Mei Xiang was born on July 22, 1998, at the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda in Wolong, Sichuan Province; she weighs about 233 pounds. Her mother was Xue Xue and her father was Lin Nan; both parents were wild pandas. She and Tian Tian, a male, are the National Zoo's second pair of Giant Pandas.
Giant pandas are thought to be solitary creatures, except for mating season and mothers with young cubs. In keeping with the habits of wild pandas, Mei is generally alone, although Mei and Tian are occasionally together outside of breeding season. Tian and Mei are trained to participate in a full medical examination, including a blood draw, without anesthesia.
Mei Xiang has given birth to four cubs, all at the National Zoo and fathered by Tian Tian. Tai Shan, a male, was born July 9, 2005. He was the first panda cub to be born at the zoo and live for more than a few days. He lived at the zoo until February 4, 2010, when he moved to China, as per an agreement between the United States and China.
Mei Xiang was artificially inseminated twice in April 2012 with Tian Tian's sperm. Zoo officials estimated her chances of pregnancy at 10% after she had previously had five false pregnancies, in which she acted pregnant but was not. Another cub was born on the night of September 16, 2012, and was a surprise to zookeepers. As of September 17, Zoo officials did not know the sex of the cub. The cub, whom officials believed to have been a female, was found deceased on September 23, 2012 after Mei Xiang expressed distressed, honking-like sounds. Initial findings from the necropsy ruled out the possibility that it could have been crushed by Mei Xiang. However, it showed fluid in the giant panda cub's abdomen (which is usually abnormal), and some discoloration of some of the liver tissue. The liver was also hard in places. The cub's death was determined to be the result of insufficient oxygen to the liver. This was because the lungs were not fully developed, and consequently the lungs were unable to pick up oxygen for the red blood cells to deliver to the liver. 
On March 30, 2013, veterinarians at the National Zoo artificially inseminated Mei Xiang after natural breeding failed to occur. At approximately 5:30 p.m. local time on August 23, 2013, it was announced that Mei Xiang had given birth to her third cub. Mei Xiang gave birth again the following night, Saturday, August 24, 2013 to a stillborn cub, a girl. The surviving cub was later revealed to also be a girl. She was later named Bao Bao, when she turned 100 days old.
- "Meet Mei Xiang and Tian Tian". National Zoo. Retrieved 17 September 2012.
- DiMargo, Carissa (17 September 2012). "Cub is born to National Zoo's giant panda". NBC News (New York City).
- Ruane, Michael E. (17 September 2012). "National Zoo welcomes baby panda". The Washington Post (Washington, D.C.).
- "Giant panda artificially inseminated at U.S. National Zoo". Reuters. Retrieved 30 March 2013.
- "Breaking: MEI XIANG IS IN LABOR". Smithsonian. 23 August 2013. Retrieved 23 August 2013.