Students Take a Different Look at the Environment

April 25, 2018

musicians and students sitting on the lawnWorld-class Chinese nature musicians Chen Zhipeng and Moon Lin were on campus recently to celebrate a week-long program of activities focused on Asia and the environment. Zhipeng and Lin held daily fireside “ancient sound circles” and workshops on nature music, nature instruments, and musical healing, inviting students to engage by listening and playing along. The musicians also visited a number of classes to speak on Chinese musical traditions, performed with faculty in the music department, improvised accompaniment to students’ theatrical performances, and translated students’ poetry into Chinese to perform them as interpretive songs.

The week of cultural immersion culminated with the Luce Initiative on Asian Studies and the Environment (LIASE) Regional Conference, an intercollegiate event filled with expert- and student-led interdisciplinary panels and discussions addressing issues related to the environment in China, Hong Kong, Thailand, Myanmar, Malaysia, and other locations. Whittier welcomed students and faculty from Occidental College and the Claremont Colleges, who co-sponsored the conference. Professor of History Robert Marks, who has written extensively about China’s environmental history, gave the keynote address.

“All week, Zhipeng and Moon brought unique perspectives to campus, helping us to reflect on and feel the significance of particular sound environments and their relation to both personal wellbeing and harmony with nature. After their closing performance at the end of the conference, one attendee commented that it was like being bathed in harmonious sound,” said Chair of the Religious Studies Department Jason A. Carbine, who directs the LIASE initiative on campus.

The LIASE program at Whittier is funded by the Henry Luce Foundation’s Asia Program; it seeks to strengthen college students’ awareness and understanding of Asia and its environment. Specifically, the project encompasses interdisciplinary perspectives on the environment and sustainable development in Asia, particularly China and its neighbors. LIASE provides students and faculty with unique opportunities to work together to deepen understanding of Asia and the environment, through a variety of curricular and extracurricular opportunities.