Asambleas Ciudadanos


the Citizens' Assembly in Asia



Report of the Asian Forum for Cross Cultural Dialogues - August 2009

Translations : English . Español . français

Meeting of 14th to 27th August, 2009, China (Beijing, Shanghai, Suzhou, Hangzhou)

The Asian Forum for Cross Cultural Dialogues was held from the 14th to the 27th of August, 2009, in Beijing, Shanghai, Suzhou and Hangzhou, China. The Forum was jointly organized by the Institute of World Literature and the Center for Cross-Cultural Studies, Peking University, China; Global Citizens for Sustainable Development, India; and Gutenberg University of Mainz, Germany; with the support of La fondation Charles Léopold Mayer pour le progrès de l’homme (FPH) and the Beijing Eco Group (BEG).

The Asian Forum for Cross-Cultural Dialogues is a follow-up activity of the China-India Forum in 2007 held in India and China-India-Japan Forum in 2008 held in Japan. After the conference, the Chinese and Indian participants of the Forum had a rich eco-field experience in the Yangtze River Delta area (Shanghai, Suzhou and Hangzhou) as part of their fieldwork in Southern China as part of the China-India Forum . The theme of the fieldwork was ecology and water.

The Forum started with a conference on Ecological Literature and Environmental Education, in Peking University, Beijing, China from the 15th to the 19th of August. More than 120 participants, scholars (both young and adults), mainly studying ecological literature, eco criticism and nature in English literature and eco-activists and attended the conference and presented their papers. The eco-talk was combined with equally significant eco-field work. Eco-creative writing from cross-cultural perspectives was also encouraged during the Forum.

Prof. Zhao Baisheng, the Principal Organizer of the Forum and the Director of the Institute for World Literature, welcomed all the participants in his opening remarks stressed on the importance of having an ecological thought and the importance of eco literature in creating an ecologically sustainable planet. He warmly welcomed the participants of the conference, and in particular the young people who were here both from abroad as well as from the Peking University. Prof. Yue Daiyun, the Director of the Center for Cross-cultural Studies, joined Prof. Zhao Baisheng to wel Prof. Yue Daiyun, the Director of the Center for Cross-cultural Studies, Prof. ome all the participants and spoke briefly on the importance and relevance of the Asian Forum. Professor Alfred Hornung, Prefossor and Chair of English and American Studies at Johannes Gutenberg University, Mainz, Germany, shared his views on eco criticism, ecological literature and environmental education. Anugraha John, Director of the Global Citizens for Sustainable Development, India and the co-organizer of the conference and Forum, spoke about his collective journey with Chinese friends through the China-India Forum that started in February 2007, leading to the Asian Forum and further to the Asian citizens Assembly to be held in India in August 2010. Liang Chongyi, from the World Literature Institute, Peking University, welcomed the participants on behalf of the youth and students.

The conference stressed on the importance of having an ecological thought and the importance of eco literature in creating an ecologically sustainable planet. A range of issues related to both ecology and ecological literature were presented, including nostalgia and its role in nature, climate change, China’s resources, environmental education, etc.

Plenary sessions

In the opening plenary session, Professor Alfred Hornung chaired the first session consisting of keynote speeches. Professor Scott Slovic, from the University of Nevada at Reno, USA, presented on ‘Varieties of Environmental Nostalgia’. He explored the pschycological phenomenon of nostalgia as a powerful environmental concept that could be harnessed to inspire effective environmental action. He discussed different kinds of nostalgia, nostalgia loci that attached itself to places, conditional loci that focused on human relationships and trauma, and anticipatory nostalgia that compelled audiences to look ahead to future losses. Professor Nirmal Selvamony, from the Madras Christian College, Chennai, India, presented his paper on ‘The Oikological Human’, in which he discussed his ideas on the ancient Greek concept of ‘Oikos’. Oikos encompassed the human world, the living world and the living world, and their interrelationships. Dr. Ming Xu, research group leader at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, delivered a very interesting presentation on global climate change and how this could be a new frontier for ecological literature. He touched on different aspects of climate change, such as causes and impacts, global response, negotiations, climate politics etc.

During the other days in plenary sessions, keynote speeches were delivered by Dr Gao Zhanyi, from the China Institute of Water Resources and Hydropower Research presented on ‘Coping with Population Growth, Climate Change, Water Scarcity and Growing Food Demand in China in the 21st century’. His talk integrated different concerns surrounding natural resources and their relation to humans, with specific reference to China. Wang Canfa, environmental law professor with the China University of Political Science and Law, presented his talk on ‘Environmental Challenges and ENGO’s – roles for environmental protection in China’. Prof. Serpil Opperman, from the Hacettepe University, Anakara, Turkey, presented her paper on ‘Ecocritical encounters with postmodernism: New Directions’. Her representation of the third wave of eco-criticism as postmodernist and rhizomatic was received with a lot of discussion. Prof. Katsunori Yamazato, from the University of the Ryukyus, Japan, presented his paper on ‘Kenji Miyazawa and Gary Snyder: their visions of humanity and the planetary future’. Prof. Katsunori’s paper compared Prof. Gary Snyder and Mr. Kenji Miyazwa, a Japanese poet.

