National Central University plans to hold a ceremony next month to celebrate the official recognition of its discovery of “Zhonglihe” (鍾理和), an asteroid named after a Taiwanese literary figure known for his dedication to national identity under Japanese colonial rule.
“Zhonglihe’s enduring zeal to seek out his roots is similar to our quest to discover the origin of the universe,” said Chang Kuang-hsiang (張光祥), the leader of the project to name the asteroid.
Zhong, who died in 1960 at the age of 46, wrote several popular works such as The Native, which reflects the author’s affection for his country.
The asteroid “Zhonglihe,” the first to be named after a contemporary Taiwanese author, was discovered in 2008 by the school’s research team at Lulin (鹿林) Observatory on Yushan (玉山) in Chiayi County.
Chang said the “potato-shaped” asteroid is located between Mars and Jupiter and has a diameter of 2km. However, the name was not an immediate hit, as it took more than three years for it to survive the scrutiny of the International Astronomical Union.
Chang said it was not until late last year that the name “Zhonglihe” was approved, two years after the asteroid was officially recognized and granted the identification number “237187.”
He said “Zhonglihe” is one of the more than two dozen asteroids the university has named since 2002 and the second to be named after a literary figure.
In 2006, it named an asteroid “Sudongpo,” a reference to one of the greatest poets in ancient China.
Lee Jui-teng (李瑞騰), director of the National Museum of Taiwan Literature, will accept a model of the “Zhonglihe” asteroid during the ceremony on Aug. 4. Lee said he was excited to see recognition of Taiwanese literature in another field.
“It’s great to see a link being built between astronomy and humanity,” Lee said.
The naming also touched Zhong’s family members, who said they were deeply honored and grateful.
Zhong’s granddaughter, Chung Yi-yen (鍾怡彥), who is pursuing a doctoral degree at National Central University, said it was almost a miracle to have her grandfather immortalized as an asteroid.
“Isn’t it wonderful to occasionally lift up your head and find your grandfather gazing at you?” she said.