Landscape Ecology

, Volume 24, Issue 8, pp 1015–1026 | Cite as

Sustainable landscape architecture: implications of the Chinese philosophy of “unity of man with nature” and beyond

  • Xiangqiao Chen
  • Jianguo Wu
Research Article


As the world population continues to grow and as global urbanization continues to unfold, our ecosystems and landscapes will be increasingly domesticated and designed. Developing and maintaining sustainable landscapes have become one of the most challenging and imperative tasks for scientists and stakeholders of all sorts. To accomplish this task, landscape ecology and landscape architecture can and must play a critical role. Landscape architects intentionally modify and create landscapes, and their imprints and influences are pervasive and profound, far beyond the physical limits of the designed landscapes. As an interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary enterprise that integrates the science and art of studying and influencing the relationship between spatial pattern and ecological processes, the theory, methods, and applications of landscape ecology are directly relevant to sustainability. However, neither landscape ecology nor landscape architecture is likely to achieve its expected goal if they are not truly integrated to produce a sustainable landscape architecture. In this paper, we argue that the ancient Chinese philosophy of “unity of man with nature” and its associated design principles can provide useful guidelines for this integration as well as for the development of a sustainable landscape architecture. We discuss several principles and models of Chinese landscape architecture, including “unity of man with nature” philosophy, “peach blossom spring” ideal, “world-in-a-pot” model, and Feng–Shui theory, and their implications for developing a sustainable landscape architecture. Although differences in the philosophical roots and design traditions between Eastern and Western landscape architecture will continue to exist, interactions and integration between the two will continue to increase under the theme of sustainability. To promote the translation of scientific knowledge into practice, we urge landscape ecologists to work proactively with landscape architects to integrate pattern–process–scale and holistic perspectives into the design and planning of landscapes.


Landscape architecture Sustainability Landscape design and planning Human–nature relationship Unity of man with nature China 



We thank Chris Clark, David Iwaniec, Jen Litteral, Laura Musacchio, Yun Ouyang, Michael Rosenzweig, Lihua Yang, and Tong Wu for reviewing an earlier version of this paper. JW also thanks Michael Rosenzweig for discussions on reconciliation ecology. JW’s research on urban ecology and sustainability has been supported partly by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. BCS-0508002 (Biocomplexity/CNH) and under Grant No. DEB-0423704, Central Arizona-Phoenix Long-Term Ecological Research (CAP LTER).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.College of Life ScienceZhejiang UniversityHangzhouChina
  2. 2.School of Life Sciences and Global Institute of SustainabilityArizona State UniversityTempeUSA
  3. 3.Sino-US Center for Conservation, Energy, and Sustainability (SUCCESS)Inner Mongolia UniversityHohhotChina

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