Education About Asia: Online Archives

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Facts About Asia

Facts About Asia: Rome and the Indian Subcontinent: A Forgotten Story of Impactful Economic Interactions?

Editor’s Note: Richard Davis’s AAS Key Issues in Asian Studies volume—Global India circa 100 CE: South Asia in Early World History—inspired me to incorporate part of his work and draw upon other sources as well in the following essay. Richard deserves the credit for stimulating my interest in this topic, but none of the blame for any errors I might have committed paraphrasing excerpts from Richard’s volume or working with additional sources. “The quest for India is a moving force of...

Kimono: The Global Adventures of a Fashion Icon

Clothing is a fun and accessible way to show students global connections. Tracing the odyssey by which a “simple” t-shirt was conceived, resourced, designed, woven, sewn, marketed and delivered reveals the far-reaching networks that keep us clothed. Fast fashion and modern technology has considerably sped up this process, but the global fashion industry is ancient. Most of humanity’s earliest overland and maritime trade routes were an attempt to get beautiful cloth and dyestuffs from one r...

Book Review

China and the Founding of the United States: The Influence of Traditional Chinese Civilization

China and the Founding of the United States The Influence of Traditional Chinese Civilization By Dave Xueliang Wang Lanham, Lexington Books, 2021 365 Pages, ISBN 978: 1793644350, Hardcover Reviewed by Peter K. Frost “The mere thought of Chinese cultural influence on the founding of the United States,” Dave Wang’s states in his very first sentence in this quite extraordinary book, “is unimaginable to some.” The rest of the book is dedicated to combat what he considers “misconcep...

Essay

Japan’s Impact on World History

Many of us might find it hard to imagine Japan having a big impact on twentieth century world history. How could a nation smaller than the state of California, and dwarfed by its much larger neighbor China, possibly be a big player? Hopefully, the fact that Japan has the world’s eleventh-largest population and is now the world’s third-biggest economy may explain why Japan has had at least two different kinds of impacts on world history, each of which was a major influence in its own par...

Essay

Sisters and Enemies: A True Story of Two Sisters

They are two sisters born and raised in China’s southeastern coastal city of Fuzhou in Fujian Province. In a family that claims the last emperor’s tutor, Chen Baochen, as one of its ancestors, the girls had the privilege of traditional tutoring at home, in addition to their missionary school education—modern and bilingual—and had dreams as big as the world. The older sister, Jun, wanted to be a teacher, and the younger one, Hong, wanted to be a “big doctor”—in her own words—to ge...

Opposition to Chinese Exclusion (1850-1902)

In 1849, thousands of Chinese migrants arrived in California to take part in the Gold Rush. In December 1849, a huiguan, or Chinese mutual-aid society, was established in San Francisco to help the new immigrants adjust to life in America. The huiguan, which were organized and led by the local Chinese merchant community, helped recent Chinese immigrants find jobs and acquire accommodation. They also acted as post offices, enabling immigrants to send and receive letters, and they provided a place ...

Japan Meets Russia

Japanese, Ainu and Russians, 1702–1792 Most people today think of the Russo–Japanese War (1904–1905) as the first time Russians and Japanese came into conflict in Asia. Yet in fact, by 1904 they had been viewing each other as imperial rivals for over a century. Edo Period (1600–1868) Japan was keenly interested in the world beyond its borders. Indeed, despite the persistence of the sakoku (closed country) narrative in the popular imagination, Japan was anything but secluded during this ...

Variolation to Vaccine: Smallpox Inoculation Travels East to West and Back Again

The history of the inoculation process itself might help shed light on the roots of controversies we are facing today. In the spring of 1721, England struggled in the grip of a deadly smallpox epidemic. Mandated shutdowns affected businesses, schools, and social venues, health care services were overwhelmed, and the newspapers reported alarming death tolls. Doctors in London seized the opportunity to introduce the public to the concept of inoculation, which had long been practiced in Asia and th...

The “First Daughter” in Asia: Alice Roosevelt’s 1905 Trip

Adventure, romance and royalty, political intrigue. The 1905 diplomatic mission undertaken by Alice Roosevelt and others through Asia had it all, the uniquely personal combined with significant events on the world stage. Alice and her travel companions were witnesses to, and occasionally even participants in, incidents and decisions that affected the complicated diplomacy of that pivotal year. Fortunately for us today, the Smithsonian Institution has produced a website that includes two chapters...

Knocking on China’s Door: The First Protestant Mission

China’s “closed-door” policy, upended by the Opium Wars of 1839–1842 and 1856–1860, safeguarded the Middle Kingdom from unwanted advances by the West. A deep-seated suspicion of foreign infiltration—cultural, political, and economic—was augmented by the arrogance of China’s ruling class, who insisted on China’s superiority in the world arena. Western aggression of the 1800s forced China to open up trade with other nations and led to the eventual demise of the Qing dynasty. When...

