Education About Asia: Online Archives

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Film Review

The Contingency of China’s Imperial Unity: Assassins Attack the First King of Qin

Four films made recently in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) dwell on the circumstances of China’s creation as a unified imperial state during the third century BCE. As the instructor of a one-semester Chinese history introductory survey of the imperial period (221 BCE to 1911 CE), I use the films to intro­duce the course and raise questions about state power, unity, and legitimacy in early Chinese history. Supplemented by two short reading assignments, the films orient students within ...

Feature Article

Teaching China’s Environment: Beyond the Three Gorges

China's environment is increasingly in the news. The controversy over the Three Gorges Dam comes immediately to mind—but think too of major flooding on the Yangtze River, dust storms that blow from the Gobi Desert over the Pacific Ocean as far as North America, and the environmental theme of Beijing’s 2008 Olympics bid, among many other pressing concerns. From local pollution caused by rural enterprises producing for export markets to the effects of China’s coal consumption on global clima...

Book Review, Resources

Handbook of Japanese Mythology

The task of compiling a handbook about Japanese mythology is a daunting one. As Michael Ashkenazi cautions in the preface to his Handbook of Japanese Mythology, issues connected with mythology are politically and socially vibrant, and “the views the reader will encounter will often be con­tentious and conflicting” (HJM, Preface, xvii). Nonetheless, Ashkenazi has pro­duced a fascinating work that provides excellent insight into a component of Japanese culture that both informs about and is ...

Curriculum Materials Review, Resources

Spotlight on Southeast Asia: Connections and Cultures

Whether cast as the scene of American defeat in the Vietnam War, an exotic crossroads of traditions and world cultures, or as the latest front in the War on Terrorism, Southeast Asia presents endless possibilities for the high school classroom. Aside from its compelling history, varied geography, and the otherworldly variety and vibrancy of its cultural landscape, the cultural, economic, and political dynamism of the region lends itself easily to any discussion of pertinent world issues like glo...

Essay, Resources

Japanese Resources for Teaching about Japan

Teachers from primary school through university now have available a host of vivid and varied primary sources for introducing modern and contemporary Japan: Japanese film and anime, manga, a vast photographic record, survivor drawings and murals depicting the atomic bombing, novels, short stories and haiku, and translations of government documents—to name a few of the resources that make it possible to bridge the “inscrutable” East-West divide via print, visual, and electronic media.

Book Review, Resources

Asian Cultural Traditions

After nearly two decades of research on Asia, I was surprised to find a book that offered a truly new approach to teaching Asia: Carolyn Brown Heinz’s Asian Cultural Traditions. While there are many excellent books on individual Asian countries, books that treat all of Asia are relatively uncommon. This is under­standable since covering all of Asia in a single book is a daunting task given Asia’s diversity. Various authors cope with this by simplistic overviews or leaving large gaps by focu...

Feature Article

South Asia in the New Global Textbooks

World History survey courses are on the increase throughout American colleges and universities. The reasons are diverse, including greater heterogeneity in the US college population, the ever-growing role of the United States in world affairs, and the worldwide economic and cultural trends (and academic fashion) we call “globalization.” Along with this growth, a new paradigm for presenting World History in such courses has emerged, one in which Asia plays an increasing role.

Film Review

The Making of a Terrorist: Through the Lens of Bollywood

Bollywood: The Voice of the Subaltern1? The offerings of Bollywood have frog-leaped from the “low-brow”2 entertainment of yesteryear to become the cultural representatives of all things Indian in the current global economy. Popularity of these films is at an all-time high, reflecting their influence in food, fashion, music, dance, ritual, and worship to audi­ences around the globe.3 The patriotic fervor that runs through many of these films, both in terms of national identity and “Indi...

Book Review

The Buddha: A Short Biography

John Strong’s The Buddha: A Short Biography is an excellent introduc­tion to the Sanskrit and Pali narratives describing the Awakened One. The author introduces us to the primary events in the life of the Buddha from his birth through his awakening, the growth of the early community, and his parinirvana (the end of the cycle of death and rebirth). Holding the reader’s attention, Strong deepens this linear approach by using descriptions from various texts to provide a more nuanced picture of...

