Education About Asia: Online Archives

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Feature Article

Japan and the Sea

It is so often said that Japan is “a small island nation, poor in natural resources” one almost forgets the reality that Japan is an archipelago made up of thousands of islands. Japanese sometimes refer to their own national character as reflecting an “island nation mentality,” pointing toward the sense of being a self-contained society and culture isolated from others by the surrounding seas. Whether this is reflected in national character, it is certainly true that the sea plays an eno...

Resources, Web Gleanings

Web Gleanings: Maritime Asia

MARITIME ASIA Asian Bodies of Water URL: http://www.sheppardsoftware.com/Asia-lakes.html This is a simple way for younger students to become familiar with the seas and oceans of the Asian continent. There are check boxes for selecting the location of a specific body of water; or one can also click on a map, and the sea or ocean will be identified with an accompanying descriptive blurb. Maritime Asia URL: http://maritimeasia.ws/index.html This site has a number of links on the left side...

Feature Article

Maritime Crossroads of Geopolitics in East Asia: A Reexamination of Historic Ocean Perspectives in Japan

Behind the “Island Mentality” Shimaguni konjo (island-nation mentality) is a Japanese phrase that refers to the inward-looking characteristics of the Japanese. Japanologist Donald Keane translates it as “insularism.” (note 1) It is equivalent to the popular English phrase “island mentality.” Both the English and Japanese phrases, whether meant to address metaphorical or literal island communities, are rooted in the notion that islands are isolated in the middle of the sea. In Japan,...

Book Review, Resources

The Orphan Master’s Son: A Novel

What is it like to live in North Korea? Satellite images and the testimony of escapees from this isolated, brutal dictatorship have opened up knothole glimpses of the oppression and extreme privation in which North Koreans exist. Through these sources, we know that beatings, torture, starvation, and hard labor are the fates of the thousands of citizens imprisoned in brutal prison camps. Vital as accounts such as Escape from Camp 14 in documenting these human rights abuses are, they make no large...

Book Review Essay, Resources

Southeast Asia: Past & Present (Seventh Edition)

The seventh edition of D.R. SarDesai’s Southeast Asia: Past and Present is an ambitious and updated study that gives the reader a sweeping and informative view of the history of the region. In about 370 pages, SarDesai seeks to introduce readers to the major themes and problems in Southeast Asian history from the prehistoric period to the present. For students of Southeast Asian history, this text offers a solid introduction to the region while providing an ample base from which to leap into m...

Online Supplement

Further Resources to accompany the feature article “Remonstrance”

Andrew, Anita, and John Rapp. Autocracy and China’s Rebel Founding Emperors: Comparing Chairman Mao and Ming Taizu. New York: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2000. “The Confucian Tradition.” Asia for Educators. Accessed September 23, 2014. http://tinyurl.com/o52yxvb de Bary, William Theodore and Irene Bloom. Sources of Chinese Tradition: From Earliest Times to 1600. Volume 1. New York: Columbia University Press, 1999. Hucker, Charles O. China’s Imperial Past: An Introductio...

Online Supplement

Discussion Questions and Bibliography for “Visions of the Sea in Early Japanese Literature”

The following questions can lead students into discussion and deeper analysis if they are given primary texts, such as plays or chapters from The Tale of Genji and/or The Tale of the Heike. 1. Questions of genre: In the West, we associate prose with factual accounts and poetry with the imaginary. What is gained or lost when the narratives The Tale of Genji and The Tale of the Heike interweave prose and poetry? Related bibliographic note: Translators need to address questions of genre, even...

Feature Article

Another Floating World: Maritime Japan through Woodblock Prints

Modern-day viewers can glimpse the maritime world of Edo period (1603–1867) Japan through the ubiquitous ukiyo-e, woodblock print. The majority of early woodblock prints were pictures of beautiful women often associated with the pleasure quarters and available for mass consumption. As printing techniques improved, artisans experimented with new perspectives, and subjects’ woodblock prints attained a higher status. Changes in society’s perception of actors, courtesans, and artists mirrored ...

Feature Article

Passing the Baton: World War II’s Asian Theater and the Coming of Age of the Aircraft Carrier

Nowadays, when aircraft carriers rush to potential conflict arenas, we rarely question the supreme importance of this type of warship to major naval powers. Likewise, few would dispute the place of the present-day carrier as one of the ultimate symbols of naval dominance and national power—American power in particular. This type of warship is such a vital element in postwar American naval hegemony in Asia. Moreover, the carrier fleet maintained by the United States Navy (USN) is not only the w...

Feature Article

The Saga of Manjirō

Editor’s Note: Readers who enjoy this article will be interested in Junya Nagakuni and Junji Kitadai’s Drifiting Toward the Southeast (Spinner Publications, 2003). The same waves wash the moles of the new-built Californian towns, but yesterday planted by  the recentest race of men, and lave the faded but still gorgeous skirts of Asiatic lands, older  than Abraham; while all between float milky-ways of coral isles, and low-flying, endless,  unknown archipelagoes, and impenetrable Japans...

