Chinese-Language Geography

Wing Shing TANG*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in book/report/conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Chinese human geography started its development more than 2500 years ago, recognizing a naïve human-land relation based on Confucian and Daoist constituted 'human-heaven harmony' cosmology. Unlike the West, this relation emphasized the dominance of human, yet paying heed to local conditions. Since then, human geography was widely practiced as Fang Zhi (local gazetteers), covering a wide range of practical topics, relying on concrete sense impressions as the methodology, and serving mostly for state governance. Undoubtedly, the discipline has interacted with the outside world, first via expeditions and Western missionary encounters in her dynastic past, and then in the contemporary period from challenges by modern geography. While spatial determinism at the beginning of the last century might have concentrated efforts on physical geography, Soviet geography in the 1950s might have reinforced the practical orientation, and Western geography since the 1980s might have introduced post-Enlightenment concepts, human geography in China as a discipline has not departed much from its original course. It has continued emphasizing the objective of deploying geographical knowledge to revitalize the nation, relying on the methodology of sense impressions at the expense of abstract speculation and showing a distaste for critical scholarship to avoid possible conflicts with the state. Nevertheless, the Wuxing principles enlighten us in that we should not de-contextualize the object of study and set up unnecessary, discrete boundary between human and nature. In short, its unique path, including conceptualization and emphasis, has rendered Chinese human geography relatively distinctive.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInternational Encyclopedia of Human Geography
PublisherElsevier Inc.
Number of pages6
ISBN (Electronic)9780080449104
ISBN (Print)9780080449111
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2009

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Social Sciences(all)

User-Defined Keywords

  • Chinese human geography
  • Human-heaven harmony
  • Intellectual autonomy
  • Knowledge production
  • State-building
  • Traditional Chinese culture


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