The Moon, China's Mirror

12/16/2013 04:26 pm ET | Updated Feb 15, 2014
  • David Gosset Director, Academia Sinica Europaea at China Europe International Business School

For millennia China remained in a distant harmony with the Moon, it will be soon in a position to have a permanent base on the celestial body visited first by Neil Armstrong (1930 - 2012) on July 21 1969. The world remembers the words pronounced more than 350 000 kilometers away from the Earth: "That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind".

The Moon is the mirror of the Chinese civilization, its whitish tones rime with all the nuances of modesty and humility, the perfection of its circular form echoes the sense of unity, her phases are a celestial expression of the Book of Changes, her waxing and waning the reminder of the principle of cyclical oscillation.

From Li Bai or Du Fu's poems to the lunar calendar through the Mid-Autumn Festival where families gather to observe the full moon -- and eat mooncakes! --, the Earth's single natural satellite has always played a very important role in the Chinese tradition.

On Saturday December 14 2013 the Middle Country realized a collective dream, Chang'e-3 and its "Jade Rabbit", the lunar rover Yutu, landed on the lunar surface, Yutu will send real time video transmission, while it will be able to perform analysis of soil samples.

This was the first spacecraft to soft-land on lunar surface since Luna-24 launched on August 9, 1976. After the USSR and the U.S. China has become a leading player in the exploration of space and the country will certainly decide to build a permanent lunar station.

China's ambitious space program is one of the most striking features of the Chinese renaissance, its rapid development -- Yang Liwei's flight aboard Shenzhou 5 took place 10 years ago and within one decade China might have her own space station and crewed expeditions to the Moon and Mars -- demonstrates the country's remarkable technological and organizational capabilities.

But space should not become a new field of rivalries among the great powers. China's lasting veneration of the moon has always been synonymous with a quest for peace and wisdom, in the 21st century the Middle Country can contribute to a more cohesive mankind in relation with the great discoveries of the universe.

As the notion of terrae incognitae gave a sense of dynamic perspective to the European renaissance, the horizon of an open cosmos which has to be better understood and explored can be a catalyst for Sino-Western synergies.

In the Confucian tradition, jade reflects a person's moral qualities, the Middle Country which has just reached the Moon, the perfect disc of jade, contemplates now with unprecedented clarity the responsibility to use a considerable power in the right way.

David Gosset is director of the Academia Sinica Europaea at China Europe International Business School (CEIBS), Shanghai, Beijing & Accra, and founder of the Euro-China Forum.