Education About Asia: Online Archives

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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

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 ...

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...

Feature Article

The Essentials: Seven Samurai

Kurosawa Akira’s Seven Samurai is a timeless masterpiece that has been widely recognized as the greatest foreign-language film ever made. The plot concerns a humble village hiring a band of samurai and protecting itself from pillage in war-ravaged sixteenth-century Japan. Since the wretchedness inflicted on the peasantry is evocative of all forms of human suffering, the honorable service conducted by the seven samurai takes on universal significance.

Feature Article

Sri Lanka in the Classroom

Editor’s Introduction: A Virgin Vote, a short film by director Udan Fernando, follows a Sri Lankan citizen voting for the first time in the country’s 2020 parliamentary elections after becoming stranded due to Sri Lanka’s COVID-19 lockdown. In the essay and short interview that follow, Fernando discusses A Virgin Vote and its production, as well as the ongoing political crisis in Sri Lanka. The basic information below provides context for readers unfamiliar with Sri Lanka and the...

Feature Article

The Essentials: Secret Love in Peach Blossom Land

Stan Lai (Lai Shengchuan) is one of the most celebrated playwrights working in the Chinese-speaking world. His work over three decades has charted the course of modern Chinese-language theatre in Taiwan, China, and other Chinese-speaking regions.

Feature Article

Revisiting Live Your Dream and Cocktail Party

Regge Life is the founder of Global Film Network Inc. Early in his career, Life worked as an American Film Institute intern on John Landis’s Trading Places. He went on to direct episodes of Sesame Street, The Cosby Show, A Different World, and Sister, Sister. He is Executive Producer/Director for documentaries such as Doubles, After America . . . After Japan, Live Your Dream: The Taylor Anderson Story, and Cocktail Party. He produced his first work in Japan, Struggle and Success: The...

Feature Article

Teaching Cultural, Historical, and Religious Landscapes with the Anime Demon Slayer

  In 2020, the animated movie Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba the Movie: Mugen Train (Japanese: Gekijō-ban “Kimetsu no Yaiba” Mugen Ressha-hen) was No. 1 in the world for box office revenue.1 In the same year, it became the highest-grossing movie in Japanese history, surpassing Spirited Away, which had reigned No. 1 since 2001. Just as Miyazaki Hideo’s animated classic Spirited Away has been a staple for teaching about Japanese folklore and culture in classrooms around the wor...

Feature Article

Teaching Cambodian Genocide Through Film

Students in my world history class sat in silence as the film credits started to roll. We had just started a unit on the Cold War, and I decided to integrate the film First They Killed My Father about genocide in Cambodia.1 Directed by Angelina Jolie (who spent time working in Cambodia to film the popular Tomb Raider movies and has been a Cambodian citizen for a decade) and produced by Jolie and Cambodian director Rithy Panh for Netflix, my hope was that the story of five-year-old Loung (played ...

Feature Article

One Day in the Life of a North Korean Textile Worker

There are many films on North Korea; some are quite good. But Pieter Fleury’s North Korea: A Day in the Life is in a category by itself. In 2004, the Dutch independent filmmaker was granted rare permission to film everyday life in the closed, secretive country. No foreigners are allowed to wander at will in North Korea; all are carefully shepherded and watched, allowed to visit and film only what their hosts decide. These tend to be the same places: a visit to a model kindergarten, to the grea...

Feature Article

Why I Made a Virgin Vote

It all began with a very long conversation I had with a person. He became both the subject and protagonist of what later became a short English-language film, A Virgin Vote, released in September 2021 in Colombo and online. The conversant was a childhood and teenage classmate in Sri Lanka. Our conversation took place in a bar/restaurant in July 2020, literally a stone’s throw away from the school we attended. I had just returned from Singapore, where I was located for about three months during...

Feature Article

New Online Teaching Resources for Early Chinese Cinema

The Chinese Film Classics Project is a research, teaching, and translation initiative aimed at making early Chinese cinema more accessible to the general public. The centerpieces of the project are two interlinked web resources: (1) the website chinesefilmclassics.org and (2) the YouTube channel Modern Chinese Cultural Studies (https://tinyurl.com/4zk6wevb). These sites currently feature twenty-four Chinese films released between 1922 and 1949 with complete English subtitles; over 150 film clips...

Feature Article

A Brief Interview with Udan Fernando

Udan Fernando obtained his PhD from the University of Amsterdam. He currently functions as an Independent Researcher from Sri Lanka and Singapore. Until March 2020, he was Executive Director of the Center for Poverty Analysis (CEPA), a Sri Lankan think-tank. Throughout his career, as Head of the Development Commission of the National Christian Council of Sri Lanka (1989–1995), Executive Director of Paltra (gte) Ltd (1996–2001), Guest Researcher at University of Amsterdam (2002–20...

Feature Article

Using Victory in the Pacific in High School and College History Survey Courses

[caption id="attachment_16444" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Dan Rather and General H. Norman Schwarzkopf. Source: All screen captures are from Victory in the Pacific.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_16445" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Newspapers after the Pearl Harbor attack on December 7, 1941.[/caption] The irony of a student complaining that a video is too old in a history classroom never ceases to amuse. But there is at least one thing that a nonletterboxed, standa...

Feature Article

The Essentials: How the Film Tora! Tora! Tora! May Be Utilized as a Teaching Tool About Pearl Harbor

The use of film in a history class can be an important learning tool for students. The traditional method of instruction based on pure lecturing can inform students of the basic facts, but the use of film can substantially enhance the learning experience. When I was a Professor of Asian Studies at a small women’s college in Virginia, I often used films as a way of enhancing my lectures. When teaching about modern Chinese history and culture, I would show such movies as Raise the Red Lantern (1...

Feature Article

Making China And India Great Again? Why China’s and India’s Paths to Power May Hit a Wall, Part II: Foreign Policy Challenges

For the past decade, experts in international relations have suggested that the world’s center of power is shifting from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and the main reason is the extraordinary rise of China. They add that the equally remarkable, though slightly slower, rise of India will move the center of global power even further from the West. A number of observers strongly believe the efforts of the United States under former President Donald Trump’s “America First” policy to ...

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