Vernacular+Heritage International Symposium (April 5-6, 2016)

Vimalin Rujivacharakul's picture
April 5, 2016 to April 6, 2016
Subject Fields: 
Architecture and Architectural History, Chinese History / Studies, Cultural History / Studies, Historic Preservation, Rural History / Studies


Vernacular+Heritage International Symposium

(What Did Liang Sicheng Miss at Mount Wutai?)

April 5-6, 2016, Tsinghua University, Beijing


Between 2009 and 2013, a small group of researchers made several visits to UNESCO World Heritage Site of Mount Wutai, tracing the footsteps of Liang Sicheng and his research of the ninth-century Tang structure, the Temple of Buddha’s Light (Foguangsi).  The first project—measuring and mapping the site and structure—was completed in 2010 and the result was published in 2011 (ISBN: 9787501031542).  The second project—documenting the history of the Temple of Buddha’s Light and translating Liang Sicheng’s research account of this architecture—was completed in 2013 and published in 2015 (ISBN: 9789814441032/hard copy, 9789814441049
/e-book).  Yet there is also the third project, an unexpected discovery of what Liang Sicheng missed: the strange intertwining and disconnect of traditional and vernacular architecture at Mount Wutai.          

          In April 2016, an international symposium will be held at Tsinghua University in response to that unexpected discovery at Mount Wutai.  The reputed father of Chinese architectural history was not the only one who overlooked the connection between grand temples and village architecture in the famous abode of Manjusri, for generations of preservationists, historians, and architects have followed suit.  Seeking answers to this question from cross-cultural approaches and interdisciplinary studies, the symposium’s organizers have invited Chinese and international speakers—anthropologists and architectural historians, UNESCO consultants, architecte-en-chef des monuments historiques, policy planners and field reporters—to share their perspectives and experiences.  Together, the invited speakers will engage in a series of talks and debates about the intertwining and disconnect of two of the most challenging concepts in social sciences and humanities: “vernacular” and “heritage.” 

          Under the auspices of the Office of the President of Tsinghua University, Tsinghua’s School of Architecture and the Architectural History and Vernacular Architectural Preservation Institute, together with cooperation from the Ministry of Culture, Ministry of Education, and Ministry of Foreign Affairs, all sessions are free and open to the public.

          Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn will preside over the symposium’s official opening on April 5, at 12.45pm, School of Architecture, Tsinghua University. 

          Chinese and English are the main languages of the symposium.  Translators—English-Chinese, French-Chinese, Japanese-Chinese, and Italian-Chinese—will be available to assist on site. 

           Dell Upton and Michael Herzfeld will deliver the keynote addresses.  For a complete program:

The symposium and its associated events are organized by Luo Deyin and Vimalin Rujivacharakul, Associate Professors of Tsinghua University and the University of Delaware, respectively.  For further inquiries: “” 




April 5, 2016

9.00-11.00am: Reports of China’s current situation (with posters and slides)

Field Reports: LÜ Zhou, ICOMOS and Tsinghua University, ZHANG Bing, China Academy of Urban Planning, PAN Jiao, Minzu University of China, ZHOU Rong, World Architecture’s Deputy Chief Editor and Tsinghua University        

11.00am-12.30pm: Speakers’ Lunch (joined by reporters and journalists)

12.40pm: Official Welcome Remark: Dean, School of Architecture, Tsinghua University

12.45pm: Official Conference Opening Speech by HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn


Conference Introduction

Vimalin RUJIVACHARAKUL, University of Delaware, and LUO Deyin, Tsinghua University

Are Temples Vernacular?: What did we learn while en route to Mount Wutai?


Session 1: Vernacular Heritage Discovered, Recovered, and Re-Discovered

1.10pm: Ron KNAPP, Professor Emeritus, SUNY [State University of New York, New Paltz], USA

In Search of China's Vernacular Heritage: 水思源 (When you drink, Think of the Source), 1949-2016

1.33pm: TAKAHASHI Tsuneo, Tohoku Kogyo Daigaku [Tohoku Institute of Technology], Japan

After the Tohoku Earthquake: Post-Tsunami Reconstruction of Rikuzentakata City, Iwate Prefecture (translator, Japanese-to-Chinese, is available)

1.56pm: François JEANNEAU, Architecte en Chef des Monuments Historiques et Inspecteur Général des Monuments Historiques, France

Les Origines de la Protection du Patrimoine Historique Français (translator, French-to-Chinese, is available)


Session 2: Politics of the Vernacular

3.00pm: Pietro LAUREANO, Founding Director, IPOGEA, and UNESCO Consultant, Italy

The Matera Success Story: A UNESCO Narrative from Abandoned City to Site of International Acclaim (translator, Italian-to-Chinese, is available)

3.25pm: Yves STEFF, Founding Principle, Architecture Urbanisme Patrimoine, France

Politique Française de la Sauvegarde du Patrimoine Vernaculaire (translator, French-to-Chinese, is available)

3.50pm:  Anne TOXEY, University of Texas Austin, USA

            Creating Ruins versus Conserving Village Life: Italy’s Debate


Session 3: Architectural Heritage and Village Studies

4.20pm: GUO Qinghua, Professor, University of Melbourne, Australia

            Unseen Details: Chinese Vernacular Architecture at Weiwu, Dafuzhen

4.45pm: Siriwan SILPACHANAN, Professor Emeritus, Chulalongkorn University, Thailand

Amphawa Canal Community: Chinese context in Vernacular Heritage and its Revitalization


5.20pm-6.00pm: Roundtable

Roundtable Moderator: Vimalin RUJIVACHARAKUL

Participants: Michael HERZFELD, Dell UPTON, Pietro LAUREANO, Francois JEANNEAU, Ron KNAPP, LUO Deyin  


April 6

9.00am: First Keynote Concluding Remark 

Dell UPTON, University of California, Los Angeles

ON VERNACULAR: An Elusive Concept


10.00am: Second Keynote Concluding Remark

Michael HERZFELD, Harvard University 

ON HERITAGE: Why All Heritage Is Vernacular

10.45am: Comments and Conclusion

This symposium is also held in conjunction with the 2016 International Conference on the Restoration of Chinese Villages, Xin County, Henan, April 7-9, 2016.  Interested researchers and the general public are invited to attend.  For the weeklong program and a complete list of all 46 invited speakers, please visit:


Contact Info: 

Jia MENG, Tsinghua University, School of Architecture, Beijing, China


Contact Email: