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  UGEA 1212 Understanding China through
Cultural Landscape 文化景觀 探識中國

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Course Description
Number of Units: 3
Lecture Hours: 3 hours/week
Course Teacher: Prof. XU Jiang (
Language of Instruction: Cantonese
Course Outline

This course aims to introduce China’s cultural heritages from the perspective of cultural geography. As an important sub-discipline in human geography, cultural geography examines how people use space and develop it into places – a process of cultural landscape formation. “Space” here is nothing immutable or monolithic; instead, individuals, groups, civilizations and their culture “craft” characteristic places through interactions with the surrounding environment and specific political and economic systems (themselves determined by culture). China provides numerous extraordinary examples to illustrate these topics. The course includes four key components: 1) the theoretical foundation: fundamentals of cultural geography; 2) the legacies and regional variations of China’s cultural heritages; 3) topical issues about China’s cultural heritages; 4) the cultural convergence in aspects of globalization and cultural transformation. The course provides not only a body of knowledge about the cultural landscape and spatial variations of places in China, but also an understanding of their major transformations that have taken place in a globalizing world.


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Course Highlights

Part I: Fundamental of Cultural Geography: Interpreting Places and Spaces of Cultural Heritages (3 lectures):

This component covers key theories and concepts developed over the past 30 years in cultural geography (both classical and new cultural geography approaches), and explain why cultural geography offers a very unique but important approach to study China’s cultural heritages. Theoretical exploration will help bring out ideas about space, place, power, cultural landscape, and identity. How people use space and develop it into place will be discussed. Many examples will be used to help students understand the approaches of cultural geography.



Introduction: culture geography as an approach


2. Taking and making place: the stuff of power
3. Interpreting space, places and cultural landscape in China: a review

Part II: Cultural Heritages and Regional Variations (6 lectures)

In the first two weeks, the course has laid the theoretical foundation. Now, student will begin their journey of understanding the subject matter, with a focus on several key cultural regions in China. The aim of this component is to covey a deep sense of place as an integral system engaging multiple force, e.g. myth and legend, power and politics, history and tradition, religion and symbol, nature and geography, cultural practices, and society’s interconnection with the environment. The task is to grasp the different approaches as distinct human-environment systems in cultural landscape formation. Moreover, students will make a good sense of a wide geographical variation of Chinese cultural values and practices.


4. Beijing: Beijing Culture and the place of politics
5. Northeast: Industrial culture and the place of combined forces
6. Shanghai: Shanghai Culture and the place for spatial competition
7. Southwest: Ethnic culture and the place of ethnicity
8. Tibet: Religious culture and the place of belief
9. Lingnan: Lingnan culture and the place of diversity



Part III: China’s Cultural Imprints and Dynamics: Topical Issues (4 lectures)

The aim of this component is to let students further appreciate the diversified studies of cultural geography by introducing several topical issues.


10. Ancient villages: A place of spatial representation
11. The place of physical nature and political tension
12. The cultures of production and workspace
13. Graffiti: the cultural geography of Youth in China



Part IV: Cultural Convergence and Transformation (Globalization) (1 lecture)

Globalization is an unescapable trend, and this powerful trend has greatly impacted on China’s cultural heritages. The cultural convergence and transformation will be discussed. The focus is not simply to interpret convergence as some kind of loss of unique characteristics of our cultural tradition. Rather, we wish to stress that when one gets involved in intercultural interaction, one should be likely to become aware of and even enhance one’s cultural tradition. Problems and local responses in cultural heritage conservation in China will be explored.

14. China’s cultural heritage under globalization: a cultural geography perspective


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Please also refer to the information in the Office of University General Education and CUHK Undergraduate Handbook
(Select Curriculum and then Course Details)