Education About Asia: Online Archives

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Feature Article

Reading after the Disaster: Japan’s Reaction to the 3/11 Events through Literature

It was a little after two o’clock in the afternoon on March 11, 2011, when a 9.1-magnitude earthquake shook the northeastern coast of Japan, the biggest earthquake ever recorded with modern techniques in the country. Within an hour, a tsunami reaching as high as forty meters in some areas hit the regions of Miyako, Iwate, and Tōhoku, wiping out and flooding everything on its trip inland. The earthquake, its aftershocks, and the strike of the waves damaged the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, ...

Feature Article

China: Harnessing the Waters

China is defined by its two great rivers. The Yellow and the Yangzi (Yangtze) Rivers flow from the Himalayas, known as the water tower of the world, for thousands of miles, all the way to the East China Sea. China’s national identity has been shaped by the struggle to control these rivers, which are prone to drought and flood. Fear and control are the great themes of life around these two rivers, and human efforts to cope with their unpredictability may have helped China form into the enormous...

Columns, Digital Asia, Resources

Water and the Environment in Asia

This new column will highlight digital resources related to Asia with an eye to how they might be useful in the classroom. Each issue will consider a different theme, and sources will be selected that are aligned to best develop that theme. In this issue, we examine present-day water security challenges in Asia. After pointing to some background sources, the emphasis below is on materials that might be useful in constructing teaching units around this potentially transnational and cross-discipli...

Resources, Teaching Resources Essay

Rain Gods and Rice Farmers in Rural Japan

In the mountains above the town of Chitose flowed a narrow stream. Clear, cold water zigzagged around trees and tumbled wildly over rocks before finally being corralled into cement-lined troughs that directed the water to the valley below, where it filled the rice paddies and then spilled into the Hozu River, and, flowing wild again, cascaded through the rocky gorge and into the city of Kyoto. A short hike up the mountain from my house on the edge of the paddies, the water tumbled over a twen...

Feature Article

Water, Tradition, and Innovation: Flowing through Japan’s Cultural History

Water, a gift from nature, is an essential part of our daily lives. People use water every day, everywhere, for everything—often without much consideration for its significance in terms of the larger social, cultural, historical, economic, and environmental implications for the twenty-first century. As an island nation, Japan has a deep connection with water in various ways, creating a cultural history where water and life go hand in hand. In Japan, water bridges past and present, tradition an...

Feature Article

China’s Water Challenges: National and Global Implications

China’s environmental challenges have received wide attention in recent years. A variety of disturbing images and stories from media outlets have fueled a pervasive image of China as an environmental wasteland, while expanding scholarship has inventoried China’s air, water, and land problems. Reasonable observers can disagree on the prescriptive responses necessary to address such challenges, but there seems little disagreement that a fundamental tension has existed between China’s breakne...

Feature Article

Mongolian Dzud: Threats to and Protection of Mongolia’s Herding Communities

In far western Mongolia, it hadn’t rained since July 2015. The cattle, goats, sheep, and camels that families rely on were growing thin, and as winter began to set in, herders were fearful that they might face a dzud, a severe kind of winter storm in which many animals would die. By November, the dzud’s heavy snowfall had begun, making it hard for the livestock to reach and eat the grass. Temperatures soon dropped below -50 degrees Celsius/-58 Fahrenheit, putting humans and livestock at risk...

Resources, Teaching Resources Essay

After Thirty Years, You Still Can’t Drink the Water

I first went to China in 1986 as a member of a group of fifteen professors of world history from West Virginia. Under a grant from the US Department of Education, all had to agree to increase our coverage of China and to produce modules that would be circulated to our West Virginia colleagues in the hopes that they would also expand their treatment of China. Agree? This was one of the biggest no-brainers of my career. Over the next thirty years, I’ve been to China an additional thirteen times...

Feature Article

How “Green” Is Japan?: Studying Environmental Issues in the Field

There is no shared definition of what makes a country, business, or person “green” or environmentally friendly. However, based upon its landscape, policies, technologies, and practices, Japan appears to be more eco-friendly than most nations. Approximately 70 percent of Japan is forested—a much higher percentage than other countries. It has a history of celebrating nature in the arts, from landscape gardens and flower arrangement to the haiku of Basho and anime of Hayao Miyazaki. (note 1) ...

Feature Article

Mapping “Made in China”: Tracing the Economic, Social, and Environmental Impacts of Global Trade

Editor’s Note: Links to related additional teaching resources are provided in the online supplement to this article. Few instructors can offer their students a field trip to China, but nearly every student comes into contact with products made in China every day. By tracing the routes that brought these products to them, students can learn a lot about the economics of global trade and the history and politics that affect the lives of people involved along the way. Online research and websit...

