The Role of Water Bodies in the Placemaking of Kunming City, South West China

Yun Gao, Adrian Pitts, Mengxue Yang

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


This study explores the changes in the relationship between the built and natural landscapes in Kunming city since it was established as a military settlement during the Han dynasty (202 BCE to 220 CE). Over the intervening period, Kunming has grown to be a large metropolis and provincial capital with an urban area population of about 6 million inhabitants. Although Kunming is landlocked in the centre of the Yunnan province, water has been critical in its development. The evolution of the local landscape has been dominated as much by lakes, canals and rivers as by government buildings, temples and other large-scale construction activities.
Historical records of decisions regarding changes to the water bodies and their transformation in the local landscape were accessed for this study. Analysis established how these decisions sought to assign meanings to those sites during the Yuan, Ming, and Qing dynasties (1279 CE to 1912 CE). The records demonstrate that the lakes, rivers and artificial canals transformed the cityscape over a long period. The study also examined how the water bodies declined after the 1950s and how, more recently, their influence on city development regained attention and created potential for new actions. The research included a resident survey with 150 responses.
This study establishes how the traditional meanings of water in the city, as manifested within the particular urban grain of Kunming, still inform contemporary urban practices. There are also close relationships with the understanding of health and wellbeing associated with the natural environment.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAustralia and China Perspectives on Urban Regeneration and Rural Revitalization
EditorsRaffaele Pernice, Bing Chen
ISBN (Print)9781032538945
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 7 May 2023

Publication series

NameRoutledge Research in Planning and Urban Design

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