Prof. Alfred Hornung, presented his paper on ‘Chinese Garden Culture and Ecological Life Writing’. He used the ideas of Paul Gilroy on ‘conviviality’ and ‘planetary consciousness’, and applied them to the areas of transcultural life writing and ecology. In his presentation, he linked David Suzuki’s transcultural endeavours with the concern for nature as evident in Chinese nature worship. Prof. Greg Garrard from the Bath Spa University presented on ‘Ecocriticism and Consilience: The idea of Symbiosis’. Dr. Won Chung Kim presented on ‘Chiha Kim and Wonil Kim’s Eco-vision for the Cross fertilization of Eco-critical Discourse’. He argued that the ecological life writings of East Asian countries such as China, Japan and Korea deserve attention because their culture and environments are different from the West. Mr. Xu Gang, one of the most famous poets and writers in China, spoke on ‘Gratitude, Eulogy and Salvation. He spoke about the importance of appreciating nature and the role of literature in creating a liking towards nature in humans.

Parallel sessions

Parallel sessions were organized in the post lunch sessions in which different scholars and eco critics presented their papers. Mr. Sushant Singh, from the Indian team presented his paper, ‘Hybrid Eco-literature: the best tool of sustainable development’ at the Parallel Session, chaired by Professor Yamazato Katsunori. He discussed his ideas on how ecological literature and writings on ecological issues could help precipitate action on addressing environmental concerns, conserving the environment and on sustainable development. Other topics covered in the parallel session included perspectives on Korean literature, a commentary on Calvino and Buzzati’ views on the environment, voices from Africa on ecocriticism and an analysis of Wang Zengqi’s stories from the eco literature perspective. Bhargavi S. Rao, from the Environment Support Group, Bangalore, presented her paper on ‘Environmental Advocacy as a Critical Component of Environmental Education’. She discussed some case studies from the work on advocating for action against environmental concerns in Karnataka state and other parts of India, and how this advocacy combined with meaningful public participation had resulted in raising awareness and educating people. Vikram Aditya, presented his paper titled ‘Environmental Education in India; A youth perspective’. He discussed the history of environmental education in the country, present situation of environment education, government initiatives in the formal and non formal system, the role of NGOs and how young people were responding. Grishma Lele and Snigdha Shevade, professional dance artistes from Mumbai, India, presented their paper on ‘Dance and Envrironment’. They discussed how different dance movements in classical Indian dances originated from and depicted the environment. Manuel Marin, and electrical engineer by training from Chile and part of the Indian delegation, presented his paper on the potential of wind energy and its positive contribution to the environment. A paper by Keitaro Morita on ‘Towards cultivating ecological identity: a proposl of Ecological Reflectivity’, Oleyiblo O. James’ paper on ‘Development, Environment and Ecology: Tripartite Dilemma in developing economies’, Liu Hong’s paper on ‘Introduction to Low Carbon Economy and Ecology Finance’, Chen Raphael’s paper on ‘Food Governance: Local and Sustainable Food Systems’, Dai Xuetian’s paper on ‘Humans vs. Fish: Ways of Ecology’ and Mu Tianyi’s presentation on ‘A rational reflection upon development of science and technology’.

In addition to the conference sessions, the participants also had the opportunity to relax and practice Tai Chi in the evenings. A special marathon cum tour of the Beijing University and Tsinghua University campuses, located opposite each other, was organized for the participants. A walking field tour of Beijing University was also held on the 14th, and the participants were shown the various ancient Chinese buildings, gardens and the water system of the University. The final session of the conference saw a special event, the founding event of the World Eco-culture Organization (WEO). ‘Eco-night: Environmental Performances from Five Continents’ An eco cultural night was organized in the evening at a special Chinese restaurant, Xiangyangtun. The theme of the night was ‘Eco-night: Environmental Performances from Five Continents’. This was the time for the participants and organizers to finally unwind and relax after a hectic week of discussions and presentations. All of the continents represented presented a cultural performance. The Chinese, as the hosts, presented their culture through a number of instrumental performances, songs and skits. These included an instrumental performance by the Beijing University Classical Music Group which held the audiences spellbound by their delicate and enchanting music. A beautiful song about a mother narrating the story of her son joining the emperor’s service was next, followed by a skit about an ancient Chinese story, culminating with a flute playing performance.

The Indian group also organized a series of dance and song performances. Grishma and Snigdha performed dances combining classical Indian dance styles with elements of nature, such as the movements of birds and animals. The group wound up their cultural demonstration with the performance of a national integration song. Other performances included a song by the German delegation, a poem recital from England, and an elephant dance by Jung Taku Victor from Cameroon.

