Education About Asia

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

NOTE: Archive articles may be downloaded and reproduced for personal or classroom use only.

Online Supplement

Remembrance: Dissident Vietnamese Poet Nguyen Chi Thien

We would like to thank Dan Duffy, editor and publisher of the Việt Nam Literature Project, for providing this tribute to Nguyen Chi Thien, an outstanding twentieth-century Vietnamese poet who recently died. What follows is a short essay about Thien accompanied by examples of his poetry. My Mother My mother on anniversaries or festival days is wont to put her hands together and pray for a long time Her old saffron dress has somewhat faded But I would see her take it out for the occas...

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 Essay, Resources

Waxen Wings: The Acta Koreana Anthology of Short Fiction from Korea

BRUCE FULTON, EDITOR ST. PAUL, MINNESOTA, KORYO PRESS, 2011 250 PAGES, ISBN: 978-1597432030, PAPERBACK As a teacher of world literature to high school seniors, I have experimented with many works in translation, attempting to introduce unfamiliar cultures through story. When the references are too vague or the background too intimidating, students close the book before they give the literature (and sometimes the culture) a chance. That is why Waxen Wings is a welcome work. While Korean reader...

Resources, Teaching Resources Essay

The Wheelwright and the Butcher: Master Zhuang’s Recipe for Mindful Living

Some years ago, I was taking a stroll through a museum in the town of Tainan, the old capital of the island of Taiwan. In one room, I came across a large cart wheel carved out of solid wood (see photo). It was about five feet in diameter and consisted of three separate pieces joined together. Most people probably would not have been overly excited to see such a mundane artifact, but I was immediately struck by this wheel because it answered a question that had long rattled at the back of my mind...

Online Supplement

Emily of Emerald Hill: A Reaffirmation of Peranakan Culture

Stella Kon’s Emily of Emerald Hill is one of Singapore’s most enduring plays. Written in English and interspersed with Singlish (colloquially spoken English) expressions, this one-woman play recounts Emily’s life in the 1950s. Through her memories, the audience learns about the life, culture, and traditions of the Peranakans, a group of overseas Chinese long-resident in Penang and Malacca, who adopted Malay language and culture. Known variously as Babas, Straits Chinese, Melaka Men, and Pe...

Feature Article

The Trickster in Japanese Art

A story: Once upon a time, a priest at a temple called Morinji was about to hang a tea kettle over the fire when it suddenly sprouted a head, tail, and feet. The priest called in his novices to see the sight, and everyone stood aghast as the furry tea kettle scampered about the room. The monks attempted to catch it, but the kettle flew about the room, just out of reach. Finally, someone managed to snatch the little kettle and thrust it into a box. The kettle had turned into tanuki, or rather, a ...

Feature Article

Bringing Students into the World: Asia in the World Literature Classroom

The term Weltliteratur (world literature) was first coined by German author Johann Wilhelm von Goethe in the late 1820s. Writing during a period of great political upheaval in Europe, he hopefully noted: There has been talk for some time of a general world literature, and indeed not without justice. For the nations, after they had been thrown into confusion by the most terrible wars [ie, the Napoleonic Wars], could not return to their independent life again without noticing that they had uncon...

Book Review Essay, Resources

Between the Floating Mist: Poems of Ryokan, and Lotus Moon: The Poetry of Rengetsu

Between the Floating Mist Poems of Ryōkan TRANSLATED BY DENNIS MALONEY AND HIDEO SHIRO BUFFALO, NY: WHITE PINE PRESS, 2009 96 PAGES, ISBN 978-1935210054, PAPERBACK Lotus Moon The Poetry of Rengetsu TRANSLATED BY JOHN STEVENS BUFFALO, NY: WHITEPINEPRESS, 2005 130 PAGES, ISBN 978-1893996366, PAPERBACK In addition to its importance as a major world religion, Buddhism has produced one of the longest-running, most multifaceted, and brilliantly textured literary culture...

Resources, Teaching Resources Essay

Archive of Turkish Oral Narrative: An Introduction

Editor’s Note: Readers can visit the fall online supplement to directly access the links in the chronological order that they appear in the Notes section. The Archive of Turkish Oral Narrative (ATON) (http://aton.ttu.edu) is located at Texas Tech University. The ATON website currently contains fifteen million words arranged in documents of varying lengths, mostly in PDF format. There are also over forty hours’ worth of music files in MP3 format. The ATON website’s main page offer links t...

Online Supplement

Internet Links to accompany the Teaching Resources Essay “Archive of Turkish Oral Narrative: An Introduction”

Editor’s Note: See the print article in EAA vol. 18: 2 for more information about the archive and the links below. 1. “Alpamysh: Central Asian Identity under Russian Rule” http://tiny.cc/q7pc1w In this extensive work written in 1989, HB Paksoy writes about Alpamysh, an ornate Turkish oral history (or dastan) set mostly in verse. Paksoy describes the importance of Alpamysh as a repository of Turkish history and culture and the struggle of Central Asians to preserve it in the wake o...

