Dr. Ann Hill, Anthropology and East Asian Studies

Valley & Ridge Goes to China

As a participant in this summer’s (2013) Valley and Ridge, I was on the lookout for ideas and insights that could be usefully transferred to Yunnan, China, where we are planning to re-run Valley and Ridge in summer 2014. As someone who has done research in this area for 18 years, I was stunned by how much the Valley and Ridge experience changed my perspectives on landscapes that I had been moving (blindly) through for years. The Carlisle program’s focus on local water sources, for example, led me to look anew at city water in Kunming, capital of Yunnan Province, and at dramatic riverine landscapes in the autonomous minority county where I work.


Kunming is located on the shores of one of the province’s largest lakes, Dianchi. During the Maoist era in China, roughly 1950-1976, Dianchi was surrounded by factories – some, such as a chemical factory and one that produced pig bristle products – were still in operation when I first visited the city in 1984. Once clean enough to fish in and even swim in, Dianchi today remains largely polluted but it is clear that there are various projects underway to create recreational opportunities and experiments with natural and mechanical means to restore its viability as a food source; city water comes from reservoirs. Our group will explore these recent changes in summer 2014, not only as a way to understand the science of providing clean water in China but also to learn about changes in environmental consciousness in Kunming’s recent history.