Samantha Cristoforetti, a ESA astronaut on a mission in the International Space Station, took to her Twitter account  on October 12 as she passed over Beijing to look down on Earth: ” 仰观宇宙之大，俯察品类之盛，所以游目骋怀，足以极视听之娱，信可乐也 “. （ I look up at the immense universe. I look down at myriad works [of poetry]. As our eyes wander, so do our minds too. Indeed, it is a pure delight for all our senses. ）
This passage is from Wang Xizhi’s Lantingji Xu.
The Lantingji Xu (traditional Chinese: 蘭亭集序; simplified Chinese: 兰亭集序; pinyin: Lántíngjí Xù; lit. ‘Preface to the Poems Collected from the Orchid Pavilion’) or Lanting Xu (“Orchid Pavilion Preface”), is a piece of Chinese calligraphy work generally considered to be written by the well-known calligrapher Wang Xizhi (303 – 361) from the Eastern Jin dynasty (317 – 420).
In the ninth year of the Emperor Yonghe (353 CE), a Spring Purification Ceremony was held at Lanting, Kuaiji Prefecture (today’s Shaoxing, Zhejiang Province), where Wang was appointed as the governor at the time. During the event, forty-two literati gathered along the banks of a coursing stream and engaged in a “winding stream” drinking contest: cups of wine were floated on the water upstream, and whenever a cup stopped in front of a guest, he had to compose a poem or otherwise drink the wine. At the end of the day, twenty-six literati composed thirty-seven poems in total and the Lantingji Xu, as a preface to the collection was produced by Wang on the spot. The original preface was long lost, but multiple copies with ink on papers or stone inscriptions remain until today.
In the ninth year of Yonghe, at the beginning of the late spring, we have gathered at the Orchid Pavilion in the North of Kuaiji Mountain for the purification ritual. All the literati, the young and the old, have congregated. There are high mountains and steep hills, dense wood and slender bamboos, as well as a limpid flowing stream reflecting the surrounding. We sit accordingly by a redirected stream with floating wine goblets. Although short of the company of music, the wine and poems are sufficient for us to exchange our feelings.
As for this day, the sky is clear and the air is fresh; the mild breeze greets us. I look up at the immense universe. I look down at myriad works [of poetry]. As our eyes wander, so do our minds too. Indeed, it is a pure delight for all our senses.
Acquaintance will quickly span a lifetime. Some would share their ambitions in a chamber; others may indulge into diverse interests and pursuits. The choices are plenty and our temperaments vary. We enjoy the momentary satisfactions when pleasures regale us, but we hardly realize how fast we will grow old. When we become tired of our desires and the circumstances change, grief will arise. What previously gratified us will be in the past,
we cannot help but to mourn. Whether life is long or short, there is always an end. As the ancients said, “Birth and death are two ultimate events.” How agonizing!
Reading the past compositions, I can recognize the same melancholy from the ancients. I can only lament before their words without being able to verbalize my feelings. It is absurd to equate life and death, and it is equally foolish to think that longevity is the same as the short-lived. The future generations will look upon us, just like we look upon our past. How sad! Hence, we record the people presented here today and their works; Even though time and circumstances will be different, the feelings expressed will remain unchanged. The future readers shall also empathize the same by reading this poems collection.
Samantha Cristoforetti, OMRI (Italian pronunciation: [saˈmanta kristofoˈretti]; born in Milan on 26 April 1977) is an Italian European Space Agency astronaut, former Italian Air Force pilot and engineer. She holds the record for the longest uninterrupted spaceflight by a European astronaut (199 days, 16 hours), and until June 2017 held the record for the longest single space flight by a woman until this was broken by Peggy Whitson and later by Christina Koch. She is also the first Italian woman in space. She took command of ISS Expedition 68 on September 28 2022.
Samantha Cristoforetti’s connection to China
Samantha Cristoforretti traveled to China in 2017 to participate in a maritime survival exercise organized with Chinese astronauts in the Yellow Sea. It is also the first time that Chinese astronauts and foreign astronauts have conducted joint training in China.
Samantha Cristoforetti on Twitter: “仰观宇宙之大，俯察品类之盛，所以游目骋怀，足以极视听之娱，信可乐也。 Looking up, I see the immensity of the cosmos; bowing my head, I look at the multitude of the world. The gaze flies, the heart expands, the joy of the senses can reach its peak, & indeed, this is true happiness https://t.co/OINIOOi1Uc” / Twitter