Since 1997, LA PKU has conducted a series of studies on China’s traditional ecological wisdom and related application in contemporary landscape planning and design. This paper first reviews the background and the course of LA PKU’s research: In early years, they studied on Feng-shui and vernacular landscapes that stemmed from their understanding and response to local natural and human processes in planning and design practice; In 2006, Kongjian Yu proposed the concept that Landscape Architecture is a discipline concentrating on the art of survival, which has greatly promoted the study and revival of traditional eco-wisdom, not only providing a historical base for the modern development of Landscape Architecture, but also applying the research results in responding to contemporary environmental and ecological problems; In 2014, developed upon the achievement on the art of survival, LA PKU further explored the deep form of China’s traditional landscapes by studying local spatial forms and design strategies on micro- and site-scales and translating such ecological solutions into China’s contemporary landscape design. The paper also reviews on LA PKU’s important research results over the past two decades, including traditional agricultural landscapes, vernacular settlements, and traditional water-adaptive landscapes.
Tingshuo Yang, the interviewee, is an anthropologist and ethnologist. He defines traditions from a perspective of human society development and points out that there are three spheres of traditions, including the ones respectively related to inorganic nature, organic ecosystems, and social customs. Traditions in such three spheres are under independent development laws and cycles, while influencing each other. The interviewee also distinguishes traditional knowledge from traditional wisdom and emphasizes that traditional wisdom is complex in dimensions and rich in contents which requires us to examine and define traditional wisdom with a dialectical, developing outlook. He further underlines the significance of applying the wisdoms in traditions though under nowadays unceasing scientific and technological advance. Finally, Yang argues that how to reactivate and apply such wisdoms for present-day use is one of the pressing and necessary tasks that we are facing today.
Disciplines from Ethnography, Geography, Ethnology, and Anthropology to Cultural Ecology and Ecological Anthropology have studied the development of human-nature relationships. Ecological Anthropology, which takes ecosystem theories as the analysis tools and acculturation as the core concept, has concentrated on the local knowledge of enclosed territories and the traditional knowledge and wisdom of acculturation. In an era of rapid-development, the local knowledge brought to light by Ecological Anthropology, and the discipline itself, are faced with challenges. The interviewee, Shaoting Yin, clarified the origins and scope of Ecological Anthropology and emphasized the efforts that should be made to understand how accrued local knowledge can be passed down. He also suggested how Ecological Anthropology can continue to develop and change.
This interview discusses the practice of house building in rural areas and opinions of tribal civilization. Through cooperative building projects in Lankao County, He’nan Province and post-earthquake reconstruction in Yangliu Village of Mao County, Sichuan Province, Ying-Chun Hsieh, the interviewee, explained the importance of sustainability, which is the core principle of construction, and the public participation in community rebuilding. He believed that, from the perspective of tribal civilization and the dimension of scarcity, by reducing the importance of the “expert” designer, and adopting open system, simple techniques, and digitalized approaches, public participation could be promoted and a better integration of traditional wisdom in building and society construction could be achieved.
On January 21, 2018, the Forum of the Committee of Landscape Architecture, Chinese Society for Urban Studies was held at the College of Architecture and Landscape in Peking University. More than 30 participants from the fields of landscape, ecology, water management, and planning exchanged ideas on the current Beautiful China and Ecological Civilization Construction movements, as well as the development of Landscape Architecture and interdisciplinary and multi-professional collaborations. A consensus on the urgency and necessity of collaborative ecological practices, while an acknowledgement on the difficulties of such work, was reached. Specifically, problems of competitiveness and responsibility remain in the interdisciplinary practice; and the discipline of Landscape Architecture currently fails to identify its strengths. Thus, Landscape Architecture needs to actively promote disciplinary and industrial integration to meet contemporary needs.
The Marker Wadden finds a good balance between traditional wisdom and technology advance. On the one hand, based on the polder model, a traditional consensus way of planning and decision-making in the Netherlands, the Marker Wadden project is created by an alliance of both public and private bodies sitting together and their opinions acknowledged. On the other hand, it boldly explores in both philosophy and technique, and a new nature has been achieved by using innovative techniques and natural processes. Marker Wadden will be of great importance in a time of climate change. Wetland design and construction can contribute to sustainable water management, improve local ecosystems, and provide greater resilience of river deltas in storms and floods.
Hanfeng Lake, an inland lake formed by the seasonal water fluctuations due to the water storage and sluice in the Three Gorges Reservoir, was faced with ecological challenges such as water pollution, aquatic biodiversity loss, and changes in land use pattern. This article takes the wetland ecosystem construction in Furongba Bay, Hanfeng Lake as an example to explore approaches to designing multi-functional wetlands which could adapt to hydro-fluctuation and other environmental changes, by drawing from the ecological wisdoms of water regulation, conservancy, and utilization developed in the agrarian age of China to support a dynamic, multi-layered landscape of mutualism and co-evolution.
The Dong’an Wetland was designated as the site for one of Sanya’s first pilot projects of urban environmental remediation and ecological restoration because of its key position in the regional ecological pattern, especially for urban stormwater management. The project aims at integrating leisure and recreational functions with landscape elements including ponds, forest on water, terraced vegetable garden, and trail loop, while promoting water circulation, improving water quality, and retaining rainwater and regulating water reuse, acting as a resilient urban sponge for rainwater management. The newly built project transforms an ignored grey place into a new home for egrets, an outdoor classroom for children’s nature education, and a destination for citizens to evoke their memories.
In the rural south of the lower reaches of the Yangtze River, river channels, which provide locals with space for living and production, are currently faced with problems such as featureless landscape and environmental degradation due to rapid social and economic development. Inspired by the traditional riverfront production pattern, this project aims at ecological restoration and environment protection by creating experiencing productive landscape in the Fishery Bay of Shigang Town, Nantong, Jiangsu Province, and integrating production, living, and ecology on the site as a whole.
The vernacular landscape, defined by pragmatic adaptation, must shift from subject of scholarship to realm of design operations. The vernacular is dynamic, constantly redefined at the intersections of continuity and change. It provides the necessary foundations for a discipline expanding in pursuit of resiliency and adaptive response. The landscape of Nepal’s Mustang district, peripheral to the Nepali state for most of its history, is being shaken by seismic economic, infrastructural, and demographic shifts. In response to emerging continuities and discontinuities, its landscape is being remade as a hybrid landscape, a new vernacular. This practice of hybridization must continue to evolve where new resources and opportunities emerge at the intersections of continuity and change.
In Laos, located in mainland Southeast Asia, shifting cultivation has been one of the important means of livelihood, in terms of food security as well as religious and cultural anchorage, for local communities in a number of areas, especially in upland areas in the country.
In Pakbeng District, Oudomxay Province, northern Laos, due to the implementation of various land and forest management policies and a village relocation and consolidation program, local communities were restricted from access to the forests and faced a shortage of agricultural lands. After facing difficulties in securing sufficient lands, the local farmers used the forests in a destructive manner.
The author of this article was engaged with the Community-based Watershed Management Project, as a program director of an environmental NGO and tackled challenges to achieve a land and forest management system suitable for land use by local communities. The NGO attempted to apply an alternative approach to incorporate swidden farmers’ land use system into official land and forest management institutions.