The tree that hides the forest »

Christine Vial Kayser's picture
November 19, 2021 to November 21, 2021
Subject Fields: 
Anthropology, Art, Art History & Visual Studies, Asian History / Studies

The Asie-Sorbonne Association organizes a two-days’ conference with the aim of reflecting on the dynamics of the relationship with trees—and beyond, with nature—in East and South Asia by comparison with the West. We postulate that this relationship, be it in art, in religious pratices or in agroforestry or even in leisure practices, is part of a paradigmatic relationship with nature that is determined by an imaginary of the tree, memories associated with the landscape, and cultural practices. The Chinese concept of qi (in Japan ki), i.e. the vital energy shared between man and nature, as well as the specific perception of trees in Chinese and Japanese philosophy, can be called upon to support this implicit cultural dimension.

The forest as a place of enlightenment is also essential for Buddhists and Jains, and the representation of Yaksha and Yakshini testifies to the role of the tree as a source of life, sometimes ambivalent, in the Indian tradition, where certain tree species are still considered sacred today. Such representations existed in the West before the Industrial revolution, and then in reaction to it, e.g., in the Gothic, and in European Romanticism or in American Transcendentalism.

The workshop addresses a double question: How do cultural, artistic, religious, classical or popular, traditional or contemporary practices, as well philosophical/aesthetic theories bear witness to a certain view of the forest; and how do they potentially pre-condition the actual experience of forest immersion? The question will be approached in the context of East and South Asia, or, by comparison, in the West. An immersive experience in a forest will be organized on the 21st of November.

Keywords art and nature ; anthropocene ; nature and culture; tree and forest


INHA, salle Ingres, 2 rue de Vivienne, Paris 75001


Participants may follow the workshop online. To request a Zoom link please register with on the 18th at the latest.

Most contributions are in French. Details of the program on our website:

Contact Info: 

Christine Vial Kayser, president of Asie-Sorbonne Association and Karine Ladrech deputy president