Education About Asia: Online Archives

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Web Gleanings

Web Gleanings: Asia: Biographies and Personal Stories, Part 1

JAPAN Emperor Hirohito Biography (video) URL: Produced by the BBC, the almost-50-minute video focuses on the lifeof Hirohito during the years of World War II. The cinematic footage is interspersed with comments by scholars and others, including Professor Carol Gluck and the granddaughter of Tōjō. Andō Hiroshige Biography URL: In this brief biography of Hiroshige, the essential facts of...

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 ...

Resources, Web Gleanings

Web Gleanings: Maritime Asia

MARITIME ASIA Asian Bodies of Water URL: 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: This site has a number of links on the left side...

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. 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...

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...

Feature Article

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

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 1405 to 1433, China’s Ming dynasty launched seven voyages led by Admiral Zheng He to explore these vast regions, known then to the Chinese as the “West Oceans.” One such voyage typically featured over 300 vessels, including a number of “treasure ships” over 400 feet long, accompanied...

Feature Article

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

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 shipping lanes. Today’s Malacca (Melaka in Malay) is a small port city with few obvious signs of its former glory. Despite a growing tourist trade, most visitors are ignorant of the city’s spectacular maritime past as one of the most important trade centers in the early modern global economy, a past that put Malacca in the same league with Venic...

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

This essay will offer an approach that helps instructors of survey courses in world or Chinese history to introduce the concept of remonstrance—a key component of the training, motivation, and behavior of scholar-officials in imperial China. We focus on shi, Chinese scholar-officials, because this is the group most identified with Confucian education and moral practice in premodern Chinese society. They dedicated themselves to understanding Confucian teachings and texts, and sought to become o...

Book Review Essay, Resources

Japan 1941: Countdown to Infamy

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 “Soldier U,” and the popular reaction to the seemingly endless war with China that—depending on your poi...

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 ...

Book Review Essay, Resources

The Sea and Civilization: A Maritime History of the World

Reviewed by James R. Holmes One of the great questions preoccupying Asia watchers today is whether continental powers such as China, India, or Iran can go to sea by amassing enough overseas commerce, merchant and naval fleets, and forward outposts to support voyages spanning the seven seas. And if they can, how will they do business in great waters, and how should established maritime powers interact with the newcomers to safeguard longstanding interests? Commerce, bases, and ships: these ar...