Online Supplement, Resources

Online Links for “Mapping ‘Made in China'”

Data Sources Information on water pollution in China and the United States’ harmonized tariff schedule: “China Pollution Map Database,” Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, last modified February 2, 2014, “About the Harmonized Tariff Schedule,” US International Trade Commission, accessed February 26, 2014, Working with Google Earth Instructions for the creation of a narrated tour in Google Earth and othe...

Feature Article

The New Mongolia: From Gold Rush to Climate Change

For decades, it was common for courses on East Asia to focus almost exclusively on China and Japan, with only an occasional nod to the existence of either Korea or Mongolia. And if Korea was little spoken of, Mongolia hardly seemed to exist at all. Today, of course, coverage of Korea has expanded somewhat, but Mongolia still remains the largely forgotten orphan of Asian Studies, something I hope to change through this essay. In fact, today’s Mongolia has emerged as a nation particularly linked...

Film Review Essay, Resources

The Films of Hayao Miyazaki: Shinto, Nature, and the Environment

The films of Hayao Miyazaki are some of the most popular in Japan and the rest of the world. Perhaps his most famous work, Spirited Away, is the highest-grossing domestic film in Japanese history. 1 It also won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature in 2003. Over the past two decades, the Walt Disney Company has reissued English-language versions of Miyazaki’s films with the voice talents of such famous actors as Patrick Stewart, Claire Danes, and Billy Bob Thornton. Often, these films ca...

Book Review, Resources

China’s Environmental Challenges

By JUDITH SHAPIRO MALDEN: POLITY PRESS, 2012 205 PAGES, ISBN 978-0745660912, PAPERBACK Reviewed by Andrew M. McGreevy Judith Shapiro is imminently qualified to address China’s environmental problems because she has spent years in China, is well-known for previous publications, and is a specialist in global environmental politics. The most significant feature of China’s Environmental Challenges is her multidisciplinary approach. Most of the book encompasses the time period after 1900, and...

Film Review Essay, Resources

Live Your Dream: The Taylor Anderson Story

Nearly 20,000 lives were lost in the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami on March 11, 2011. With such devastating losses, including over US $500 billion in property destruction, it is a challenge to sort out the many tributes to the many lives lost. However, Live Your Dream: The Taylor Anderson Story stands out as personal, reflective, honest, and richly filled with a sense of hope. While there are several YouTube, Facebook, and written remembrances of the lives lost in the quake (and subseq...

Online Supplement

The Indian Ocean Tsunami: The Global Response to a Natural Disaster

Just as the twentieth century is mainly remembered as an age of “total war” and conflicts of truly global proportions, so the twenty-first seems set to become the century of mega-catastrophes: the million-death earthquake, the $500 billion hurricane, the transcontinental pandemic. So far, none of these scenarios have come to pass, but instead, the new century has been witness to three disasters of epic proportions, even if they fall somewhat short of the aforementioned cataclysms: the Indian...

Feature Article

An Environmental Ethic in Chinese Landscape Painting

Landscape painting in Western art did not develop into an important category of painting until the seventeenth century. In contrast, landscape painting in China was already a prized art form by the ninth century. In fact, when Chinese art was systematically introduced to the West during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the prominence afforded nature—as opposed to humans— in Chinese art startled Western audiences. One reviewer of a pioneering exhibition of Chinese art at the British Mu...

Feature Article

Culinary Controversies: Shark Fin Soup and Sea Creatures in the Asian Studies Curriculum

In 2010, scuba diver Phil Tobin came across a shark carcass lying on the Ambon Harbor (Indonesia) ocean floor. The captured shark’s highly valued fins, the key ingredient in shark fin soup, had been sliced off by its captors; the less valuable and more cumbersome body had been thrown back into the ocean. Without fins the shark, unable to swim, had sunk and starved to death. This shark was one of millions de-finned each year in order to satisfy the appetites of predominately Chinese consumers. ...

Feature Article

Asia’s Turtle Crisis and Conservation: Environmental Education and Cultural Geography

Turtles are heavily exploited in Asia, not only for the pet trade, but also as a food source and for use in traditional Asian folk medicines. Along with habitat destruction, increased urbanization, and pollution, such over-exploitation is driving what conservationists are calling the Asian turtle crisis, a precipitous decline in Asian turtle populations. Currently, over half of Asia’s ninety turtle species are classified as endangered or critically endangered.1  While it is true that the life...

Feature Article

Fifty Years of Climate, Culture, and Landscape Change in the Sagarmatha (Mt. Everest) National Park, Nepal

Pema Temba Sherpa climbed steadily up the snow-covered accumulation of loose rock, or scree. His destination was a rock cairn—an arrangement of stones constituting a marker—constructed by some mountaineer or scientist long ago in a remote region of Nepal’s Sagarmatha (Mt. Everest) National Park in eastern Nepal. Even at nearly 19,685 feet, the world’s highest mountains rose majestically around him for thousands of feet more on all sides, and made him feel small and vulnerable....