Welcome to our online course: Asian Environmental Humanities, Landscapes in Transition. My name is Andrea Riemenschnitter, and I am Professor for Modern Chinese Language and Literature at the Institute of Asian and Oriental Studies, University of Zurich in Switzerland. Our online course addresses environmental issues from a transcultural and interdisciplinary perspective. This is a relatively new approach, which recently inspired many research groups and university departments to create a thematic focus. In this way, a new field of interdisciplinary study emerges, which we will refer to as Environmental Humanities. Currently you find this thematic focus covered by researchers from established disciplines such as area studies, history, comparative literature, geography, gender studies, or religious studies. Environmental Humanities inquire into the cultural links between material and immaterial aspects of environmental issues, such as air pollution or climate change. Our main subject matter are stories about environmental issues. These can be found in literary novels and poems, theater (including street theater), artworks, films, media stories, blogs, or in history books. Environmental Humanities work with a broad range of theoretical approaches, and submit many different forms of communication and social practice to analysis. In a similar vein, Asian Environmental Humanities address all kinds of cultural representations of environmental changes and challenges in Asia. The issues range from landscape transformation and degradation to the reconstruction of polluted or otherwise damaged environments. We are particularly interested in Asia's landscapes, whose diversity and ecological equilibrium is endangered in many places. Landscapes are the most prominent visual markers of environmental change, even though one cannot always see the problems, that come along with the human engineered forms. The beautiful rice fields in this image may have been built on deforested hills, which consequently were exposed to soil erosion under extreme weather conditions. Or they were treated with agrochemicals, which translates into water and soil pollution, and so on. A very important topic for research in the field of Environmental Humanities is the cultural representation of landscapes. When, for example, iconic landscapes are highlighted, as often happens in landscape paintings or films, deep symbolic meanings may come along with aesthetically alluring images. To understand these meanings, knowledge about the cultural background is required. You will meet experts from Chinese, Indian, Japanese and Religious Studies, who came together to develop this course in order to promote strategies for knowing, representing and reflecting on Asian landscapes in transition. The main issues that will be addressed are air, water, and soil pollution, urbanization and the demolition of rural environments, green city and eco-village experiments, landscape and garden concepts on the move, and other transformations happening as part of the human-induced global environmental changes. The questions we want to address are: How do communities, landscapes, landscape planners and creative workers tell their stories? What can be learned from the past? What local, or translocal, solutions are deliberated on by stakeholders in Asia for addressing a global phenomenon, including as far-reaching problems as climate change? How do governments and concerned citizens in Asia address the problems? What are their visions for the future? In order to answer these questions, we will discuss a range of approaches towards landscapes in Asia, including aesthetic forms of landscape appreciation, degradation due to globalized forms of overexploitation and pollution, and ideas for their reconstruction. The envisioned solutions can be strictly local, national, or global, and revolve around material and spiritual methods of attunement. Cultural producers’ reflections and interventions will be ascribed a leading role in our approach. The reason is that environmental scientists are mostly concerned with the material dimensions of the problems, whereas cultural representations attempt to understand the impact of environmental issues on both individual bodies and communities by looking at particular configurations and intersections of the material, affective, and spiritual aspects of environmental issues. We will therefore study our data and artworks from integrative, aesthetic, cultural, and vernacular points of view, rather than focus on the practical aspects, as environmental sciences tend to do. When addressing the impact of changing environments on communities, we ask questions about who besides humans should be regarded as members of such communities, and the kinds of relationships that were, or can possibly be, built within and among such communities. Moreover, we contend that cultural landscape representations must be studied more thoroughly because they are likely to expose a critical view on the social costs and consequences of unsustainable economic practice in the wake of capitalism and consumerism. The course is organized into five modules. In the first module, The Roots and Routes of Asian Environmental Thought, we will offer a short overview of concepts of landscape as developed in different cultures and academic disciplines, and explain how the relationship between the human body and nature is perceived in China's cultural history. In module two, Entangled Landscapes: Chinese Garden Concepts and Global Environments, we will encounter traveling concepts of landscapes and visit gardens, which illustrate how these flows create visions and opportunities. Two religious communities in India and how they have dealt with the environment are the subject of the third module. Module four introduces traditional definitions of nature and planetary life, and looks more closely at the relationship between people and the environment, by asking, for example, how trash and waste are treated in India today. In module five, East Asian Environmentalism, we will look at the institutions, activists, and stakeholders who vie for the power to implement their respective views of sustainable environments. In particular, we discuss selected environmental movements in Japan and Greater China. Throughout the course, we offer interdisciplinary perspectives on a broad range of topics and across several regions, among them most prominently China, India, and Japan. From this follows that our course will not be strictly consecutive. You can follow us from module one to module five in this order, but may also consider studying only certain modules, following your own topical or regional interests. You will not feel lost underway, because the facts and texts we reflect upon in the region-specific modules are not necessarily built upon knowledge transmitted in the other regional contexts. Within the modules, though, lessons follow logically upon one another. If you'd like to obtain the certificate to the course, you'll need to complete all five modules. We hope that you will enjoy getting acquainted with the concepts, representations, and insights that can be encountered in our University of Zurich online course Asian Environmental Humanities: Landscapes in Transition, and look forward to seeing you again soon.