A 14-year-old pig who became an unusual national celebrity in China after surviving 36 days beneath rubble from a devastating 2008 earthquake died on Thursday, prompting an outpouring of sorrow.
“Zhu Jianqiang” or “Strong Pig” rose to prominence after being discovered alive following the 7.9-magnitude earthquake that struck southern Sichuan province on May 12, 2008.
The earthquake killed or lost almost 90,000 people, and the pig’s amazing story of survival on a bag of charcoal and rainwater was praised as an inspiring emblem of the determination to live.
Witnesses said the young “Zhu Jianqiang” had lost so much weight by the time it was pulled from the rubble that it looked more like a goat.
A local museum near the city of Chengdu had purchased the famous pig for 3,008 yuan ($450) and kept it as a tourist attraction while it lived out its days.
It succumbed to “old age and exhaustion” on Wednesday night, the museum said on China’s Twitter-like Weibo platform.
In human terms, it was 100 years old, The Global Times said, citing its breeder.
The celebrity porker was named China’s animal of the year in 2008 because it “vividly illustrated the spirit of never giving up”.
The Weibo hashtag “Strong Pig died” had drawn nearly 300 million views by mid-day Thursday and was rising fast.
Weibo users hailed it as “the most famous pig in history”.
“It is indeed a strong animal, not just for surviving the earthquake, but also for the 13 years of life afterwards,” said one popular Weibo post.