Eco-field work

The eco fieldwork component of the conference started from the 18th and ended on the 21st. On the morning of the 18th, the participants were taken for a visit to the Great Wall at Badaling near Beijing, followed by visits to the Yangqing county and Yanqing Museum for a presentation on the environmental practices of the county, a Poultry Farm called Deqingyuan, and the Ye Ya, or Wild Duck wetland lake and museum and the Lotus Pond. The participants got a chance to walk along a small section of the Great Wall at Badaling, and also saw a miniature replica of the section of the Great Wall in the Yanqing County. Next day, the field work began with a boat ride on Yuyuan Pond to Kunming Lake in the Summer Palace, the official summer residence of the Ming and Qing dynasty emperors. The group also visited the Confucius Temple, a temple dedicated to Kung Fu Tze, and the Imperial Academy, where examinations for recruiting officers were held. On the 20th, the group’s first visit in the morning was to the world famous Tiananmen Square, and walked through the Forbidden City, or Gugong, the official residence of the emperors. Afterwards, the group visited the Jinshan Park, right opposite the Forbidden City.

China-India Forum and the experience in the Yangtze Delta river area

The China-India Forum participants started their southern China fieldwork after the conference on the 21st. The theme of the field work was water and ecology. The participants departed for Shanghai by CRH high speed train and arrived in Shanghai next morning. After some morning shopping at Yuyuan road, the group arrived at Changjiang (Yangtze) Institution in Shanghai for their key lecture. The speakers were Dr. Zhao Shengwei, researcher from the Shanghai Changjaing Institute of Survey, Planning, Design and Research and Dr. Weng Dingjun, professor of Department of Sociology, Shanghai University. Dr. Zhao delivered a very interesting talk on the Three Gorges Project that was being constructed across the river Yangtze, and its impact on Shanghai, complimenting his talk with a large number of images. Dr. Weng focused his presentation on the sociological impacts of the construction of the Three Gorges project, talking about the Three Gorges Immigrants in Shanghai. He spoke about the causes for their displacement, mainly the future inundation of their hometowns along the Yangtze River valley from the Three Gorges project.

In the evening, the group visited Jinmao Tower, the sixth tallest building in the world, and second tallest in China after the Shanghai International Financial Center. The next day’s first visit was to Shanghai Museum, where the group saw ancient Chinese artifacts such as bronze, ceramics, jade, calligraphy, painting and coins. Later, the group visited the Shanghai Museum of Contemporary Art to see an exhibition of contemporary Indian art in a festival called ‘India Xianzai’, or contemporary India.

The next day, the Forum group visited Suzhou city, close to Shanghai, in Jiangsu province as part of their field work, Suzhou was a renowned cultural center in China and was greatly regarded for its numerous water canals, private gardens, pagodas and ancient streets and alleyways which had been the home of numerous scholars, writers and philosophers. In Suzhou, the group saw and enjoyed a boat ride on the Grand Canal connecting Beijing and Hangzhou, the ancient Shantang street lined with water canals, and visited Tong Li, a small town close to Suzhou city and likewise crisscrossed with streams and canals where they saw cormorant fishing for the first time. They also saw the Humble Administrators’ garden, a UNESCO World Heritage site and the largest private garden in China covering an area of 14 hectares. The group learned that Suzhou was one of the ancient silk producing centers of China, from where silk was exported to Europe along the Silk Route. The group visited the China No. 1 silk production center in Suzhou and learnt about the different steps in extracting silk from silk worms. On their last day in Suzhou, the team visited the Suzhou (Soochow) University, and attended a key lecture on Riverside Towns and Water Resources. The speaker was Dr. Xia Jian from the Water Conservancy Bureau of Suzhou. Dr. Xia explained about the situation of water in the county, and different aspects of it such as available water, sources of drinking water, water for industrial and agricultural consumption, etc.

After Suzhou, the group visited Hangzhou, their final destination in China, known for its tea production and for having the most famous lake in China, Xi Hu - the West Lake. Hangzhou is the capital of Zhejiang province and is another important culture centre of China. The team first visited a tea estate of the Dragon Well green tea variety and learnt about the different varieties of tea – black tea, oolong tea, and green tea. The group visited the West Lake the following day, and enjoyed a boat ride on the lake. Everyone loved the lake and its beauty, set as it was amidst rolling hills, ancient causeways and pagodas. Following this, the group visited the last destination on the agenda, the Lingyin temple, one of the most important Buddhist temple in existence in mainland China. The team listened to a lecture given by the high priest of the temple, and were given a privileged guided tour of the temple grounds by one of the abbots. The Indians were not surprised to note the numerous connections that the temple shared with India, starting from statues of Sakyamuni, Ananda, Gaya and Avalokitehswara to the numerous Sanskrit names on display everywhere, such as Mahavira Hall and Pathaka Hall.

After their stay in Hangzhou, the group returned to Shanghai, where they said their farewells and the Indians began their return journey to India.







From Forums to Ass- emblies

The Asian team created a new webpage dedicated to the Asian Assembly, have a look !


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