Education About Asia

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

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

Book Review

A History of Thailand, 2nd Edition

BY CHRIS BAKER AND PASUK PHONGPAICHIT CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY PRESS, 2009 315 PAGES, ISBN 978-0-521-75915-1, PAPERBACK Reviewed by Timothy Hoare “History was invented for the nation-state. It has the tendency to imagine the false unity of a self-same national subject evolving through time.” In this opening sentence of A History of Thailand (Cambridge, 2009), authors Chris Baker and Pasuk Phongpaichit identify what is often amiss in our overall assumptions about political entities, i.e.,...

Feature Article

Dean Worcester’s Photographs and American Perceptions of the Philippines

When the US acquired its overseas colonies in the aftermath of the Spanish American War, photography quickly established itself as part of the colonial project. Photographs in magazines and newspapers brought the war home to American readers. Postcards and stereographs were popular consumer objects. Illustrated travel books, detailing the landscapes and peoples of the new colonies, were bestsellers. Photographs could provide visual evidence of the supposedly backward state of the colonies, whic...

Feature Article

America and the Philippines: Modern Civilization and City Planning

The Battle of Manila Bay in the Philippines on May 1, 1898, fundamentally changed the course of American history and America’s relationship with Southeast Asia. In the ensuing months, Spanish colonialism in the Philippines collapsed and was replaced by American sovereignty. As an upshot of this transition, the United States changed from being a republic based on the consent of the governed to, for the first time, being a ruler of a distant territory. Notably, too, its self-perception altered. ...

Feature Article

Spheres of Transaction in Thai Buddhism

If the diversity of religious experience and expression share anything, it is that they are both transactional: one offers something in order to receive something. Actions of sacrifice, prayer, devotional study, and even service are ultimately seeking a balance of some kind between self and other. But, while transaction in itself is universal, the manner in which transactions are carried out is particular, in that it is necessarily determined by a cultural context. Each one shapes the other: whe...

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...

Book Review Essay, Resources

East Asia Before the West: Five Centuries of Trade and Tribute

BY DAVID C. KANG NEW YORK: COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY PRESS, 2010 240 PAGES, ISBN: 978-0231153188, HARDBACK David C. Kang examines East Asia during a time when relations between centers of power were well established but before the Westphalian concepts of “states” and “countries” were established. Kang presents a detailed study of the politics and history of the region that challenges the Eurocentric assumptions so often accepted by teachers and students in the West; how power was exerted an...

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

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...

Resources, Web Gleanings

Website Resources: Asian Visual and Performing Arts–Part I

VISUAL ARTS Asia, General The Art of Asia URL: http://www.artsmia.org/art-of-asia/introduction/ The collections of Korean, Japanese, and Chinese works of art have been added to this site, produced by the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. From this introductory page, one can access the collections by culture,  period, or themes. There are thousands of objects, including 368 ukiyo-eand an extensive guide to Chinese ceramics. South and Southeast Asian Art URL: http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hi...

Film Review Essay, Resources

The Nine Lives of Norodom Sihanouk

Throughout Cambodia’s modern history, marked as it has been by drama and tragedy in almost equal measure, there has been one constant: the presence of Norodom Sihanouk in his multiple roles. He has been king twice; chief of state; prime minister several times; and most controversially, an associate of the Khmer Rouge, who took power under Pol Pot in 1975. Still alive today at the age of eighty-nine and enjoying the title of King Father, Sihanouk is one of international politics’ great surviv...

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...

Online Supplement

Educating Students about Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC)

Exposing students to APEC offers them opportunities to learn about a significant and innovative cooperative association of twenty-one member economies that collectively account for 45 percent of global population, land mass, economic product, and external trade. Its administrative structure is so innovative that it permits the People’s Republic of China, Hong Kong (as a Special Administrative Region of the PRC), and Taiwan (as Chinese Taipei) to cooperate as APEC member economies. The followin...

Resources, Web Gleanings

Website Resources: U.S., Asia, and the World: 1914–2012

ASIA, GENERAL American Economic Relations with Asia URL: http://bit.ly/SAfZBP In this article written by Marcus Noland for the Asian Economic Review in 2009, the author discusses the necessity of shared prosperity for Asia and the US. He looks at the current global financial crisis and long-term challenges. The Globalist URL: http://bit.ly/PU9qql There are few discussions on the Internet about Asia and Latin America. “Changing Asian and Latin American Relations” focuses on re...

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...

Feature Article

The U.S. as a Pacific Nation

America’s Pacific Presence On his inaugural visit to Asia as president in November 2009, Barack Obama declared himself “America’s first Pacific president” and the US a “Pacific nation.”(note 1) President Obama’s self-characterization, based no doubt on his unusual biography of having been born in Hawai`i and partly raised in Indonesia, is novel. Identifying the US as a Pacific nation, however, is a longstanding tradition, increasingly common today and one that resonates for many r...

Resources, Teaching Resources Essay

“Confucius in East Asia”: An Interview with “Key Issues” author, Jeffrey L. Richey

Confucius in East Asia introduces fundamental patterns of East Asian history, spirituality, society, and politics through the lens of Confucianism’s development and impact in the region. For millennia, no East Asian regime has governed independently of Confucian influence; and even when Confucius and his tradition have been criticized or condemned, as has often been the case during the past century or so, they have been conspicuously present in East Asian affairs. It is impossible to understan...

Resources, Teaching Resources Essay

“The Story of Viet Nam: From Prehistory to the Present”: An Interview with “Key Issues” Author, Shelton Woods

The Story of Việt Nam is an overview of Việt Nam’s history from the first days of village life along the Red River in the north to the rise of the modern mega metropolis of the south’s Hồ Chí Minh City. As the title suggests, the book is a tale—a narrative that is built around four themes: land and freedom, persistence of cultural values, shifting tides of global interests in Việt Nam, and the vital role Việt Nam will play in shaping the twenty-first century....

Resources, Web Gleanings

Website Resources: Asian Visual and Performing Arts, Part II

VISUAL ARTS ASIA, GENERAL Art of Asia Home Page URL: http://www.mfa.org/collections/asia The Museum of Fine Arts Boston has a noteworthy collection of Asian art. Their site has hundreds of images from the collection. The focus is Chinese and Japanese works of art, including paintings and prints. The images are easily accessible through the links at the bottom of the home page. Asia Contemporary Art Show URL: http://www.asiacontemporaryart.com/gallery/ Over fifty art galleries have...

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...