Preserving China’s Heritage sites

Queensland University of Technology graduate, Professor Han Feng is this year’s winner of the IELTS Alumni Award for Women in Leadership. She spoke to Sophie Loras about her achievements in World Heritage projects in China.

Professor Han is Professor, Department of Landscape Studies and Assistant Dean of the College of Architecture and Urban Planning at Tongji University (CAUP) in Shanghai and is credited for her work assisting in the preservation of some of China’s most unique heritage sights, currently leading cultural landscape research and conversation in China, including two World Heritage project sites in Lushan National Park and Slender Lake in Yangzhou.

Her wide scope of experience in both research and practice has established her as a leading expert on World Heritage cultural landscapes

Han Feng
Professor, Department of Landscape Studies and Assistant Dean of the College of Architecture and Urban Planning at Tongji University
Queensland University of Technology
Winner: IELTS Alumni Award for Women in Leadership

Q: How has your study experience in Australia shaped your career in China?

My Australian study experience mainly shaped my career in the international world and further influenced my career in China. I started my career in heritage landscape conversation at the end of the 1980s which was quite early in China and it was very successful. However, I also encountered many difficulties and questions during my research and practice and I was seeking broader methods and perspectives to help to solve all these problems in China.

Australia didn’t disappoint me. It has become the most important platform for me towards the international world and completely changed my career. From then on, a door towards the international world completely opened for me and my research transcended the boundary of countries.
Recognised as one of the international pioneers in cultural landscape research and practice, Australia brought me directly into international frontiers – my first international speech in front of the World Heritage leaders and caught their eyes – had my QUT supervisors’ great support and their hard work editing my paper. 
My election in ICOMOS International Cultural Landscape Committee as China Representative and later international activities also had and always had Australian colleagues’ great support, from academic to government.

So my experience in Australia has been a milestone of my career. It was from there that I entered into international world and it made it possible today that I am acting in the role as bridge to connect China and the world in the cultural landscape area, especially in World Heritage.

Another very important thing I benefited from this experience for later research, is that I learned how to appropriately value my home culture and respect other’s cultures. I learned there is broad love and beauty in the world.

Q: What were some of the highlights of your time in Australia?

The first three months was so frustrating and important for my research. It was the most foundational stage to break my existing Chinese mode of thinking, to learn how to view things from a Western perspective, and to think with an integrated Chinese and Western minds.
With the respect of my supervisors, I finally succeeded.
I travelled to many beautiful heritage places in Australia. I have been to Kakadu, Cairns, the Great Barrier Reef, Noosa and the Gold Coast beaches, some islands near Brisbane, Sydney and the Blue Mountains, and many other places.

The striking beautiful coastal landscape is most impressive to me.
I’m lucky enough to have made many very good Australian friends. Many QUT staff are also my friends. They took me out to their homes to experience real Australian life, Australian landscapes and Australian culture.
Fishing in the blue ocean, wandering in the countryside markets and driving in the mountains, have all become the most beautiful memories of my life.

Q: What have been some career highlights?

I graduated from Tongji University in 1988 as an Excellent University Student of Shanghai and began my career in landscape research and planning in Tongji University.

In 1992, I was awarded the National Prize of Science and Technology for participating in the first regional tourism planning project in China in Hainan province. 

In 1998, I gained an MLA from Tongji University, while researching and practicing in Tongji University – an Important stage to understand Chinese landscape.

In 2001, I left Shanghai for my QUT PhD research.
And in 2004, I gave a presentation at the 7th US ICOMOS International Symposium. It was first time I gave a voice to Chinese landscape culture in the international world. It had caught the attention of all participants including the World Heritage leaders. It was from then on that my research was internationally recognised.

In 2006, I was elected as a member of ICOMOS International Cultural Landscape Committee. From then on, I began to participate in international activities of World Heritage within an international network.

In 2007, I was elected as a voting member of  ICOMOS International Cultural Landscape Committee (China representative). I Began to interpret and contribute Chinese landscape values to the international world, to interpret international World Heritage concepts and policies to China, and also to be involved in the most important policy making in World Heritage Cultural Landscapes. In the same year, I got my PhD degree from QUT and returned to Tongji.

In 2007and 2009, I was appointed by ICOMOS Headquarter to undertake the on-site review and desk review for World Heritage nomination as an independent expert and currently the only Chinese expert in World Heritage Cultural Landscape evaluation.

In 2009, I was promoted as professor and Assistant Dean of the College of Architecture and Urban Planning in Tongji University.

In 2010, I undertook the first systemic cultural landscape research and evaluation project in China – Cultural Landscape Research of Slender Lake in Yangzhou (in World Heritage Tentative List).

Finally, in 2010, I was appointed by the UNESCO Beijing and the State Government of Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development to be in charge of the UNESCO 2010 project of Conservation and Management UNESCO World Heritage Site in China for Lushan Cultural Landscape Research.

I sincerely thank you all for this great honour of the Awards. I do think it belongs to all my Australian and Chinese friends, to QUT and Tongji, to those all working on China-Australia relationship. Thank you for your support and trust.

To read more about the winners of the 2010 Australia China Alumni Association Awards, click here.

For more information about the Australia China Alumni Association and for the full list of 2010 Australia China Alumni Award finalists, visit:

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