Education About Asia: Online Archives

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Essay

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...

Essay

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...

Essay

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...

Essay

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 ...

Essay

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.

Essay

The Longest Journey: The Peopling of the Americas

Migration is one of the most human stories. From the very beginnings of our species in Africa, the movement of populations from one region to another, the challenges and opportunities presented by new landscapes, and the encounters with other populations (or the strangeness of truly unpeopled places) have been among the primary threads running throughout our history. There are as many particular histories of migration as there are communities of people. Even for those groups whose traditions do ...

Essay

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...

Essay, Online Supplement, Resources

ASIA SHORTS: The Great Smog of China: An Interview with Anna L. Ahlers, Mette Halskov Hansen, and Rune Svarverud

The Great Smog of China: A Short Event History of Air Pollution traces Chinese air pollution events dating back to more than 2,000 years ago. Based on the authors’ fieldwork, interviews and text studies, the book offers a short and concise history of selected air pollution incidents that for varying reasons prompted different kinds of responses and forms of engagement in Chinese society. The three authors, from the disciplines of anthropology, China studies and political science, identify trac...

Essay, Resources

How to Teach and Learn about Afghanistan: A Digital Humanities Approach: Why Study Afghanistan?

We all know about Afghanistan, but how well do we understand it? Afghanistan is America’s longest war, and millions of children from military families are affected by it, but only 12 percent of students can find Afghanistan on a map. The US hopes to transition from military to soft power as a way to stabilize the region and end the war, but, with so little knowledge and thinking about the region, there is little hope of finding peace unless education in and about the region becomes a higher pr...

Essay, Resources

Introduction to Contemporary Korean Ceramic Artists

[caption id="attachment_10297" align="alignright" width="247"] Song il Geun is a sculptor and rice farmer in the rural Korean village where he grew up. his sculptures are mostly human figures with broad, exaggerated gestures that express unbounded emotion. this is his hand-built, multi-chambered wood kiln.[/caption] Mei-ling Hom is an artist and independent scholar. In 2007, she was awarded a Fulbright research grant to study and document contemporary Korean ceramics. She traveled for ten...

Essay, Resources

East Asian International Relations: Peaceful and Stable for Centuries

How did international relations function in East Asia from the fourteenth to the nineteenth centuries—that is, before the arrival of the Western colonial powers? We typically use European history and European ideas as the basis for thinking about world history and international relations. Ideas that emanated from the 1688 Peace of Westphalia include the independent sovereignty of each nation-state, the inherent equality of those nation-states, and “balance of power.” But, it may be that th...

Essay, Resources

Chinese Foreign Direct Investment: Looking Abroad from an Emerging Economy

Foreign direct investment (FDI) can occur when a firm either establishes operations or purchases a controlling interest in the business operations of a company in another country. Companies often engage in FDI for three straightforward reasons: to grow their sales, to expand their geographical market range, or to take advantage of the firm’s own assets (e.g., brand name, technologies). If a firm is to increase its revenue, domestic sales are often not enough, and the company is required to exp...

Essay, Resources

Using The Shambhala Anthology of Chinese Poetry in the Classroom

TRANSLATED ANDEDITED BY J. P. SEATON BOSTON: SHAMBHALA PUBLICATIONS, 2006 272 PAGES, ISBN: 978-1570628627, PAPERBACK Reviewed by Fay Beauchamp For The Shambhala Anthology of Chinese Poetry, Professor J.P. Seaton draws upon a lifetime of translating and teaching Chinese philosophical classics as well as off-beat poets who prefer as an artistic subject “a rat, with some scurry left in him” to “elegant dragons” (207). In his introduction and notes, Seaton’s high regard for teaching an...

Essay, Resources

Three New Volumes: Key Issues in Asian Studies

Editor’s note: Key Issues in Asian Studies (KIAS) is a series of booklets engaging major cultural and historical themes in the Asian experience. KIAS booklets serve as vital educational materials that are both accessible and affordable for classroom use. This series is particularly intended for teachers and undergraduates at two- and four-year colleges as well as high school students and secondary school teachers engaged in teaching Asian studies in a comparative framework. What follows are br...

Essay, Resources

Why Japan Matters

By Alejandro Echevarria Japan matters in the history classroom because its development as a modern country offers rich opportunities for comparison. Japan’s rapid change from a system with some characteristics of feudalism in the Tokugawa period to modernization in the Meiji period is unlike any other shift in world history. The economic, social, and political changes were so rapid that they destabilized the fabric of the nation and put them on the path toward conflict with the West...

Essay, Resources

Why Japan Matters

By Norman T. Masuda First Winner, Language Category, 2002 Japan has been in the news the past few months because of the natural and manmade disasters that have occurred in northeastern Japan. During the writing and broadcasting of the calamities that have struck the Japanese people, the news media pointed out the phenomenon of a population that waited patiently for food, water, and medical attention. Seeing and reading about the Japanese reaction to such devastation, one asks why this rea...

Essay, Resources

Advice to Students Choosing a Foreign Language: Go Asian

Editor's Note: The following essay, written by a China specialist who is quite in- terested in promoting the study of other languages, is meant to cause both you and your students to think reflectively about the relative importance of various languages. How and why would you or your students rearrange these rankings? Having been a college professor for more than three decades, I have come to expect that one or two students will ask—almost weekly—what language he or she should study in coll...