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Introduction to the MOOC

We will begin this course by tracing historical ways of thinking about the environment in China. Through a range of examples, traditional notions of “nature” and “landscape“ will be introduced. These will be compared with modern transcultural and Western concepts. After studying a selection of key concepts pertaining to the construction of landscape (shanshui) as an aesthetic category, we will visit two sites in Switzerland where ancient and modern landscape art works from China are collected and made accessible to a wider public. Finally, we will look more closely into one historically and culturally formative theme in Chinese eco-aesthetic practice, namely the representation of human bodies as landscapes and vice versa. We will argue that the tradition of imagining, and mapping, bodies as structurally and materially embedded in the cosmic body has inspired ancient and modern artists to reflect critically upon the place and role of human beings in the world at large.

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