East Asian Languages and Cultures | East Asia: An Introduction
E100 | 1473 | Eno
This course is a selective survey of the traditional and contemporary
cultures of the East Asian nations: China, Japan, and Korea. There are no
course prerequisites, students are not expected to have any prior
knowledge of these countries.
Since the 1980s, the economic power and political influence of the countries
of East Asia have grown at a far faster rate than in any other area of the
world, and it has become common for business people and
journalists to speak of the coming century as the East Asian century. It is
imperative for Americans to better understand the peoples and cultures of
this region of the world. In the coming decades, Americans who do not have
a basic understanding of East Asia will be as handicapped as East Asians
without a basic understanding of the West.
China, Japan, and Korea each represent civilizations many times older than
that of the United States. Most individuals in contemporary East Asia are
aware and proud of the great age of their cultures. They are also keenly
aware of the sharp break with their past that has formed during the past
century, as a result of the arrival of Western cultural and political
forces. Building a basic understanding of the world of contemporary East
Asia means learning not only about present day society, but also about the
narratives of the past that shape the way East Asian societies picture
themselves and their relations to us in the West.
In the first half of E100, we will examine aspects of traditional roots of
East Asian societies. We will read some of the teachings of Confucius that
shaped China, learn how Buddhism transformed all of East Asia,
explore the culture of the samurai of Japan, and read poems, stories, and
diaries that record the thoughts and feelings of people living far from us
in place and time. During the second half of the course, we will focus on
modern East Asia, examining the revolutionary impact of the West and
contemporary social and political structures. We will contrast how China,
Japan, and Korea each responded to the sudden challenges of the past
century, read an autobiographical account of a young person living through
this era of confusion, and examine how these shattering transformations
continue to shape events in East Asia up to the present day.
Course requirements will include short homework assignments, several brief
reflective essays (about two pages in length), and midterm and final exams.
Students will also work in groups on a term project to create websites on
East Asia, focusing on a theme chosen by each group. Assignments, class
discussion topics, study materials, timelines, and other forms of useful
information will be provided through the E100 course website throughout the
term. Although the content of that website will be new for the Spring 2001
class, linking to the Fall 1998 website at
will provide detailed information about
the general shape of E100 and its requirements.