Education About Asia: Online Archives

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Book Review Essay, Resources

Ghosts of Gold Mountain: The Epic Story of the Chinese Who Built the Transcontinental Railroad

The meeting of two huge locomotives on May 10, 1869, of the Central Pacific and Union Pacific Railways at Promontory Point in Utah is one of the most notable events in American history. For the first time, the United States was connected by rail from coast to coast and the journey from New York to San Francico, which before would have taken many grueling months, could now be comfortably completed in less than a week. Fortunately, for all those involved in the construction of the transcontinental...

Book Review Essay, Resources

Taiwan Nation-State or Province? (Seventh Edition)

For reasons both good and bad, 2020 has perhaps been a banner year for Taiwan in terms of increased global identification and international acknowledgment of its contributions and plight against the People’s Republic of China (PRC). In January 2020, President Tsai Ingwen, a member of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), was reelected to a second term, winning an unprecedented eight million-plus votes over her challenger, Nationalist Party (KMT) candidate Han Kuo-yu. Between Tsai’s elector...

Book Review Essay, Resources

A Brief History of Korea: Isolation, War, Despotism, and Revival: The Fascinating Story of a Resilient but Divided People

Michael Seth of James Madison University has a great deal of experience writing textbooks. His A Concise History of Korea: From the Neolithic to the Nineteenth Century was first published in 2006. It was revised and broken into two volumes: A Concise History of Modern Korea: From the Late Nineteenth Century to the Present (2009) and A History of Korea: From Antiquity to the Present (2010). Those volumes, published by Rowman & Littlefield, are still in print. In addition, Seth recently published ...

Book Review Essay, Resources

A Christian in the Land of the Gods: Journey of Faith In Japan

Joanna Reed Shelton’s recent book, A Christian in the Land of the Gods, is a beautifully written biography of her great-grandfather, the Reverend Thomas Theron Alexander (1850–1902), and her great-grandmother, Emma Edwina Alexander (1855–1937), who served as Presbyterian missionaries and teachers in Japan from 1877 to 1902. The value of this work is enhanced by the author’s in-depth analysis of the great difficulties foreign missionaries and teachers had in introducing Christianity into ...

Book Review Essay, Feature Article

The Sorrow of the Things They Carried: The American War in Việt Nam and Stories Told by Combat Soldiers from Both Sides

Bao Ninh’s (b. 1952) The Sorrow of War: A Novel of North Vietnam (1990) and Tim O’Brien’s (b. 1946) The Things They Carried (1990) are Việt Nam classics that depict traumatic memories of war veterans. These two novels bring the reader into communion with the enormous weight of sorrow that resulted from fighting in a devastating war. The Things They Carried, a semi-autobiographical novel that reads like a collection of short stories, is one of the finest and most widely read books about t...

Book Review Essay, Resources

The Weight of Our Sky

The Weight of Our Sky By Hanna Alkaf New York: Simon & Schuster, 2019 288 pages, ISBN 978-1534426085, Hardcover Reviewed by Zoë McLaughlin The Weight of Our Sky by Hanna Alkaf centers on Melati, a Malaysian schoolgirl who is a fan of the Beatles and loves going to the cinema with her best friend. But one thing sets Melati apart: she believes she has a djinn inside of her, a creature out of Islamic mythology who regularly shows her scenes of death and pain, compelling her to count and t...

Book Review Essay, Feature Article

Franklin R. Buchanan Prize Book Review Essay

An Introduction to Chinese Poetry: From the Canon of Poetry to the Lyrics of the Song Dynasty Harvard East Asian Monographs (Book 408) Cambridge: Harvard University Asia Center, 2018 496 pages, ISBN: 978-0674983885, Paperback Michael Fuller’s An Introduction to Chinese Poetry: From the Canon of Poetry to the Lyrics of the Song Dynasty is a complete joy to read. Winner of the Franklin R. Buchanan Prize for Curricular Materials, Fuller’s volume has achieved recognition as a pedagogical wo...

Book Review Essay, Feature Article

Planting the seeds of Wild Mustard: Reading Vietnamese Short Stories in the Study of Asian History and Religion

Wild Mustard: New Voices from Vietnam is a collection of contemporary short stories, translated into English and edited by Charles Waugh, Nguyen Lien, and Van Gia (Curbstone Books/Northwestern, 2017). I have used the book in two college courses on the history of Asian religions. This essay primarily focuses on using “Sleeping in the Lotus Flowers,” a story included in the book, in the classroom. There is also contextual content on Vietnamese culture and religion that should be helpful for in...

Book Review Essay, Resources

Key Issues in Asian Studies: “Indonesia: History, Heritage, Culture”

With her contribution to the Key Issues in Asian Studies series—INDONESIA: History, Heritage, Culture— Kathleen M. Adams has maintained and even enhanced its well-established reputation for quality. Writing a brief yet comprehensive book is challenging because specialists must restrain themselves from delving too far into their area of expertise. Instead of presenting an in-depth look at the specific, they must focus on engaging intelligent but uninformed readers so they can grasp the basics...

Book Review Essay, Resources

Peeling The Onion Stories: “China in Family Photographs: A People’s History of Revolution and Everyday Life”

Asked to write a review of China in Family Photographs, I quickly got caught up in the task. Using stories from a series begun in 1996, Ed Krebs and Professor Hanchao Lu translate the tales based on the pictures that accompany the text. They also wrote an introduction to each piece, setting it in context. My reaction was positive, even enthusiastic. I’d call the approach of our two authors ”onion stories.” They are layered. One way is to take the subject of the story and peel back that per...