Book Review Essay, Resources

Bing: From Farmer’s Son to Magistrate in Han China

In a recently published study, Paul R. Goldin takes stock of the advances and limitations of the study of early China in Canada and the United States. Acknowledging the seminal contributions of earlier scholars in the field, he also points out liabilities that arise from the way in which North American scholars have shaped our understanding of early Chinese culture. Especially misleading, according to Goldin, is the widespread notion that “there was no room in early China for named individual ...

Resources, Teaching Resources Essay

The Secret History of the Mongols

Four English translations are now available of The Secret History of the Mongols, a thirteenth-century Mongolian epic that recounts the biography of Genghis Khan.(note 1) Beginning with his mythological ancestors, it narrates his miraculous birth, the assassination of his father, his humble childhood and adolescent adventures, the gradual unification of the Mongolian tribes, his recognition as their supreme leader, and his death. A short section, more than likely added later to the end of the ...

Book Review, Resources

Sources of Vietnamese Tradition

For more than half a century students and academicians have greatly profited from the Columbia series on Sources of various Asian traditions. These include edited volumes on Japan, India, China, and Korea as well as newer editions and abridged volumes. Sources of Vietnamese Tradition, is a welcome addition to the series. In this volume, the editors masterfully created a book that is indispensable for any serious student or teacher of Việt Nam. The book includes more than 200 texts that span th...

Resources, Teaching Resources Essay

The Oratory of Khans and Queens: Reading The Secret History of the Mongols Rhetorically

Four English translations are now available of The Secret History of the Mongols, a thirteenth-century Mongolian epic that recounts the biography of Genghis Khan. (note 1) Beginning with his mythological ancestors, it narrates his miraculous birth, the assassination of his father, his humble childhood and adolescent adventures, the gradual unification of the Mongolian tribes, his recognition as their supreme leader, and his death. A short section, more than likely added later to the end of the ...

Book Review Essay, Resources

The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon: The Diary of a Courtesan in Tenth Century Japan

Pleasant Things A slim book rests lightly in one’s hand The apricot curving lips of the dust jacket woman Tile-red rectangle with white lettering Red-tile endpapers’ pattern of faint white dots Soft leaves of text A few shiny pages with golden clouds, dark green tatami, and pines Things that are Fitting A 2011 edition of The Pillow Book pleasant to sight and touch A book whose origin is a “bundle of paper” given by an Empress to a Court Lady A celebratio...

Book Review Essay, Resources

The Great Civilized Conversation: Education for a World Community

For over half a century, Wm. Theodore de Bary has worked as an educator engaged in the debate about the content and style of university education in the decades after the war, and as a researcher focusing on East Asian intellectual and religious traditions. At Columbia University, where he earned both his undergraduate and graduate degrees, he developed the University’s Oriental Humanities and Oriental Civilization courses, which came to parallel Columbia’s already well-established Contempor...

Book Review, Resources

The Orphan Master’s Son: A Novel

  What is it like to live in North Korea? Satellite images and the testimony of escapees from this isolated, brutal dictatorship have opened up knothole glimpses of the oppression and extreme privation in which North Koreans exist. Through these sources, we know that beatings, torture, starvation, and hard labor are the fates of the thousands of citizens imprisoned in brutal prison camps. Vital as accounts such as Escape from Camp 14 in documenting these human rights abuses are, they mak...

Online Supplement

Discussion Questions and Bibliography for “Visions of the Sea in Early Japanese Literature”

The following questions can lead students into discussion and deeper analysis if they are given primary texts, such as plays or chapters from The Tale of Genji and/or The Tale of the Heike. 1. Questions of genre: In the West, we associate prose with factual accounts and poetry with the imaginary. What is gained or lost when the narratives The Tale of Genji and The Tale of the Heike interweave prose and poetry? Related bibliographic note: Translators need to address questions of genre, even...

Feature Article, Special Segment: Maritime Asia

Visions of the Sea in Early Japanese Literature

The sea has exerted a profound effect on virtually all Japanese culture including its literature. The six vignettes that follow are sketches drawn from a variety of texts and sources. Hopefully, they offer instructors and students some sense of the multileveled and diverse historical, political, mythical, and aesthetic impact of the ocean on people from long ago who visited and lived in the archipelago. The historical chronicles also include myths, poetry, and intense feelings. Early Japanese re...

Columns, Key Issues in Asian Studies, Resources

Japanese Literature: From Murasaki to Murakami

  In recent years, interest in Japan has focused on the nation’s post-Fukushima social and economic circumstances, dire demographic forecasts, and the often-strained relations with its East Asian neighbors. In strong contrast is the powerful allure of Japanese entertainment— media such as manga, anime, J-pop, and video games—that has been a dominant presence on the global pop culture marketplace. “Traditional Japan,” too, is alive and well, thanks to the staying power of its fa...