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He works half-time for Victoria University of Wellington, but works remotely, from his home in Dunedin.
Associate Prof Beattie said he would provide advice and practical help, and support historical and cultural events at the garden.
He hoped to bring greater international attention to the Chinese scholar's garden, also known as Lan Yuan, and help make the garden a hub of visual arts, literature, history and culture.
He wanted to "bring greater international attention to Lan Yuan, by making scholars overseas aware of just what a fantastic place" it was.
Prof Beattie also planned to encourage international events, such as conferences, and cultural gatherings.
He chaired the Garden History Foundation, edited a Routledge book series on gardens, and was planning a symposium on Chinese gardens overseas, which was likely to lead to a book.
He considered the garden "an important part of Dunedin's Unesco City of Literature", and also planned to make more use of it as a site for tertiary teaching.
Prof Beattie was "greatly honoured" to take up his post, and for someone who wrote about Chinese in New Zealand, and Chinese gardens, "it really couldn't be a better place to work".
Toitu Otago Settlers Museum acting director Cam McCracken said yesterday that Prof Beattie was a leading historical researcher on the Asia-Pacific region, examining connections between environmental history, the history of science, landscape history and health history.
The Chinese Garden is administered through the museum and the Lan Yuan Advisory Board.
Prof Beattie would provide valuable expertise, and the garden would also benefit "from the many relationships he has in Dunedin, around New Zealand and globally", Mr McCracken said.