Education About Asia: Online Archives

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

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Feature Article

The Tale of the Heike and Japan’s Cultural Pivot to the Art of War

There are two main reasons to teach The Tale of the Heike, one literary and the other historical. Its subject matter, the Genpei War (1180–1185 CE), marked a pivot in social, cultural, and political life in Japan. This civil war ended four centuries of the Heian period (794–1185), characterized by the cultivated life described so beautifully in Murasaki Shikibu’s The Tale of Genji (c. 1000 CE). In Murasaki’s time, an aristocracy dominated society, linked by family ties with the emperor...

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...

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

Tang Dynasty Revolution and Poetry: Bai Juyi’s “Construction” of Yang Guifei

There are pivotal moments in world history when violence results in sweeping political and cultural change. For the West, two such moments are the fall of the Bastille and the fall of Troy. For East Asia, the destruction of the Chinese capital city, Chang’an, in 755 during the Tang Dynasty (618–907 CE), marked the end of a golden age. The causes of the French Revolution or the attack on Troy or this Chinese catastrophe are complex, and it may be human nature to understand the causes by crea...

Book Review Essay, Columns

Charting the Ends of the “Modern” Period Contemporary Japanese Literautre, An Anthology of Fiction, Film, and Other Writing Since 1945

Howard Hibbett’s Contemporary Japanese Literature, first published in 1977, was reissued in 2005, making this wellknown anthology again readily available. Except for the preface, the book is unchanged and provides a time-capsule of Japanese writing in the post-war period between 1945 and 1975. College or high school world literature teachers should own this book because the selections are highly readable and represent many canonical Japanese writers of the twentieth century. But teachers look...

Feature Article

A Tribute to John Hersey’s Hiroshima

This will be the sixtieth-year anniversary of one of the most remarkable books of American history, John Hersey’s Hiroshima, first published on August 31, 1946, in The New Yorker. In March 1946, William Shawn, managing editor of The New Yorker, called for an article focused on the immediate devastation in Hiroshima rather than on statistics or politics. John Hersey interviewed survivors for three weeks in May and decided to focus on suffering human beings rather than on destroyed buildings. He...

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