Feature Article

Visions of the Sea in Early Japanese Literature

The sea has exerted a profound effect on virtually all Japanese culture including its literature. The six vignettes that follow are sketches drawn from a variety of texts and sources. Hopefully, they offer instructors and students some sense of the multileveled and diverse historical, political, mythical, and aesthetic impact of the ocean on people from long ago who visited and lived in the archipelago. The historical chronicles also include myths, poetry, and intense feelings. Early Japanese re...

Asia: Experiential Learning, Resources

Learning “On the Go” in Xi’an: Creating a Successful Experiential Learning Program at the University of Northern Colorado

Lost on their way to a famous Daoist temple in the city of Xi’an in north central China, a passing Chinese man pointed a group of visiting American students in the right direction. Another group of students went on a three-hour trip by train and public bus to visit an isolated but famous Buddhist cave .grotto in the countryside. Another group found a Chan/Zen Buddhist monastery in the heart of Xi’an that charges no admission fee and is unknown to many of the local residents. These are some o...

Feature Article

The Selden Map and the Archipelagos of East and Southeast Asia

In early 2008, while researching in the archives of Oxford University’s Bodleian Library, I rediscovered the earliest surviving Chinese map made by maritime merchants. This is the now celebrated Selden Map, a beautifully painted, approximately three-by-five, early seventeenth-century wall map of East Asia. The inscriptions are in Chinese characters, although many indicate the use of the Min language from Fujian. Perhaps the most important aspect of this map is that it includes carefully drawn ...

Feature Article

Admiral Zheng He’s Voyages to the “West Oceans”

[caption id="attachment_9295" align="alignnone" width="769"] Screen capture from the docudrama Emperor of the Seas depicting Zheng He’s fleet of ships in Nanjing harbor the day they set sail for their first voyage. Source: MagicPlay Entertainment. Series available on Amazon.com.[/caption] Eighty years before Vasco da Gama’s arrival in West India, a formidable Chinese navy ruled the China Sea and Indian Ocean, from Southeast Asia to the Persian Gulf and East Africa. Between the period from...

Feature Article

When the World Came to Southeast Asia: Malacca and the Global Economy

[caption id="attachment_9219" align="alignnone" width="743"] Viewed from the sea, Malacca seemed a modest affair and not what one would expect from one of the world’s richest trade emporiums. Antique engraving published by F. Valentijn, titled De Stad Malacka, Amsterdam, 1726. Source: Wikimedia Commons at http://tinyurl.com/lhgmroj.[/caption] Situated in the west coast of the Malay Peninsula on the strait that bears its name, the port of Malacca is adjacent to one of the world’s busiest s...

Feature Article

Maritime Southeast Asia: Not Just a Crossroads

Crossroads and Inroads Southeast Asia’s reputation as a crossroads is anchored in histories of trade and empire, which, of course, also includes piracy. While these play important roles in the study of the region’s maritime history, advances in recent decades include other themes and approaches as well. Southeast Asian source material remains vital to countering scholars who neglect or underutilize such sources and portray the region as dominated by the actions of outsiders. In addition, tw...

Feature Article

Back Out to Sea After the End of Empire: Studies of Maritime Asia Since the 1960s

I was brought up amid the cornfields of Illinois, a thousand miles from salt water. I may have spent as much as a month of my life on saltwater, but only if I count the Hong Kong-Macao hydrofoil. I listen with clueless fascination as colleagues in the field who are always sailing, such as Leonard Blussé of Leiden University and Stephen Davies of the Hong Kong Maritime Museum, describe the challenges of getting the winds behind you, watching for shoals, and watching coastal peaks appear above a ...

Feature Article

Remonstrance: The Moral Imperative of the Chinese Scholar-Official

[caption id="attachment_9057" align="alignnone" width="730"] Confucius (behind table at right) and students. Source: China Institute: China 360 Online at http://tinyurl.com/l6argga.[/caption] Editor’s Note: Readers interested in this article should be aware that a paperback edition of Henry Rosemont’s A Reader’s Companion to the Confucian Analects (Palgrave Pivot, 2012) will soon be available. A review of the work appears on page 83 of Education About Asia 19, vol. 1 (Spring 2014). I...

Book Review Essay, Resources

Japan 1941: Countdown to Infamy

By Eri Hotta New York: Knopf, 2013 352 pages, ISBN 978-0307594013, Hardback Reviewed by Peter K. Frost Japan 1941 discusses why Japan attacked the United States at Pearl Harbor even though many senior officials knew that their chances of winning the war were at best 50-50. While the author also discusses historical events such as Matthew C. Perry’s 1853 visit to Japan, the rationale behind Japan’s joining the Tripartite Pact with Italy and Germany in 1940, the personal experiences of ...

Book Review Essay, Resources

Tombstone: The Great Chinese Famine, 1958–1962

Reviewed by Clayton D. Brown Between 1958 and 1962, an estimated thirty-six million Chinese died of starvation in what became history’s worst famine. Normally, such epic tragedies would yield a vast body of historical works, memorials, interviews, memoirs, conferences, and documentaries. Yet this epochal event is largely ignored outside of China and, more appallingly, actively suppressed within China to this day. Recently, Chinese, foreign scholars, and journalists have worked to remedy this ...

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