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Asian Studies

Course Overview

This course helps develop a sound understanding of East Asia, in particular China, Japan, North Korea and South Korea, in the contemporary context of globalization by exploring the cultural, social, and political history of the region. Readings on historical and socio-cultural events of China, Japan, and Korea will be synchronized with study of artifacts, arts, literature, films, and the analysis of primary and secondary resources.

Upon the completion of the course, students will be able to contextualize and discuss the geography, traditional worldviews, material cultures, and practices of customs and etiquette of East Asian cultural communities in relation to their own cultural experiences. Students will also be able to identify, respect, evaluate, and/or apply multiple perspectives pertaining to interactions and communications among the East Asian region and the U.S. Through the course, students will develop critical reading, analytical, and presentation skills through working with primary and secondary resources and research materials.

Course Content

Unit 1: The foundations of East Asian Civilization in China

The first unit focuses on the Bronze Age and the geography of the Chinese subcontinent and philosophical traditions. It covers from the sage kings to the Tang dynasty focusing on Qin, Han, Sui, and Tang as realm unifiers. It also explains the origin, spread and success of Buddhism in China.

Unit 2: The Emergence of East Asian Civilization

This unit introduces 1) early and Gorgyo Korea, 2) early, Haian, and Kamakura Japan, and 3) Song dynasty in China and China under the Mongol rule. After studying this unit, students will have a better idea of the ways in which geography had impacts on Korea’s and Japan’s interactions with other countries, of key features of the Song and Yuan economy and military, of marriage practices and the emergence of Shogunate in Japan. Students will also have the opportunity to explore and discuss the world’s first novel.

Unit 3: Meeting New Challenges (1300-1800)

This unit introduces students to Japan’s middle age and Edo period, China’s Ming and early Qing dynasties, and Joseon Korea. Students will gain knowledge of warlords and Shoguns, of the peace and stability of early Ming and its the naval superiority, of the founding and golden age of the Qing dynasty, and of Kings and Yangban officials in Korean government.

Unit 4: The Age of Western Imperialism (1800-1900)

This is the beginning of the 2nd semester, introducing EA from the 19th century to the present. The unit starts with crises inside and outside the three countries and the challenges each faced during this period of time. It also discusses the way each country reacted to the crises and challenges and the outcome each had accordingly.

Unit 5: East Asia in the Modern World

The unit further explains the road of each nation took in modernization and how it affected the remaking of each country. Students will learn about Japan’s drive for great power status, Japanese colonial rule over Korea and invasion into China, and the Communist victory in China.

Unit 6: Intensified Contact and Divergent Paths

This is the last unit of this course. The unit first provides rationales for Japan’s move to militarism in the 1930s, and then it explains the “bubble economy” of the 1980s and collapse of the bubble at the end of the decade. It portrays the challenges that faced Mao and the early People’s Republic of China (PRC) leadership, the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution with causes and the disastrous consequences of each. With respect to Korea, the unit talks about the division of the Korean peninsula, the key moments of international aggression and cooperation between North Korea and the rest of the world, and the push for democracy in South Korea. Finally, the unit introduces the transformation and reforms undertaken in China after Mao.