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Ecology in East Asia: Past and Present


Admission requirements

No restrictions. Students who are interested in taking this course, but who are not admitted to one of the mentioned master programmes are requested to contact their co-ordinator of studies.


We often consider Asian aesthetics in painting, poetry, architecture, garden and urban design emphasizing the essential concerns of sustainability, harmony between humans and their environment. However, our modern experience of capitalist and socialist norms in the twentieth-century has encountered various competing ideas of “nature” in East Asian traditions. Today activists and thinkers in East Asia are reclaiming sustainable principles
from their rich aesthetic traditions by incorporating them into innovative green
technologies, practices, and policies that address pressing global environmental concerns.
This MA seminar course explores East Asia’s cultural understanding of human relations
to the natural environment by analyzing classical and modern texts of environmental
literature such as poetry, essays, fiction, history and philosophy.

The preliminary weekly schedule looks like this:

Week 1: Introduction.
Week 2: Traditional perception of nature and human ecology
Week 3: Naturalizing Civility
Week 4: Pre-modern China—Ecological changes (I)
Week 5: Pre-modern China—Ecological changes (II)
Week 6: Pre-modern China—Ecological changes on the Frontier
Week 7: Agriculture, Climate and State
Week 8: Pre-modern Japan—Image of Nature and Disease
Week 9: Pre-Modern Japan—Inventory Nature
Week 10: China: Environment and the Modern State
Week 11: Japan: Animal and Modernity
Week 12: The Price of Development: Japan
Week 13: The Price of Development: China
Week 14: Post-Mao Environmental Literature and Taiwanese Nature Writing

Course objectives

By the end of the course, the students will have gained insight in the relation between East Asian traditions and modern day ecological issues. The students will also have further developed academic skills such as researching and critically analysing original sources and reporting orally and on paper.


Check timetable

Mode of instruction


Course Load

10 ec = 280 hrs
Contact hrs: 28 (14 weeks)
Two written assignments: 30 hrs each
Weekly written and/or oral assignments: on average 13 hrs/week

Assessment method

  • two essays (20% each and 8-10 pages each) : the first one due on mid-term and the second on the final.

  • weekly oral or written assignments (total 60%)


Yes, see for more info Blackboard

Reading list

Students will be notified of the weekly readings during the course.


Registration through uSis


Y.T. Chung or J. Chung