Education About Asia: Online Archives

Learning About Asia and Ourselves: Written Communication and Reading

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Engaged reading, and at least some knowledge of any culture’s written communications, is imperative for basic knowledge and understanding of other cultures, as well as our own. The following five varied selections from the EAA archives will hopefully inspire both instructors and students who seek to learn and reflect upon the profound impact of written communication and reading.

Cheryl Crowley and Yu Li’s “Calligraphy in East Asia: Art, Communication, and Symbology” (Vol. 21, No. 3, Winter 2016), is a succinct but image-rich introduction to the communicative, educational, historical, aesthetic, moral, and contemporary aspects of calligraphy. This is the most classroom-friendly teaching resources essay I’ve ever read.

Sarah Schneewind in “The Analects in the Classroom: Book Four as a First Step” (Vol. 16, No. 1, Spring 2011) re-translates what is arguably the oldest part of the Confucian Analects, and creates an imagined dialogue that will help students in history or philosophy survey courses build bridges to their counterparts 2,500 years ago, and to the complete Analects.

Kristin Stapleton in “Fiction: A Passport to the Past (Vol. 23, No. 3, Winter 2018)” discusses her experiences incorporating not only novels (and some poetry) from several cultures into history survey courses, but also recommends accessible guides written by scholars that illumine both instructors and students about topics ranging from the early Heian Period to the Pacific War.

Molly DeDona’s review of Waka T. Brown’s award-winning young adult middle school novel While I Was Away (Vol. 27, No. 2, Fall 2022) highlights the author’s memoir of leaving her Kansas home in 1984 to live in Tokyo with her strict Japanese grandmother, and attending a Japanese middle school. Issues ranging from dissimilar meanings derived from language to the author’s struggles with literacy and reading comprehension permeate this book that is suitable for adults as well as students.

illustration of several men touching an elephant
Illustration of “The Blind Men and the Elephant.” Readers will learn more about this South Asian folk tale and how it is key to a significant American educational problem in the Facts About Asia column featured in this newsletter. Source: Wikipedia at


James A. Tucker and Lucien Ellington, “Facts About Asia: The Elephant in the Classroom: The US Literacy Crisis and Asian Studies” (Vol. 27, No. 2, Fall 2022)
Six years ago, I could no longer ignore the compelling evidence that for at least three decades, unlike other affluent countries, the US has experienced an early literacy crisis that has generally gotten worse. Many Digest readers who encounter high school and undergraduate students with substantial reading problems are aware of the issue. Please read this column to better realize the scope of the crisis and, more importantly, learn about effective early evidence-based strategies that can alleviate what becomes a lifetime cul-de-sac for so many American adults.

Other Teaching Resource:

Cover of Daughters of the Flower Fragrant Garden
Cover of Daughters of the Flower Fragrant Garden by Zhuqing Li.

EAA readers might remember Zhuqing Li’s “Sisters and Enemies: A True Story of Two Sisters” (Vol. 27, No. 1, Spring 2022) based upon her novel Daughters of the Flower Fragrant Garden, in which she recounts the story of two sisters who attained positions of prominence in Taiwan and the People’s Republic of China during and after China’s Civil War. Digest readers who enjoy Li’s work can register for a March 21st, 2023 webinar with the author through the Five College Center for East Asian Studies. Readers who aren’t aware of these insightful presentations on East Asia intended for teachers should visit the center’s archives to view past webinars.