East Asian Languages and Cultures | East Asia: An Introduction
E100 | 3629 | 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 2005 class,
linking to the Spring 2002 website at
 will provide detailed
information about the general shape of E100 and its requirements.