Education About Asia: Online Archives

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Columns, Essay

Teaching Traditional Japanese Arts and Literature through Film

The touchstone of Japanese cinema,” writes Joan Mellen in her seminal work on Japanese cinema, The Waves at Genji’s Door, “is its constant preoccupation with history.”1 Certainly Japanese history is well represented and considered in its cinema. There exist jidaigeki (Japanese period films) aplenty that ably present various historical periods and events. Tokugawa Japan, Heian Japan, Meiji Japan, etc. can all be studied by viewing films set during those eras. Yet because of the history...

Feature Article

Growing Up in Japan

Retrospection and introspection are terms suggested by a high school senior in this excerpt from his final exam in Japanese Literature. Although writing about two specific stories, Kawabata Yasunari’s “Umbrella” and Murakami Haruki’s “On Seeing the 100% Perfect Girl One April Morning,” this student neatly defined a major challenge in teaching Japanese literature at the high school level. How do we interest students, who are accustomed to exciting plot and vivid characterization, in l...

Feature Article

Other Fictions: Reading Indian Short Stories as Texts in Creative Writing Classes

One of the most common mantras repeated by creative writing instructors is that “you should only write about what you know.” For the most part this is probably a good idea, since American high school and college students have plenty of stories to tell from their own childhood and adolescence. Unlike more mature writers, they have yet to exhaust the fictional potential of youthful experiences and discoveries. At the same time, however, there is no reason why these students should only read ab...

Feature Article

From Creation Myths to Marriage Alliances: Shakespeare’s The Tempest and Murasaki’s Akashi Chapter

In suggesting ways that teachers might use cross-cultural comparisons between Shakespeare’s The Tempest (1611) and Murasaki’s Akashi chapter from The Tale of Genji (c. 1000), I am influenced by Wendy Doniger’s lively analyses of how Shakespeare diverts and inverts motifs found in narratives of ancient India. She is wonderfully dismissive of the attempts of Freud, Jung and Levi-Strauss to explain similarity by positing universal structures of mind, body and society. Instead, parallel plots ...

Book Review, Resources

Market Cultures: Society and Morality in the New Asian Capitalisms

Robert W. Hefner, Editor BOULDER, COLORADO: WESTVIEW PRESS, 1998 328 PAGES Reviewed by Emily M. Hill In an excursion across Southeast Asia and to Taiwan and the People’s Republic of China, this book examines how economic activities are woven within the fabric of life in particular communities. It also addresses the perplexing question of why “Chinese” entrepreneurs have apparently been dominant in a number of Southeast Asian economies. A remarkable consistency of quality and unity of t...

Resources, Web Gleanings

Web Gleanings: Asian Language and Literature

Title: Books by and for South Asian Women URL: An extensive list of South Asian authors accompanied by short biographies and bibliographies can be found on this Web page. There are also reviews of some of the books that are listed here. Title: India Star Review of Books URL: The “India Star Review of Books” contains reviews, poetry, short fiction, and film and multimedia reviews. The focus is on Ind...

Book Review, Resources

Darsan: Seeing the Divine Image in India

Professor Diana L. Eck’s Darsan is a fine articulation of the connotations of the art of ‘seeing,’ which is central to Hindu religious thought and practice through the ages. In many Indian languages, in the secular, social context, ‘seeing’ signifies a formal visit or a social call on an elderly relative or newborn baby, or a visitor from another place. But in the religious context Darsan, as Professor Eck aptly identifies and illustrates, offers the devotee an intimate communion with ...

Feature Article

Teaching the “Geisha” as Cultural Criticism

The late 1990s marked an explosion in the popularity of the geisha icon in the United States and elsewhere, fueled by Arthur Golden’s 1998 best seller Memoirs of a Geisha. The novel has inspired spin off vodka ads and a specialty tea, and Steven Spielberg’s motion picture version, while repeatedly delayed, will reportedly begin production in 2001.1 Visually, the image of the geisha has become more and more prominent. An image of a woman in kimono appears on the dust jacket of the U.S. editio...

Essay, Resources

Lesson Plan: Acting Out History and Literature

JAPAN A Story About the Origins of Japan or Creation Myth Acting Out History through the creation myth of Japan is a lesson designed to engage students in history and literature through a storytelling narrative and role playing. Procedural Description The teacher selects the important concepts to be learned and emphasizes those before, during, and after the activity. The students will have prepared for the activity through assigned readings and class discussion....

Book Review, Resources

Old Man Thunder: Father of the Bullet Train

By Bill Hosokawa DENVER: SOGO WAY, 1997 MAPS, INDEX, GLOSSARY. 224 PAGES Reviewed by George B. Pruden Its official name is Shinkansen (“New Trunk Line”), but its sleek lines and distinctively shaped front end make it instantly recognizable as the Bullet Train even outside Japan. It began operation on October 1, 1964, just before the Tokyo Olympics opened. Both the train and the Olympics signaled Japan’s remarkable recovery from the devastation of World War II in less than two decades. ...