Book Review Essay

To Live (Revisited)

Editor’s Note: In the winter 2003 issue of EAA (vol. 8, no. 3), To Live was extensively featured with reviews of the novel and film adaptation as well as an interview with the novel’s author, Yu Hua. The significant success of the novel and film warrants reintroducing To Live to new readers. To Live (Revisited) By Yu Hua New York: Anchor Books, 2003 (Originally published in 1993) 256 pages, ISBN: 978-1400031863, Paperback Reviewed by Charles Newell Since its publication, Yu Hua...

Book Review Essay

The Fourth String: A Memoir of Sensei and Me

A young native English speaker goes to Japan to earn money to pay her debts. This is not an unusual beginning for the “foreigner discovers Japan” memoir. But shortly after Janet Pocorobba settles into her new life, it takes a surprising turn when a friend points out an ad in an English-language publication: “Free lesson in shamisen and singing! Take something home with you from your stay in Japan!” (60). In September 1996, Pocorobba responds to that ad and meets Sensei, as she calls the...

Book Review Essay

Contemporary Chinese Short-Short Stories: A Parallel Text. Reviewed by Hui Faye Xiao

Translated and edited by Aili Mu with Mike Smith New York: Columbia University Press, 2017 528 pages, ISBN: 978-0231181532, Paperback Short-short story (xiao xiaoshuo or weixing xiaoshuo in Chinese, normally within the range of 800–1,000 words) has been a well-received literary genre among Chinese readers for decades. It revitalizes and interweaves several important threads in Chinese literary and cultural legacies: the classical genres of Tang chuanqi (romance), Song huaben (oral fiction),...

Book Review Essay

A Brief History of Indonesia: Sultans, Spices, and Tsunamis The Incredible Story of Southeast Asia’s Largest Nation. Reviewed by Paul A. Rodell

By Tim Hannigan Tokyo: Tuttle Publishing, 2015 288 pages, ISBN: 978-0804844765, Paperback Reviewed by Paul A. Rodell When planning my fall 2017 Modern Southeast Asia course, an introductory survey intended for undergraduates with no prior background, I decided to explore new textbook options. On a whim, I looked through Tim Hannigan’s A Brief History of Indonesia and was immediately taken with this highly accessible volume with its decent font size for easy reading and even a centerpie...

Book Review Essay

Pachinko

By Min Jin Lee New York: Grand Central Publishing, 2017 512 pages, ISBN: 978-1455563920, Paperback Reviewed by Charles Newell Pachinko, a game of chance not skill, is a rather curious Japanese amusement. It can best be described as a combination of pinball and a slot machine. Players purchase small silver balls that they drop or launch into the vertical pachinko machine. The balls bounce off pins and bumpers, and players hope the balls land in cups or slots that will win them prizes or m...

Book Review Essay

Understanding China through Comics, Volume 2 Division to Unification in Imperial China: The Three Kingdoms to the Tang Dynasty (220–907)

By Jing Liu Albany: Stone Bridge Press, 2016 168 Pages, ISBN: 978-1611720303, Paperback Reviewed by Karl R. Neumann The classic Romance of the Three Kingdoms opens with the famous line, “Anything long divided will surely unite, and anything long united will surely divide.” This aphorism aptly summarizes the historical thread that winds its way through the second volume of Jing Liu’s series Understanding China through Comics. In just under 150 pages, Liu deftly navigates the ebb and...

Book Review Essay

China in the 21st Century What Everyone Needs to Know. Reviewed by Karen Kane

By Jeffrey N. Wasserstrom and Maura Elizabeth Cunningham New York: Oxford University Press, 2018 240 pages, ISBN: 978-0190659080, Paperback Reviewed by Karen Kane Jeffrey Wasserstrom, Professor of History at the University of California, Irvine, first published China in the 21st Century: What Everyone Needs to Know in 2010. In that year, China was still advertising the mascots of the 2008 Olympics and crowds were lining up to be photographed at the Bird’s Nest Stadium. Hu Jintao held th...

Book Review Essay

A Village with My Name: A Family History of China’s Opening to the World. Reviewed by Kristin Stapleton

To plunge readers into the thick of life at some historical period, memoirs and other personal accounts can’t be beat. A book such as The Diary of Anne Frank presents history in a fully embodied way, combining details of material conditions with an avenue into the consciousness of the writer or subject. The intimacy and immediacy of diaries and memoirs give them a power that can be used to stimulate interest in a very unfamiliar past. In this way, Scott Tong’s family history is well-suited t...

Book Review Essay, Online Supplement

Down and Out in Late Meiji Japan

BY JAMES L. HUFFMAN HONOLULU: UNIVERSITY Of HAWAI'I PRESS, 2018 362 PAGES, ISBN 978-0824872915, HARDCOVER Reviewed by Daniel A. Métraux Author James L. Huffman begins this study of the daily lives of Japan’s massive impoverished population around the turn of the last century by recounting an epigram he found on the wall of an old slave castle in Africa that said: “until the lion has his historian the hunter will always be the hero.” Huffman’s point is that no history of Japan’...

Book Review Essay, Online Supplement

The Entrepreneur Who Built Modern Japan: Shibusawa Eiichi

Shibusawa Eiichi BY SHIMADA MASAKAZU TRANSlATED BY PAUL NARUM TOKYO: JAPAN PUBlISHING INdUSTRY FOUNDATION FOR CULTURE, 2017 196 PAGES, ISBN 978-4916055798, HARDCOVER Reviewed by John H. Sagers Shibusawa Eiichi (1840–1931) was one of Japan’s most famous and prolific entrepreneurs, who launched nearly 500 business enterprises–including the dai-Ichi Bank, Oji Paper, Sapporo Beer, and Tokyo gas. living ninety-one years during Japan’s transition from the world of the samurai under...

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