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Fu Bojie and His Chinese Landscape Ecology



Mr. Fu Bojie is an academician of The Chinese Academy of Sciences, an academician of The Academy of Sciences for the Developing World, a researcher of CAS's Center for Ecological Environment, a natural geologists and landscape ecologist, and he is also the third most outstanding alumnus of Shaanxi Normal University. Dedicating to research in natural geography and landscape ecology for more than 30 years, he started from his major of geography and has brought China's landscape ecology to the forefront of the world.

Majoring in Geography: From Prejudice to Love

In winter 1977, 5.7 million Chinese students took part in the first college entrance examination after its ten-year's absence during the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976). Only about 270,000 of them were admitted. Fu Bojie was one of them and he was admitted to the Department of Geography of Shaanxi Normal University. When he first looked at the admission notice, he thought the university mistook Physics as Geography, as there is only one Chinese character different in these two Chinese terms. Only after he got to the university did he recognize the fact that he had been re-assigned to the major of Geography. Except for two students, the other 68 out of the total 70 students in the department were re-assigned from other majors.

"In the beginning, I had little idea about geography." Fu recalled. He learned virtually nothing about geography in middle school, because many courses were cancelled during the Cultural Revolution. But he was attracted to it by the teaching method of "solid theoretical foundation and frequent field practice". He said that they had more field practices which lasted three to four weeks and were more demanding than they are now. He would carry his own quilt and slept in deserted factory workshops or warehouses.

Geography majors often dismiss themselves as jack of all trades and joke that "anyone who knows 500 Chinese characters can learn geography." But from the second year in university, Fu began to understand geography is a interdisciplinary subject involving natural science and social science, with a wide scope but not so much depth. But this is where integration comes into play and this integrative thinking intrigued him. He said, "The reason why geography is considered a jack of all trades is because it is a complicated system, which involves natural factors as well as humane and social factors. Geography majors have a solid comprehensive quality. They know everything in the sky above and on the earth below. They would be doing a job unworthy of their talents if they are not a county head." Fu humorously said to geography major students at several lectures.

After graduation, Fu continued his study in a master's program in Natural Geography under the mentorship of Prof. Liu Yinhan. After that, he joined SNNU as a teacher. In 1986, he mailed one of his research papers to Prof. Lin Chao, famous geographer and Peking University professor. After reading the paper, Prof. Lin asked the university to admit Fu into his doctoral program without entrance exam, and later recommended him to a Sino-UK program. Through these years, Fu has been continuing his research in geography. Geography is no longer the jack of all trades in his and his fellow students' self-mockery, but "the most brilliant pearl in all complex sciences!" exclaimed Fu.

Scaling New Heights: Bringing Chinese Landscape Ecology to The Forefront of The World

Fu continued to make progress in his research. From geography to landscape patterns and then to ecological system service, he has made outstanding achievements and brought Chinese Landscape Ecology to the forefront of the world. Starting from 1995, he based his research on China's loess plateau and studied the interactive mechanism between landscape patterns and ecological process, winning recognition of experts in the field of landscape ecology. In 2005, his research project "Land Use and Soil Erosion in Gully Regions of Loess Hills" won the second prize in China's Natural Science Award. In recognition of his achievement and contribution in landscape ecology, he was awarded the Distinguished Service award in the 2011 8th IALE (International Association of Landscape Ecology) World Congress, being the first Chinese to receive the award.

After 2008, he extended his research to ecological system service. Now his research team has been among the worlds most advanced in the studies of mechanism and methods in ecological system service. In August 2013, Fu was invited to give a special report at the 11th INTECOL (International Ecology) Congress. At the highest level international conference on ecology held every four years, Fu was elected vice president. He was the first Chinese person to speak as an elected vice president of the conference.

"China has a great variety in natural environment and has witnessed intensive human activities, especially during the past few decades of rapid social, economic development. Compared with other countries, this is the most favorable place to do research on landscape ecology and geography. Chinese landscape ecological studies have its distinctive features and we should use the findings to support China's sustainable development." said Fu.

When Drinking Water, Think of Its Source: Cherishing the Found Affection for His Alma Mater

Fu Bojie has a fond affection for his alma mater, always keeping track of the university's development, and has made his share of contributions to it. He often tries to squeeze time from his busy schedule to come back to the university to give academic reports, encouraging young students to read extensively and explore far and wide. "My field of research is natural geography and landscape ecology, which means I cannot part myself from books or nature." Fu said. One after another, Fu read thick English books when he was in university and he still keeps the reading notes now. "Reading thousands of books is not enough, you must also travel thousands of miles. No matter if it is geoscience, life science or other science, you must explore to find the nature and regularity in it, so we must go into nature and embrace nature. Several decades ago, I went to northwest China and the oasis and desert left a deep impression on my mind. I can spot it at one glance if there is any error in terms of geography in research projects about northwest China." But travelling thousands of miles does not mean the mileage itself, you must set your hands and feet to solid work, finding and solving problems through practice." This is the advice given by Fu Bojie.

When drinking water, think of its source. When you make achievements, think of your alma mater. 

        At the occasion of Shaanxi Normal University's 70th anniversary, Fu Bojie donated the RMB 20,000 yuan (approx. 350 US dollars) awarded to him as SNNU's outstanding alumnus, raised another 80,000 yuan with alumni Liu Yansui, Han Jichang and Feng Qi and set up the "Boxue Geography Scholarship". "Geography is a complex discipline which needs more young students' devotion. Boxue Scholarship aims to encourage geography majors to study hard and become talented geography specialists." said Fu at the signing ceremony of the Scholarship. What's more important and valuable is that his generosity in providing material help is the invaluable spiritual heritage, which is a reflection of his responsibility to society and education, as well as his deep affection for his alma mater and its students.

As a dual-appointment academician of Shaanxi Normal University, Fu Bojie is leading the discipline construction of geography in its School of Tourism and Environmental Studies, directing its construction of natural geography field workshops and labs, planning and organizing key research projects, and training young scientists, in an effort to develop SNNU's natural geography into a top-class discipline.

Text by Li Tiesheng, Feng Wei

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