining top 10 spots this year for their faith and help to their owners, such as the one in Chongqing that guarded its elderly owner when he was ill and accompanied him when he was rushed to hospital in an ambulance.

Other winners included a female bird who guarded her deceased "husband" for hours, a turtle who returned five times after its owner released it to nature, and a male cat who almost cried itself to death after his "wife" was killed by a car.