Participants at the Environment in Asia events
Led by Boston College Professor Ling Zhang, the Environment in Asia symposium explored new paths for research

Exploring How the Environment Shapes China’s History

Environment in Asia seminar honors two pioneers

On March 20, the Fairbank Center’s “Environment in Asia” research series convened a one-day symposium to discuss the future of environmental history studies and honor two pioneers of Chinese environmental history, Whittier College Professor Emeritus Robert Marks and Yale University Professor Emeritus Peter Perdue.

The Environment in Asia series promotes diverse environmental discourses and research methodologies within the field of Asian studies, especially the field of Chinese studies. Since its founding in 2012, the series has hosted dozens of lectures, panel discussions, conferences, film screenings, and art exhibitions. It has brought together scholars from various disciplinary and area studies backgrounds and has served as a platform to present their scholarship, exchange ideas, and form collaborations.

The symposium honored Marks and Perdue, two founding speakers and long-time supporters of the Environment in Asia series. It celebrated their life-long achievements as forerunners in the field of Chinese environmental history. “Professor Marks’ and Professor Perdue’s scholarship and services have profoundly shaped how we understand and practice Chinese environmental history,” said Boston College Professor Ling Zhang, a Fairbank Center Associate in Research who organizes the speaker series.

Among the questions the participating scholars explored at the symposium: How do we research, write, and teach environmental issues as humanities and social scientific scholars, and how do we promote environmental consciousness and model multi- and inter-disciplinary environmental scholarship in order to diversify the fields of Asian and Chinese studies, which are dominated by human-centric concerns and practices? Through individual presentations and group conversations, the symposium celebrated achievements in environmental scholarship, identified shared challenges, and explored new paths for research. “This symposium seeks to facilitate mutual understanding and mutual learning within our environmental-studies community,” said Zhang. “We aim to strengthen the community’s bond and to further its growth as an important, indispensable subfield of Asian and Chinese studies.”


8:45–9:00 Welcome (Ling Zhang and Mark Wu)9:00–10:30 Tigers, Rice, and the Dongting Lake: The Journeys toward Environmental History (Moderator: Ling Zhang)

10:45–12:45 Researching the Environment (Moderator: Arunabh Ghosh)

12:45–13:30 Lunch

13:30–15:00 Writing the Environment (Moderator: Victor Seow)

15:00–15:15 Break

15:15–16:45 Teaching the Environment (Moderator: Brian Lander)

16:50¬–17:10 Closing (Robert Marks, Peter Perdue, and Ling Zhang)


Clark Alejandrino (Trinity College)
Nicole Barnes (Duke University)
David Bello (Washington and Lee University)
Tristan Brown (MIT): “Laws of the Land: Fengshui and the State in Qing Dynasty China”
Wesley Chaney (Bates College)
Chris Coggins (Bard College at Simon Rock)
Bradley Camp Davis (Eastern Connecticut State University)
Alexander F. Day (Occidental College)
Xiangli Ding (Rhode Island School of Design)
Qin Fang (McDaniel College)
Xiaofei Gao (University of Colorado, Denver): “The Nature of Labor: Integrating Environmental and Social Changes of Modern Maritime China”
Yan Gao (University of Memphis)
Yuan Gao (Georgetown University): “China’s Arid West: An Environmental History of Late Qing and Early Republican Xinjiang”
Arunabh Ghosh (Harvard University)
Yongqiang Guan (Nankai University, China)
Mary Alice Haddad (Wesleyan University)
Kyuhyun Han (University of California, Santa Cruz): “From Hunting for Local People to Hunting for the Nation: PRC Hunting Industry and Amur Tiger Conservation in Northeast China, 1949-1965”
Zhaoqing Han (Fudan University, China)
Michael Hathaway (Simon Fraser University, Canada)
Jack Hayes (Kwantlen Polytechnic University, Canada)
Emily M. Hill (Queen’s University, Canada)
Rui Hua (Boston University): “When Great States Mined on Drifting Continents: A Magnesium-based Story of Local Farmers and Global Mining Laws on the Liaodong Peninsula, 1.85GA-1931 AD”
Fei Huang (University of Tübingen, Germany)
Brian Lander (Brown University)
Peter Lavelle (University of Connecticut)
De-nin Lee (Emerson College)
John Lee (Durham University, UK): “Mongol Legacies and Island Ecologies in Early Modern Korea”
Robert Marks (Whitter College, Emeritus)
John McNeill (Georgetown University)
Caroline Merrifield (Yale University): “Practical Politics in China’s Food Movement”
Covell Meyskens (Naval Postgraduate School)
Ian J. Miller (Harvard University)
Ian M. Miller (St John’s University)
Ruth Mostern (University of Pittsburgh)
Micah Muscolino (University of California, San Diego)
Peter Perdue (Yale University, Emeritus)
Kenneth Pomeranz (University of Chicago)
Anne-Sophie Pratte (Georgetown University, Qatar): “Mapping Grasslands in 19th Century Qing Mongolia”
Ying Qian (Columbia University)
Guldana Salimjan (Simon Fraser University, Canada)
James Scott (Yale University)
Victor Seow (Harvard University)
Michael Szonyi (Harvard University)
Yuk Ping Wan (Brown University)
You Wang (University of Chicago)
R. Bin Wong (University of California, Los Angeles)
Donald Worster (University of Kansas, Emeritus)
Mingfang Xia (Remin University, China)
Bingru Yue (Queen’s University, Canada): “From Wetland to Ecological Model: Reclamations of Chongming Island, Shanghai, from 1950 to 2020”
Amy Zhang (New York University): “Waste’s Collectives: political and ecology in urban China”
Junfeng Zhang (Shanxi University, China)
Ling Zhang (Boston College)