Zhang Qian’s second-century B.C.E. reports on his travels through what is now the northwestern Chinese province of Xinjiang begin two millennia of mediations of this large and fraught region. This article’s consideration of mediations on landscape begins with Tsui Hark’s film Seven Swords, looking back to drawing and photography, and forward to geographic information systems and financial software, each giving their own, often complex, accounts of the land. This history, and the multiplicity of contemporary practices, raises the question of subjectivity: of who or what expresses and who or what observes or understands these layers of mediation, representation, and communication, in the past or today. The author argues that, for ecocritique in the age of terracide, aesthetics is not merely symptomatic or ideological, it is the one sure ground for a new politics.

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