Feature Article

What Did Make the Chinese “Chinese”? Some Geographical Perspectives

Any reflection on the origins of civilization in China has to consider both the "whatness" and the "whyness" of the question: what the early culture was and why it assumed the particular forms that it did.1 I have discussed, in a number of papers, the religious, aesthetic, and stylistic choices that, in my view, helped to define the content of early Chinese culture, that rep­resent its "whatness."2 Some of these strategic cultural features would include: (1) A stress on hierarchical social dist...

Feature Article

Hindu Beginnings: Assessing the Period 1000BCE to 300 CE

“Hinduism”—What’s in a Name? The first awkward issue is definition. What is Hinduism, anyway? During the past several decades, increasing numbers of scholars have occupied themselves with the “problematic” of “Hinduism”—asking not “What is it?” but rather “Is it anything at all?”

Film Review

Beijing Bicycle

One of a number of recent Chi­nese films with applications for the pre-collegiate classroom, Wang Xiaoshuai’s Beijing Bicy­cle follows the intersecting stories of Guei, a naïve, taciturn young man who has recently arrived from the country, and his counterpart, Jian, a moody urban schoolboy from a blended family. Landing a job as a bicycle messenger, Guei is given the chance to earn his bicycle and glean a percentage of the delivery fees by meeting a certain deliv­ery quota. The bicycle is ...

Film Review

New China’s Forgotten Cinema, 1949-1966: More than Just Politics

Several years ago when planning a course on modern Chinese history as seen through its cinema, I realized or saw a significant void. I hoped to represent each era of Chinese cinema from the Leftist movement of the 1930s to the present “Sixth Generation,” but found most available subtitled films are from the post-1978 reform period. Films from the Mao Zedong period (1949–76) are particularly scarce in the West due to Cold War politics, including a trade embargo and economic blockade lasting...

Essay, Resources

The Japan Focus Web Site: A Commentary

The Japan Focus Web site is a collection of quite scholarly essays on largely current political and social questions. Selden and his fellow coordinators aim to make “the most innovative, creative and progressive voices in Japanese society” available to the general reader.1 The essays—145 in number when I last looked—can be indexed as a whole, but are also listed by cate­gories such as “War and Terror,” “Japan and the World,” “People’s Movements” (including gender issues), ...

Feature Article

Lessons of The Last Samurai

Samurai, among the most popular icons of Japanese history and culture, are often the subject of common myths or simplifications. Those of us who teach in the field of Japanese Studies confront these iconic images in the cultural baggage our students carry into the classroom, most recently from the lavish Tom Cruise vehicle The Last Samurai. Efforts to establish authenticity in this big-budget Hollywood production, with its elaborate sets and meticulously-filmed battle sequences on remote New Zea...

EAA Interview

Philosophy and the Early Chinese World View: An Interview with Roger Ames

EDITOR’S NOTE: Roger Ames is both a highly productive scholar and a master teacher. We are extremely grateful to EAA Editorial Board member Professor David Jones for procuring this interview, and to Professor Roger Ames for his comments.

Feature Article

How Do We Know about Early China?

Study of the distant past always begins with critical examination of sources. In the present case we might ask, “How do we know about early China?” We are speaking, after all, of a time removed from our own by two or more millenia. The sources upon which we base such knowledge are simply traces of the past, and these traces are largely of two types: written texts and physical objects.1 While physical objects should never be overlooked and give material reality to the written word, texts are ...

Feature Article

How Do We Know about Early China?

Study of the distant past always begins with critical examination of sources. In the present case we might ask, “How do we know about early China?” We are speaking, after all, of a time removed from our own by two or more millennia. The sources upon which we base such knowledge are simply traces of the past, and these traces are largely of two types: written texts and physical objects.1 While physical objects should never be overlooked and give material reality to the written word, texts are...

Book Review, Columns

Asian Cultural Traditions

After nearly two decades of research on Asia, I was surprised to find a book that offered a truly new approach to teaching Asia: Carolyn Brown Heinz’s Asian Cultural Traditions.  While there are many excellent books on individual Asian countries, books that treat all of Asia are relatively uncommon. This is understandable since covering all of Asia in a single book is a daunting task given Asia’s diversity. Various authors cope with this by simplistic overviews or leaving large gaps by foc...

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