Landscape and Heritage in China

Language Requirement: None
Academic Standing by Program Start: Junior or above
Location: China
GPA: 2.5
Program Overview

The Summer 2021 Program has been canceled due to COVID19.

This program focuses on understanding significant heritage landscapes in China, and planning for their future. These are places that have been designed, developed, and enjoyed by people for decades and centuries, but now face the challenges of the 21st century.  They are mainly world heritage sites, including palaces, sacred sites, gardens, historic centers, cultural landscapes, and rural landscapes. They are heritage properties and landscapes that continue to change over time.


By studying, recording and planning for the future of these landscapes and heritage sites, you will learn about Chinese culture over centuries, and its relationship to, and love for, the diverse and dynamic Chinese landscape. You will also gain an understanding of the Eastern concept of the relationship between man and nature, and you will think about how to approach the conservation of significant landscapes and heritage within this complex context of competing priorities.  Whether you are interested in landscape architecture, architecture, historic preservation, planning, art history, geography, archaeology, environmental studies, Asian studies, or related field, this program – through readings, discussions, and field work – will provide you with an insight into the interaction of people and place in China.  

Throughout the program, you will participate in field exploration; site analysis (sketches, diagrams, and writings); and group discussions. This program is also open to students who do not have a previous design background, but you will learn a lot of design related skills and gain an understanding of conservation through cross-disciplinary methods.   The program will be based primarily in Beijing and Hangzhou, two vastly different cities with great histories and dramatic heritage and landscapes. The group will also spend two days exploring classical garden heritage in Suzhou.

The program will begin in Beijing for a week and a half, where the group will visit, analyze, and document sites such as: the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace, the Great Wall, Fragrant Hills Park, Temple of Heaven, Beihai Park, and Shichaihai historic center. You will then travel south to Hangzhou, where the group will examine sites such as Lingyin Temple, West Lake, Longjin Tea fields, Hupao Park, and nearby villages. The time in Hangzhou will also include two day’s trip to Suzhou, to visit and analyze representative classical gardens. The group will return to Beijing at the end of the program. Due to the fieldwork-heavy nature of this program, most of the site visits, site analysis, class discussions, and class work will happen outdoors.

Academic Details

On this program, you will enroll in two classes and earn a total of 8 UO quarter credits:
•    Cultural Landscape Documentation and Analysis
•    Heritage Conservation Planning and Design

Both classes are approved for 488/588 Landscape Architecture credit. Students in other majors are encouraged to show the program syllabi (see link at right) to their academic advisor in order to determine whether these credits can count towards a major or minor elective.
Both classes will be taught in English, and no prior Chinese language background is required.
International concern for significant cultural landscapes has expanded in recent years. The Cultural Landscape Documentation and Analysis course teaches the concepts and field techniques to document and analyze significant cultural landscapes. This method, originally developed by the course instructor (Robert Melnick), is the standard tool used nationally by the US National Park Service. Students will learn how to document, analyze and evaluate significant cultural landscapes and character-defining features. By engaging a number of sites in Beijing and Hangzhou, you will learn about both the theoretical and practical application of cultural landscape principles. The course focuses on the interaction of cultural and natural systems, and analyzing the manner in which human activity has shaped significant heritage landscapes. Special attention is given to the history of these landscapes, their role in contemporary China, and the pressures that they face in a growing China and evolving communities.
The Heritage Conservation Planning and Design course teaches the concepts of world heritage and heritage conservation, the field techniques to analyze heritage sites and landscapes, and the planning and design methods to conserve and use significant sites. Students will explore the meaning, significance, design, and future of landscape heritage in China, with attention to landscapes designed and built in Beijing, Hangzhou and Suzhou during various dynasties.  This course includes readings, field exploration and analysis, and the development of planning and design concepts for the conservation of these significant landscapes and heritage sites in contemporary China.  Students will investigate the significant heritage sites in three cities, and analyze the value, the importance and the contemporary meaning of the iconic cultural heritage sites of China. Students will also discover the relationship between the surroundings and the sites, the structural link between the elements, the interaction between natural and cultural context and the sites, and consider the contradictions between the conservation and use, and the challenges the heritage sites are faced with. As a result, you will produce concept planning and design proposals with new and innovative ideas.

Note for Non-UO Students: Actual credit awarded is determined by the relevant department at your university in consultation with the study abroad office. Check with your study abroad advisor for more information.

Course Equivalencies

Actual credit awarded is determined by the relevant department at your university in consultation with the study abroad office. Check with your study abroad advisor for more information.

UO students, please refer to the UO Course Equivalency Process and the UO Office of the Registrar Course Equivalency Database.

Faculty and Staff

Robert Z. Melnick, FASLA, is professor emeritus of landscape architecture at the University of Oregon, and a Senior Cultural Resource Specialist with MIG, Inc, a consulting firm in Berkeley and Portland. He has worked in cultural landscape studies - research, planning, and stewardship - since the 1980s. His most recent award-winning work, as PI for the UO Cultural Landscape Research Group, addressed the impact of climate change on cultural landscapes. Melnick is co-editor of the award winning book, Preserving Cultural Landscapes in America, (2000). In 2008, he was awarded the James Marston Fitch Award by the National Council for Preservation Education for lifetime achievement in historic preservation education. His recent cultural landscape projects in US national parks, include Pearl Harbor (HI), Death Valley (CA), and Pecos National Historical Park (NM.) Melnick is an elected member of the ICOMOS International Scientific Committee on Cultural Landscapes.

Xin Cao is a visiting professor of Landscape Architecture at the University of Oregon, and associate professor of Landscape Architecture at Beijing Forestry University of China. She is a member of ICOMOS, a Registered Planner, and Member of Council & Member of Academic Committee at Yuan Ming Yuan Historic Gardens Society of China. Her research area is on heritage conservation, landscape planning and design. She has published over 30 papers, and co-edited the book “Wetland Culture in China.” In 2005 she was a Visiting Fellow at ICCROM (International Center for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property, Rome, Italy). She received awards for teaching and papers, as well as Outstanding Person Award of Yuan Ming Yuan Historic Gardens Society of China. She has finished more than 30 projects as the leader and chief designer including heritage conservation research and planning & design, eco-tourism planning, park and open space planning and design, etc.

Additional requirements

Applicants must have demonstrated interest in one of the following fields: historic preservation; landscape architecture; architecture; Asian Studies; Planning, Public Policy, and Management; art history; environmental studies; geography; archaeology; or related field. This interest may be demonstrated in the application essay by reference to prior coursework, academic major or minor, personal travel experience, professional experience, or academic or professional goals.

Dates and Deadlines
Term Year Priority Deadline Deadline Arrival Date Departure Date

Travel Advisories

For current health, safety, and travel advisory information, search the US Department of State country webpage.

Priority Discounts

If your program has a Priority Deadline, complete all pre-decision application materials by this date to receive a $100 credit toward your program fee. Please note, students participating in multiple summer programs are only eligible to receive the $100 credit once.

Note: this $100 discount does not apply to priority deadlines for SIT programs.