Teaching Resources Essay

Reacting to the Past: Teaching Asian and World History through Role-Playing Games

Teaching world history as a survey course is difficult for both faculty and students: the course requires a temporal and geographical scope that is often beyond individual faculty’s expertise, and for a variety of reasons, most American students, unless they have a love of world history or possibly intend to major in history, have either low level of knowledge in history or, are historically illiterate.1 Although most states require high school students to take some form of world or American h...

Feature Article

The Act of Constructing Memory at Cambodia’s Bophana Center

In a quiet Cambodian village in the province of Battambang, Heng Kuylang hacks a long bamboo sapling with a machete while reflecting on her decades of marriage to a man she has never loved. Like countless Cambodians who came of age between 1975 and 1979, Heng and her husband were forced to marry each other under Pol Pot’s genocidal Khmer Rouge regime, a violent and dystopian attempt to end capitalism and rebuild a new society free of Western influences. Approximately one in four Cambodians die...

Feature Article

Kūkai in China, What He Studied and Brought Back to Japan

The Japanese Buddhist priest Kūkai (774–835 CE) continues to be one of the most popular historical figures to persist in imagination and images around Japan. For introducing Shingon esoteric Buddhism into his country in the early Heian period (794–1184), the emperor awarded him the posthumous title Kōbō Daishi, literally “Great Master Who Propagated the Dharma.” Yet far from this being the extent of his accomplishments, Kūkai also exerted major influences on the development of Japane...

Feature Article

Beyond the Sinosphere in Early Japan: Nara and the Silk Roads

A startling archeological discovery in 2009, near the ruins of the Heijō Palace in Nara: nineteen dark green shards, later determined to be ceramics produced during the Abbasid Caliphate in present-day Iraq. The shards were originally from a jar, perhaps used to carry spices or dates; a wooden tablet found nearby records the date as 768 CE. How might such an object have found its way to the Japanese archipelago, some 5,000 miles away, over 1,000 years ago? Anyone traveling with ceramics, even f...

Feature Article

Objects of Fascination: Encountering Six Dynasties China through Material Culture

Material culture—images, built spaces, and objects—can open extraordinary windows into the past. This is especially true when exploring China’s Six Dynasties period (220–589 CE). The Six Dynasties was a time of fragmentation. In the south, there was a rapid succession of dynasties while, in the north, invading nomads competed with Chinese in establishing kingdoms and dynasties. Though often remembered as a time of warfare and disruption, material culture shows that it was also a time of ...

Feature Article

China Versus the Barbarians: The First Century of Han-Xiongnu Relations

The Han–Xiongnu relationship is especially important in world history because it is the first time a major steppe power and a major agriculturalist civilization had extensive contact and conflict with each other. Before the Huns, before the Mongols, there were the Xiongnu.

Feature Article

Hagia Sophia: Bridge Across Time

Istanbul links Asia with Europe. The city is situated on both sides of the Bosphorus, the narrow waterway that separates the two continents. It is roughly 31 kilometers/19.3 miles in length and less than 1 kilometer/ 0.6 miles wide. For millennia, boats have routinely ferried wayfarers across the divide, as they still do today. In the late twentieth century, the city bridged this intercontinental divide. The Bosphorus Bridge opened in 1973, followed by the Conqueror’s Bridge in 1988, named aft...

Essay

Rhoads Murphey, Eurasia, and World History

Assessing the value of a work created by as renowned a historian as Rhoads Murphey is certainly intimidating. This is made all the more so considering his experience in China during World War II as an ambulance driver (Murphey was a conscientious objector) and his later service as executive director of the Association for Asian Studies and editor of the Journal of Asian Studies.1 This reviewer will, however, do his best, in part hedging his bets by focusing on the question of assigning “The Sh...

Essay

Eurasia and the End of History

One of the difficulties of the world history curriculum, whether in high school or in college, is that by its very nature it requires presenting students with grand and sweeping statements about the past. Even at the college level, teachers of world history stand up in front of a group of freshmen, many of whom are taking the course to fulfill some general education requirement (and are perhaps not that enthused about being in the class) and who may not have taken world history in any meaningful...

Essay

The Shape of the World

As a secondary world history educator, connecting past events with the lives of my students is a constant challenge. As a teacher who began my career thinking that an overhead projector represented the zenith of educational technology, I hoped that the emergence of the internet as a tool for learning would make demonstrating connections a mere click away. Unfortunately, this has not been the case. I have a number of students who are experts on K-pop but have no idea why the United States has suc...

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