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October 13, 2021

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A word has changed the world

ABOUT 400 years ago, in the Ming Dynasty of China, there was a distinguished scientist named Xu Guangqi. Shanghai’s glitzy area — Xujiahui — was named after him.

When he was young, he saw a map of the world, and he marveled at how vast the world outside of China was. After that, he devoted his whole life to promoting cultural exchanges between China and the West. His work spread through the ages; for example, the terms in his translation of the Geometry Original are still used today. Therefore, Mr Xu Guangqi is called “the first person who has integrated East and West.”

Integrative reconciliation in Chinese is huitong. What is huitong? The character hui represents the fusion, and the character tong means the connection. From my perspective, Shanghai was able to develop from a small fishing village to a world-class metropolis was because it embraces the spirit of huitong. This spirit has made modern Shanghai known as the “Magic Capital:” city of magic, city of fantasy. Shanghai is constantly absorbing culture and technology from other regions of the world, which enables it to produce many celebrities who change the world. Over the centuries, from Xu Guangqi in the Ming Dynasty, who introduced Western culture into China; to Qian Xuesen a few decades ago, who laid the cornerstone of China’s space and rocketry programs; and now to Dr Zhang Wenhong, who has made an outstanding contribution to the Shanghai community in the fight against COVID-19. By acquiring the knowledge from both the East and West, these famous people changed Shanghai, changed China, and finally changed the world.

That is why I believe the word huitong has changed the world that we live in. Admiring these “pioneers” who are on the front line of society, I feel true honor. These experts have developed their field expertise based on learning, understanding and accommodating different fields to select and improve. They have opened up the frontier of developments farther, and wider.

Without them, we might be the frog at the bottom of the well in the vast world; we might be the lamb to be slaughtered; we might watch our relatives and friends suffocate and die in pain, but we can do nothing. So I believe, as people integrate ex­isting knowledge, they also earn the ability to sublimate knowl­edge into future innovation.


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