In 2018 the Museum of the Moon was presented at the Beijing Water Cube – National Aquatics Centre. Over 200,000 people visited the exhibition making it the largest attended exhibition of the artwork up to that point.
A special 10 metre diameter moon was constructed specifically for this large space. The exhibition was supported by the Chinese National Space Administration, and described their lunar research over the past few decades. The Museum of the Moon in Beijing presented a history of the art project, Chinese poetry, lunar mythologies as well as an introduction to Luke Jerram’s arts practice.
The Moon in Chinese Culture
On the 15th day of the 8th month of the lunar calendar, the moon is full and it is time to mark the Moon Festival, in which the Chinese culture is deeply rooted. The moon’s round shape symbolizes family reunion and is a symbol of gentleness and brightness, expressing the beautiful yearnings of the Chinese.
Chinese astronomy is fascinating in that it developed its own particular methods and nuances. The Chinese were meticulous in keeping astronomical records, enabling modern historians to establish that Chinese astronomy remained largely unchanged from 1800 BC onwards. Astronomy was mostly viewed as something for royalty, and emperors employed astronomers to chart the heavens, their main purpose being to record time, something that they started to do with great accuracy. According to traditional Chinese culture, the moon is a carrier of human emotions.
There is also a saying in Chinese that marriages are made in heaven and prepared on the moon. The man who does the preparing is the old man of the moon (Yue Lao). This old man, it is said, keeps as a record book with all the names of newborn babies. He is the one heavenly person who knows everyone’s future partners, and nobody can fight the decisions written down in his book. He is one reason why the moon is so important in Chinese mythology and especially at the time of the Moon Festival. Everybody hikes up high mountains or hills to view the moon, hoping that he will grant their wishes.
Chang E and the Rabbit
But rooted in the history and culture of China, is the most famous aspect of Chinese astronomy – the story of Chang E and her pet rabbit, who lived on the moon with a woodcutter. In a very distant past, ten suns had risen together into the skies and scorched the earth, thus causing hardship for the people. The archer Yi shot down nine of them, leaving just one sun, and was given the elixir of immortality as a reward. He did not consume it straight away, but hid it at home, as he did not want to gain immortality without his beloved wife Chang’e. However, while Yi went out hunting, Fengmeng broke into his house and tried to force Chang’e to give him the elixir; she refused and drank it herself. Chang’e then flew upwards towards the heavens, choosing the moon as residence. Yi discovered what had transpired and felt sad, so he displayed the Fruits and Cakes that Chang’e had liked, and gave sacrifices to her.
Chinese Missions to the Moon.
In 2007, China launched its first lunar probe, a robotic spacecraft named Chang’e 1 in the goddess’ honour. A second unmanned probe, named Chang’e 2, was launched in 2010. A third Chang’e spacecraft, a robotic lunar rover dubbed Chang’e 3, landed on the moon on Saturday, Dec. 14, 2013 at about 9:12 p.m., Beijing time, making China only the third country in the world to achieve such a moon feat after the former Soviet Union and the United States. The lander also delivered the robotic rover Yutu (“Jade Rabbit”) to the lunar surface to begin its months-long driving mission. It has performed the first lunar soft landing since the Russian Luna 24 mission in 1976