Education About Asia

(culture, history, art, marriage, etc...)

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Book Review, Resources

Bamboo People

BY MITALI PERKINS WATERTOWN, MASSACHUSETTS:  CHARLESBRIDGE PUBLISHING, 2010 272 PAGES, ISBN-10: 1580893287, HARDBACK Bamboo People is a coming-of-age story about two teenage boys caught up in the Burmese government’s brutal regime and its systematic repression of ethnic minority groups. The story touches upon each boy’s struggle to maintain a sense of morality, identity, and compassion in a world filled with cruelty and injustice. It is a tale that addresses current conditions of human r...

Feature Article

The Politics of the Thai Table: Food, Manners, Values

Many readers have probably wandered into a Thai restaurant somewhere in North America or Western Europe, ordered a plate of pad thai, and scooped it up with a fork held in the right hand. (note 1) They have probably viewed the offerings on the menu somewhat nervously and then perhaps tried a few other dishes—as long as they were not too spicy. Mouths on fire, they have ended the meal with a comforting Thai dessert, often mango and sticky rice or a sweet pudding, and washed the whole thing down...

Feature Article

Making Sense of Vietnamese Cuisine

“Tell me what you eat, and I shall tell you who you are.” (Brillat-Savarine, a French gastronome) We live in an exciting culinary era. Food is not only extremely abundant in the West, but also more varied than ever before. Any Western metropolis features a huge array of ethnic restaurants from all corners of the earth, while the presence of Italian, Greek, Mexican, Chinese, Japanese, or Thai restaurants in most American towns is almost taken for granted. Chinese food is so common in A...

Feature Article

Exploring Indian Culture through Food

Food and Identity Food (Sanskrit— bhojana,“that which is to be enjoyed,” Hindi— khana, Tamil— shapad) presents a way to understand everyday Indian culture as well as the complexities of identity and interaction with other parts of the world that are both veiled and visible. In India today,with a growing economy due to liberalization and more consumption than ever in middle class life, food as something to be enjoyed and as part of Indian culture is a popular topic. From a 1960s food e...

Feature Article

Globalizing Asian Cuisines: From Eating for Strength to Culinary Cosmopolitanism —A Long History of Culinary Globalization

Visit a restaurant or home kitchen in America or Europe today, and you inevitably find a salt and pepper shaker on the table or by the stove. While salt is a physiological necessity for human beings, pepper is a culinary necessity with negligible nutritional value. Its origins as a cultural necessity for Western peoples lie in very ancient patterns of culinary globalization. In 30 BCE Rome, under Octavian, conquered the Ptolemaic kingdom of Egypt. For the next five centuries, annual fleets of ov...

Feature Article

Pizza In Japan

As a lover of onsen (hot springs), I often frequented them during my five-year sojourn in Japan. Once, I went to Lake Kawaguchi to enjoy the onsen and the view of Mount Fuji. Arriving in time for lunch, I asked the hotel receptionist for food suggestions. It must have been because I am Italian, or perhaps because the hotel could just sense I was researching Japanese pizza, that rather than recommending a noodle shop, she suggested the pizza at the Mt. Fuji Smoke House, which was located in a nea...

Feature Article

Who’s Afraid of Chop Suey?

The career of chop suey turns out to be a Cinderella story in reverse: chop suey is the ugly sister whose foot will not fit into the glass slipper. Chop suey rose from obscurity in the late nineteenth century to become one of America’s national dishes and one of the main ingredients in the spread of Chinese restaurants in North America during the years when Chinese families and entrepreneurs spread Chinese cookery outside China by adapting to new conditions and inventing new forms. By the end ...

Film Review Essay, Resources

More About Mizusawa

More About Mizusawa is the sequel to the critically acclaimed Can’t Go Native (2010), a personalized, anthropological history of Japan. Featuring the lifelong work of American anthropologist Keith Brown in northern Japan, this second DVD delivers the details and delights of ancient Japan and the connections to Japan’s modern culture. Most of the film takes place in a Japanese home, as Dr. Brown is interviewed by various American experts—no doubt well-heeled in Japanese culture and hist...

Feature Article

Understanding Cultural Perspectives through Greek and Hindu Theater

As educators, we are constantly being asked to diversify our teaching to broaden students’ knowledge about the world in which they live. But for many, teaching about other cultures can pose significant problems. Providing materials that students find accessible yet engaging— that helps them develop creative and critical thinking—is a challenge teachers must confront. One way to begin to overcome these struggles is to look to the primary sources available to us, connect them directly to the...

Feature Article

Prodigy of Taiwan, Diva of Asia: Teresa Teng

Teresa Teng (1953–1995) is the best-known and most beloved singer in the history of modern East Asia. Born on the island of Taiwan soon after it became the seat of the anti-Communist Republic of China (ROC), Teresa quickly emerged as a Mandarin pop sensation among overseas Chinese. In her early twenties, she proceeded to take Japan by storm as a surpassing singer of pensive Japanese ballads. By the end of the 1970s, in turn, her fame had spread far into the People’s Republic of China (PRC), ...

