Through the processes of globalization and industrialization, contemporary China is facing big problems of placelessness and pollution. As part of that, and for deep historical reasons, China is losing cultural confidence and identity. In the design of new landscapes, China has been superficially imitating western models, so that many cities in China now resemble each other and and have no clear local, regional, or national identity. Given these large problems, it has become necessary to rethink contemporary culture in China in general and landscape architecture there specifically. To that end, the goal of this thesis is to discern and articulate a new approach to landscape architecture in China, one specific and meaningful to contemporary Chinese culture and that eschews superficial imitation of western examples. With that in mind, a broader goal of this thesis is to help rebuild culture confidence in China by reinterpreting its legacy of thousands of years of history and traditional culture. The method used in this thesis is to reinterpret the landscape tradition in literature and art in order to show the relevance of traditional practices to contemporary problems and concerns. Because landscape, poetry, and painting were complementary in traditional Chinese culture, and because all of those disciplines engaged with ideas of nature and philosophy, studying the traditional way of seeing nature in ancient literature and arts could help inform more meaningful approaches to contemporary landscape design. To that end, this thesis explores two fundamental philosophical systems in ancient China, Taoism and Confucianism, as well as historic, landscape-themed poems and paintings, in order to extract concepts pertinent to contemporary theory and practice of landscape architecture, such as ecology, sustainability, seclusion and boundary, and the experience of sequential viewing. Similarly, contemporary design projects are analyzed to show how traditional design principles are sometimes used by architects and landscape architects. Framing traditional and contemporary situations in those ways models continuity in the landscape culture of China. To reinforce that continuity, the thesis suggests several methods for translating traditional garden techniques into the contemporary theory and practice of landscape architecture in China.
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