Book Review, Resources

Bridge to the Sun

By Gwen Terasaki NEWPORT: WAKESTONE BOOKS, 2000 272 PAGES Reviewed by Craig Loomis In the winter of 1930, twenty-three-year-old Gwen Harold left Johnson City, Tennessee, to visit an aunt in Washington D.C. for what she thought would be no more than two or three months. Little did she know that within a year, she would fall in love and marry Hidenari (Terry) Terasaki, a diplomat with the Japanese Foreign Office, and thus guarantee herself a “front row seat” to the approaching juggernaut o...

Feature Article, Teaching Resources Essay

Her: An Indonesian Short Story

By Titis Basino Translated by Florence Lamoureux Introduction Titis Basino was born in Magelang, Indonesia on January 17, 1939. After completing secondary school, she graduated from the University of Indonesia in 1962. In 1963 she was introduced to Indonesian readers when one of her short stories was published in the Indonesian literary magazine, Sastra. Ms. Basino continued to write, although family and other personal demands on her time limited her creative output until 1997. She is current...

Book Review, Resources

Taiwan: A New History

Murray A. Rubinstein, Editor ARMONK, NEW YORK: M. E. SHARPE, 1999 536 PAGES Taiwan has had the fortune, or misfortune, of standing at the intersection of great historical struggles. It has stood at the point of overlapping interests among great powers such as China, Japan, and the United States. Taiwan has also stood at the edge of the history of others, the history of Chinese expansion and retreat from their oceanic frontiers, the history of European and Japanese colonial expansion and def...

Book Review, Resources

Asia in the Undergraduate Curriculum: A Case for Asian Studies in Liberal Arts Education

Suzanne Wilson Barnett and Van Jay Symons, Editors ARMONK, NEW YORK: M. E. SHARPE IN CONJUCTION WITH ASIANETWORK, 2000 XIII + 170 PAGES Reviewed by Fay Beauchamp This is a book not for undergraduate students but for the readership of Education About Asia. EAA readers are often giving rationales for studying Asia. We are writing grants and justifying new courses, new curricula; we are trying to convince administrators, faculty and students to see the delight and usefulness of Asian material...

Essay, Resources

Japan’s Motives for Bombing Pearl Harbor, 1941

Most U.S. History textbooks offer students only a cursory explanation of Japan’s decision to attack Pearl Harbor. While there is no single correct or simple reason for the attack, this lesson should help students realize that Japan’s motivation for attacking Pearl Harbor was driven by its political self-interests, its scarcity of economic resources and perceived opportunity costs, and America’s embargo policy. It should also become apparent to students that long-term as well as short-term ...

Film Review Essay, Resources

China Yellow, China Blue Part I: The Time of Troubles Part II: The People’s Republic of China

There is one reason and only one reason to use this film: the extraordinary film footage that it contains. Relying almost exclusively on documentary films and official newsreels, filmmaker Ahmed Lallem, with co-production support from France 3 and Pdj Films, chronicled one hundred years of modern Chinese history. Rather than using talking heads, stills, or film clips, this two-part film is a compilation of movie images of the century, which lends it a particularly powerful immediacy and demonstr...

Essay, Resources

Using Modern Asian Literature on Gender in Social Science Courses Reinforcing or Dismantling Stereotypes?

By Jana Everett When I started teaching Asian and Indian politics and international Women’s Studies, I searched for writing by Asian men and women to supplement social science texts. My goals were simple and naive: to share with my students some authentic Asian voices in order to enhance their abilities to empathize through the insights and richness of literature—both “canonical” fiction and more journalistic writing. Here I will focus on the literature I chose on women to illustrate ...

Essay, Resources

Literature in the Japanese History Classroom

By Steven J. Ericson In the courses I teach in Japanese history, I incorporate a fair amount of literary works. In lectures, besides quoting frequently from contemporary historical sources, I try to include vivid or humorous excerpts from poems, short stories, and novels. In doing so, I strive to keep students’ interest by varying the pace and content of my lectures and to illustrate in a lively and memorable way key points I make about historical developments. With the similar aim of addin...

Essay, Resources

Teaching About Southeast Asian Transition Economies: Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and East Timor

By R. L. Curry, Jr. Most transition economies are countries that are in the process of reforming their institutional structures that rely extensively upon centralized government planning agencies and state-owned enterprises to allocate scarce national resources and distribute the resulting output. These countries are in the midst of shifting responsibilities for allocating and distributing resources to institutions that feature decentralized markets, private business enterprises and a support...

Essay, Resources

Four Ways to Use Literature in Chinese History Courses

By Timothy Cheek As teachers of Asian Studies courses, we have no doubt all used literature to help make our topic more accessible, challenging, and meaningful to our students. Over the years, I have come to use literature in four different ways in my Asian history and culture courses at Colorado College, a liberal arts college with small classes that promote discussion. I use literature as illustrative material, as confounding examples, as historical documents, and as liminal artifacts on th...