On May 12, 2008, a magnitude 7.9 earthquake struck China’s southwestern Sichuan province, leaving more than 80,000 people dead or missing. Nearly 1 million residents lost their homes.
But after weeks of sorrow and grieving, a hero emerged from the debris.
Zhu Jianqiang, or “Strong Pig,” was one of the few survivors in an area leveled by the quake, managing to keep himself alive for 36 days despite being surrounded by rubble. As word of the hale hog spread, Zhu Jianqiang became a celebrity and was adopted by the Jianchuan Museum Cluster — a privately run museum complex commemorating the deadly Wenchuan earthquake — as a living symbol of China’s resilience in the face of tragedy.
However, Zhu Jianqiang’s time is nearing an end, as the museum’s official Weibo microblog account indicated in a post Monday. To honor this emblematic animal, we present a photo gallery encompassing Zhu Jianqiang’s 13 years since the quake.
Buried in debris, the 1-year-old pig survives on water and charcoal. He is rescued after 36 days, having shrunk from 150 kilograms to just 50 kilograms.
Dubbed Zhu Jianqiang, or “Strong Pig,” the animal is bought from his original owner by Fan Jianchuan, founder of the Jianchuan Museum Cluster.
Zhu Jianqiang begins living in Fan’s museum. Under the diligent care of local livestock breeders, the pig quickly recovers, doubling in weight to reach 100 kilograms. At the same time, people from across the country start visiting the museum to pay homage to the Wenchuan quake’s unofficial mascot.
After 36 days of trauma and near-starvation, a life of leisure suits Zhu Jianqiang just fine: By the end of the year, he is tipping the scale at nearly 200 kilograms. To keep Zhu Jianqiang’s weight in check, his caretaker starts taking him for daily morning walks.
Around the time Zhu Jianqiang reaches 6 years old, the museum devises a weight-loss regimen for him, with moderate success.
A new caretaker, 47-year-old Gong Guocheng, is put in charge of Zhu Jianqiang, now 8 years old. Gong is attentive to his new ward, washing the pig with soap and shampoo, as well as traditional Chinese medicine, twice a week — sometimes more in the summer.
Zhu Jianqiang reaches 10 years of age, the equivalent of 70 human years. Tourists are still flocking to visit him.
In colder weather, Zhu Jianqiang begins having trouble standing due to arthritis in his legs and feet. His morning walks are canceled. The museum’s founder, Fan, vows that after Zhu Jianqiang dies, the animal’s home — and possibly even his body — will be preserved for posterity.
A veterinarian is able to successfully treat Zhu Jianqiang’s arthritis so the pig can stand again. His weight reaches a “controlled” level at 200 kilograms.
At 13, Zhu Jianqiang is gracefully waddling into his twilight years. According to his caretakers, he appears to be enjoying life.
Zhu Jianqiang is moved to a new, 50-square-meter building with an exterior shaped like a pig’s snout, on the assumption that he will be more comfortable there.
The Jianchuan Museum Cluster’s Weibo account announces that 14-year-old Zhu Jianqiang is nearing the end of his life, and will be lovingly cared for until the very end.
Editors: David Paulk and Hannah Lund.
(All photos sourced from IC and People Visual.)