Feature Article

Familiar Story, Macbeth—New Context, Noh and Kurosawa’s Throne of Blood

This article explores the effects of Akira Kurosawa’s adoption of Noh conventions through an in depth analysis of Kumonosu-jō (Castle of the Spider’s Web, also known as Throne of Blood, ©1957 Toho Company), an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Traditional Japanese Noh theater is an enigma to many students in other countries. Discussing the influence of Noh on a Japanese film based on a well-known Western drama makes a connection with a culture that is unfamiliar to students who have n...

Feature Article

Asia, Shakespeare, and the World: Digital Resources for Teaching about Globalization

In the marooned rehearsal of a school play in an urban comedy, a stuttering student asks their drama coach if he could play Romeo. A young lady rolls her eyes and challenges her classmate: “What makes you think that you can play Romeo? You don’t have the looks, and you can’t even speak properly.” She is quick to point out that the other student, originally cast for the male lead, is eminently more qualified even if he cannot remember his lines: “Nick, on the other hand, looks like Leon...

Book Review, Resources

North Korean Posters: The David Heather Collection

DAVID HEATHER AND KOEN DE CEUSTER NEW YORK: PRESTELP UBLISHING, 2008 288 PAGES, ISBN: 978-3791339672, PAPERBACK Raw emotions, shockingly bright colors, and stylistically real design—if it weren’t for the subject matter, at first glance some students might believe they were thumbing through manga or a graphic novel. But a closer look at North Korean Posters, written by David Heather and Koen De Ceuster, reveals much more than fiction. Heather’s extensive collection of socialist-rea...

Book Review Essay, Resources

Routledge Handbook of Japanese Culture and Society

VICTORIA BESTOR, THEODOREC. BESTOR, AND AKIKO YAMAGATA, EDITORS NEW YORK: ROUTLEDGE, 2011 344 PAGES, ISBN: 978-0415436496, HARDCOVER Educators seeking a text to introduce their students to Japan will find the Routledge Handbook of Japanese Culture and Society unparalleled in both breadth and depth. The Handbook includes twenty-two chapters from leading scholars of Japan that cover an amazing range of topics, including Japanese language and politics, religion, law, architecture, food, pop cu...

Resources, Teaching Resources Essay

Teaching Korean Culture and History through Korean Literature

“What am I looking for? Soul, my blind soul, endlessly darting like children at play by the river, answer me: where am I going?” (note 1) Written in response to Japan’s occupation of Korea (1910–1945), these lines from nationalist writer Yi Sanghwa’s poem convey a deep sense of desperation and uncertainty. In 1910, Japan annexed Korea and set up a colonial government that would remain in power for thirty-five years. Yi’s poem expresses the alienation Koreans endured bec...

Feature Article

Languages as a Key to Understanding Afghanistan’s Cultures

The 2004 constitution of Afghanistan stipulates that two Indo-Iranian languages—Pashto and Dari (the official Afghan term for the language known elsewhere as Farsi, Persian, and Tajiki)—shall be recognized as the “two official languages of the state,” while in those “areas where the majority of the people speak in any one of Uzbeki, Turkmani, Pachaie, Nuristani, Baluchi, or Pamiri languages,” these languages “shall be the third official languages.” This secondary official status ...

Online Supplement

Viewing China: Observations of China’s Cultural Landscapes

Twenty-nine photos accompany this article Most Americans lack accurate mental images of what China looks like. For example, geography textbooks often present students with a limited range of Chinese images such as terraced rice fields, a modern city skyline, or historical landscapes such as the Forbidden City or the Great Wall. As a result, Americans have an extremely limited, often inaccurate, perception of the structures in China’s everyday built environment. Many Westerners have difficulty...

Book Review, Resources

Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity

BY KATHERINE BOO NEW YORK: RANDOMHOUSE, 2012 288 PAGES, ISBN: 978-1400067558, HARDBACK At the 2012 University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Asia Conference, keynote speaker Professor Yasmeen Mohiuddin concluded that India’s greatest challenge in the future is to spread its concentrated wealth among more of its citizens. Katherine Boo’s nonfiction book, Behind the Beautiful Forevers, portrays that challenge in heart-wrenching detail. This is an excellent read for high school and college stud...

Book Review, Resources

Things Chinese: Antiques, Crafts, Collectibles

BY RONALD KNAPP TUTTLE PUBLISHING, 2011 144 PAGES, ISBN: 978-0804841870, HARDCOVER Defining culture through a collection of objects is a challenging task. How are history, aesthetics, technology, and belief systems revealed in a sampling of material artifacts? How many and what objects are required to tell such a story? In a handsomely designed compendium of things Chinese, cultural geographer Ronald G. Knapp has selected and explained sixty items that together exhibit a distinct sense of ...

Resources, Teaching Resources Essay

Engaging Inner-City Students in East Asian Studies: Martial Arts, Warriors, and Gender

For the past two years, I have taught high school students from urban schools in Chicago that were targeted by the University of Illinois at Chicago as a part of the Transforming Roadblocks into Opportunities (TRiO)Academic Support Program. Students who come from low-income families, families with no college graduates, or who are individuals with learning disabilities can participate in the program and may bring their brothers and sisters. My students are African-American and Hispanic, and the h...