Acta Geographica Sinica ›› 2013, Vol. 68 ›› Issue (9): 1281-1291.doi: 10.11821/dlxb201309011

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Zhou Tingru’s academic thoughts and achievements in physical geography

LI Rongquan, QIU Weili   

  1. School of Geography, Beijing Normal University, Beijing 100875, China
  • Received:2013-04-18 Revised:2013-06-16 Online:2013-09-05 Published:2013-09-05
  • Supported by:
    Foundation National Natural Science Foundation of China, No.J1103403

Abstract: The academic thoughts and achievements of the pioneer scientists are valuable scientific wealth and educational resources. Professor Zhou Tingru is a famous geographer, educationalist and the founder of the Cenozoic geography in China. His academic ideas and achievements in developing a new branch of physical geography provide a representative example for the growth of the younger generation of innovative geographers. To seek for the answers of two regional physical geographic problems that why the subtropical region in China is humid instead of arid and why China has a unique pattern of physical geographic environment, Professor Zhou had immerged in extensive readings. After realizing that each physical geographic region has its own history, he, standing at the academic frontier of his time, put forward the thought that "the past is the key to the present and the future" and initiated Cenozoic geography, a new branch of physical geography, which deals with the origin, evolution, and development of regions. Thus, he started a new research branch and elevated the regional physical geographic research of China to a new stage and the front rank of the world. Professor Zhou clarified that the evolution of geographic environment is the core content of physical geography, and that the start point of geographical environment evolution is the early phase of the Cenozoic. The basic principles of the Cenozoic geographical evolution he expounded includes three essentials: 1) the regions of different levels are formed when the zonality is disintegrated or interrupted; 2) the evolution of geographic environment is controlled by the rule of dominant factor combination; 3) the driving force of evolution has both endogenic and exogenic sources of energy, but the endogenetic one dominates the processes. At the same time, he also summed up the research methods of analysis and synthesis. The main academic achievement Professor Zhou obtained is the conclusion that the disintegration or interruption of the original zonality in China took place at the end of the Palaeogene, the five physical geographic regions emerged in the Neogene and have evolved over the Neogene and Quaternary periods, and then, the modern pattern of physical geographic environment in China formed. Professor Zhou's works, especially the "Physical Geography of China: Palaeogeography of the Cenozoic Era" builds up a milestone for the regional physical geography of China. His idea that "the past is the key to the present and the future" has been accepted as a basic research guide now and in future for the study of physical geography and especially for the study of regional physical geography.

Key words: physical geography, academic thought, Cenozoic geography, evolution research, China, Zhou Tingru