Event — UKNA - Urban Asia presentation series

Towards a poetics of dwelling: Exploring nearness within the Chinese Literati Garden and its enlightenments for contemporary spatial practices in China

A Lunch Lecture by Li Lü, post-doctoral guest researcher at History, Form & Aesthetics, TU Delft, where he also got his doctoral degree.

This lecture takes place in the IIAS conference room from 12:30 - 14:00 p.m. Amsterdam Time (CET); it will not be streamed or recorded.

Everyone is welcome to attend. Please register so we can reserve you a seat and order the correct number of lunches.  


The Lecture

In a world that seems to be accelerating with each passing day, what lessons can be harvested from those captivating traditional built heritages to address contemporary challenges and foster more meaningful built environments? Inspired by this inquiry, this talk examines an essential aspect of the Chinese Literati Garden, exploring how this type of built environment enables its visitors to experience a profound sense of Nearness.

The Literati Garden is a type of built environment in ancient China that is renowned for its deep reservoirs of artistic, cultural, social, and historical significance. Owned mainly by the historical Chinese literati class, this type of garden can be seen as a representation of the ancient Chinese literati’s collective state of being. The term Nearness, on the other hand, is drawn from Heideggerian philosophy that consistently employs it to elucidate the intrinsic intimacy of relatedness between humans and the world on an ontological level. Heidegger astutely observes a diminishing sense of Nearness in the modern era, largely due to the advancements of modern technology and the ensuing impact of modernity. This implies that we are undergoing a gradual erosion of our intimate connection with the surrounding world. In stark contrast to this trend, however, most Chinese literati gardens steadfastly uphold their traditional richness, allowing those who visit them to encounter a unique, high-quality experience of relatedness to and intimacy with the world.

Therefore, the Literati Garden could potentially serve as an antidote to the disruptive modern condition that results in a loss of Nearness. Using Nearness as a theoretical lens, this talk examines various spatial-experiential settings, conditions, and mechanisms embedded within the literati garden. Additionally, it explores potential approaches of recapturing the lost sense of Nearness in the modern world by learning from the ancient literati’s garden-making. By delving into the intersection of the Heideggerian concept of Nearness and the ancient Chinese literati gardens, this talk intends to reveal Nearness as a vital, sustainable, and adaptable quality that can influence modern spatial practices, forging a future where we are more attuned to our surroundings.

The Speaker

Li Lü is a post-doctoral guest researcher at History, Form & Aesthetics, TU Delft, where he also got his doctoral degree. His PhD delved into the concept of Nearness within Heideggerian philosophy, specifically exploring how Nearness experiences occur within Chinese literati gardens. Currently, Li is engaged in developing a research proposal centred on water-related sites. Drawing from the methodology he developed during his PhD research, he aims to establish a systematic methodology framework to explore how an intimacy of relatedness between water and various aspects of human state of being can be established and evaluated. Li’s recent publication, ‘Exploring A Spatial-experiential Structure Within the Chinese Literati Garden: The Master of the Nets Garden as A Case Study’ (co-authored with Dr Mei Liu) delves into the spatial-experiential structure within the Chinese literati garden through a combination of various research methods, including GIS.