The smiling pig is saved from flooding in the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region. (PHOTO / CHINA DAILY)
A smiling pig has become China's newest online celebrity after a photograph showing it being saved from flooding in the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region went viral online recently.
The pig was raised by a farmer in Danliao village in the city of Qinzhou, according to authorities with the China-Malaysia Qinzhou Industrial Park, which is close to the village.
Qinzhou was recently battered by heavy rains, causing local rivers to exceed warning levels and leading to severe flooding, said Wu Fengyou, with the park.
"The village is located on low-lying land, so it was badly affected by flooding. Houses and animals were submerged in the water," Wu said. "We sent rescuers to help with the evacuation."
In the photograph that went viral, two rescuers in green uniforms can be seen lifting the pig out of the water by its ears and legs, while the animal appears to be smiling from ear to ear.
According to one of the rescuers, the picture was taken on Aug 17 at a pig farm. Photographs provided by the rescuers showed that water levels in the area were knee high, submerging parts of the farm. Two other pigs were also saved.
"I'm blown away by the pig's facial expression!" the rescuer wrote on his personal Sina Weibo micro blog account with the photographs attached.
The photograph struck a chord with many social media users. A post containing memes of the pig had been forwarded more than 4,000 times and drawn about 3,000 comments as of 12:30 pm on Monday.
"I hope it will not be turned into sausages after the rescue," wrote Weibo user Bianzedaren, making reference to reports that 18 piglets and two adult pigs saved from a fire in England were reportedly made into sausages for the firefighters that saved them.
"Maybe our 'Second Brother' was trying to encourage us to accept life's difficulties with a smile," wrote another user with the screen name Pinggai. "Second Brother" is the nickname of Zhu Bajie, one of the three helpers of monk Xuanzang in Chinese epic Journey to the West. He takes the form of a pig in the novel, and his name is often used in Chinese culture to indicate pigs.
However, the story was twisted when various media outlets reported that photographs of the pig were taken in Hengjiang, in Sichuan province, which was also hit by heavy rainfall recently.
The rescuer set the record straight by confirming on his WeChat social media account that he had not gone to Sichuan to battle that flood, and the picture had been taken in Qinzhou.
"One of my colleagues was one of the two rescuers holding the pig," Wu said.
The picture has captured the hearts of many people and led to the creation of many memes featuring the pig.
Humorous captions such as "Stop pulling my ears!", "Smiling like a 100-kg child" and "It's over, I'm going to be made into braised pork!" have been circulating on Weibo.