Chinese aesthetics in painting, poetry, architecture, garden and urban design are said to emphasize one of the essential concerns of sustainability, harmony between humans and their environment (tianren heyi 天人合一).  Yet China’s lived reality of environmental degradation has been at odds with this ideal throughout its history. We analyze this tension in classical and modern Chinese literature (translations of poetry, fiction, and philosophy). We also compare how various subcultures (Han Chinese farmers, Tibetan and Mongolian nomads, Indigenous Taiwanese hunters, Hmong hill dwellers, Taiwanese island-dwellers, etc.) imagine their diverse ecosystems. Analyzing literary depictions of dynamics among humans, non-human animals, ecosystems, and cosmos may challenge our prevailing environmental paradigms. No previous knowledge of Chinese language, literature, or philosophy is required.

Gen eds: PH, WB