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In Disney's Mulan, Shang sings "I'll Make a Man Out of You" during the training montage, in which are the lyrics:

[You must be] mysterious as the dark side of the moon.

How did he know that there was a dark (far) side of the moon that never faced towards the earth? Or was he merely referring to the part of the moon without sunlight reflecting off it?

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    Um... the dark side of the moon faces the earth all the time... that's why the moon goes through phases. New moon = dark side of moon. Dark side doesn't mean far side. – Catija Sep 5 '17 at 5:13
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    @Catija Nah. The far side always faces away from the Earth, and is colloquially known as "the dark side", not because it doesn't receive light, but because it is unknown to humans (impossible to see unless one goes and sends a spacecraft to go and see what it looks like). – Ghoti and Chips Sep 5 '17 at 6:10
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    @BWPanda The movie features the Imperial City, the character Mulan and the Huns - these are 3 ingredients that take place in the 1400s and 4-6th Century AD. In other words, it's totally historically inaccurate, so it wouldn't surprise me if this is another case of anachronism. – Ghoti and Chips Sep 5 '17 at 6:17
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    It is possible that they already know that there is a Dark Side to the moon since they always see the same side. That is why they consider the Dark Side mysterious. They never saw it. China already have, AFAIK, a good knowledge of astronomy. – LeonX Sep 5 '17 at 12:18
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    @GhotiandChips Yes, there are a lot of anachronistic references in plenty of Disney's movies because they are mostly loosely based on Fairy Tales but with Disney's creative touch. They aren't exactly aiming for the history accuracy. Aladdin's genie was a entirely separate case. He was a master breaker of the fourth wall. – LeonX Sep 5 '17 at 14:38
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Making it into an answer as @Steve-O suggested.

It is possible that they already know that there is a Dark Side to the moon since they always see the same side. That is why they consider the Dark Side mysterious. They never saw it. China already have, AFAIK, a good knowledge of astronomy.

China, way before the Mulan story events, already had deep knowledge and were able to predict eclipses. In 120AD they were already able to tell that how the moon phases worked, so it was only a matter of noticing that there is another side to what they always see.

The sun is like fire and the moon like water. The fire gives out light and the water reflects it. Thus the moon's brightness is produced from the radiance of the sun, and the moon's darkness (pho) is due to (the light of) the sun being obstructed (pi). The side which faces the sun is fully lit, and the side which is away from it is dark. The planets (as well as the moon) have the nature of water and reflect light. The light pouring forth from the sun (tang jih chih chhung kuang) does not always reach the moon owing to the obstruction (pi) of the earth itself—this is called 'an-hsü', a lunar eclipse. When (a similar effect) happens with a planet (we call it) an occulation (hsing wei); when the moon passes across (kuo) (the sun's path) then there is a solar eclipse (shih).

Source: Chinese Astronomy

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Obviously, it's just a song lyric, but it's not indefensible.

The dark side of the moon is not called "dark" because anyone thought it literally lacked sunlight. "Dark" in this expression means mysterious and unknown, as in "darkest Africa" -- somewhere where the light of understanding does not shine.

Chinese astronomers by the 5th Century AD certainly understood that the Moon was a spherical object phase-locked to the Earth, and therefore had a side that would never be visible from here. Whatever they called it could be translated as "the dark side of the Moon".

There is another question about whether a low-ranking army officer would have used that phrase when talking to (or singing to) a group of recruits, but hey, it's a movie.

"There is no dark side of the Moon. It's all dark."
-- Roger Waters

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  • Actually, I did a little research before posting my answer, and it seems like in China, they were only going to try to prove that the Moon was round after the 10th century. – LeonX Sep 5 '17 at 18:28

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