Asian Studies Program

Director: Yu Zhou (Geography: East Asia); Steering Committee: Christopher Bjork (Education: Japan, Indonesia), Robert Brigham (History: Vietnam), Wenwei Du (Asian Studies: China), Tomo Hattori (English: Asian-American Studies), E. H. Rick Jarow (Religion: South Asia), Jin Jiang (History: East Asia), Jesse Kalin (Film: Japan), Martha Kaplan (Anthropology: South Asia and the Pacific), Seungsook Moon (Sociology: East Asia), Himadeep Muppidi (Political Science: South Asia), Peipei Qiu b (Asian Studies: Japan), Bryan Van Norden (Philosophy: China), Michael Walsh (Religion: China), Andrew Watsky (Art History: East Asia).

The Asian Studies Program offers a multidisciplinary approach to the study of Asia with courses and advising in anthropology, art, economics, geography, history, language, literature and culture, philosophy, politics, religion, and sociology of Asia. While majors focus on a particular region of Asia (e.g., East Asia, South Asia) including language study, intermediate and advanced coursework, and a senior thesis in this area, they are also expected to be familiar with some other parts of Asia through the introductory course arid some coursework outside their area of specialty. Similarly, while majors take courses on Asia offered in a wide range of disciplines, they are also expected to choose one or two disciplines in which they develop a theoretical or methodological sophistication that they apply to their study of Asia, particularly in their thesis and senior seminar work. 

A student’s program of study for the major is designed in close consultation with the director and an advisor. Students should obtain an application form, which includes a statement of interest, from the program office or the Asian Studies website prior to meeting with the program director. This should be done by the end of the first semester of the sophomore year if the student plans to apply for study abroad. The director and members of the program faculty review the application and make suggestions for modifications. Any changes to a plan of study should be discussed with the advisor in advance; significant changes are reviewed by the director.

Study Abroad: Study abroad in some region of Asia greatly enhances a student’s learning experience and understanding of Asia and is highly recommended for program majors and language correlates. Advice and literature on different programs are available through the Office of the Dean of Studies (Study Abroad office) and Asian Studies.

Asian Studies Courses: Courses approved for the Asian Studies major include courses offered by the Asian Studies Program (see Sections I and II below) and Approved Courses (courses on Asia offered in other departments, see Section III below). A list of Asian Studies courses approved for majors is prepared and circulated by the program office at the beginning of each semester. Courses not on the list which may be appropriate to an individual student’s plan of study are considered for approval by the director and steering committee upon special petition by the student major, after consultation with the advisor.

Requirements for the Concentration in Asian Studies: 12 units of which at least 7 are normally taken at Vassar. After declaration of the major, all courses taken towards the major must be graded. Students may request, however, that up to 1 unit of independent study or field work be counted towards the major.


  1. Introductory-Level Study: Asian Studies 105: Introduction to Asian Studies is required for the major.

  1. Language: Competency in one Asian language through the intermediate college level must be achieved and demonstrated by completion of relevant courses or special examination. 100-level language work does not count toward the major, and a maximum of 4 units of Asian language study are counted toward the 12 units for the major. The Asian Studies program offers courses in Chinese and Japanese (listed below in Section II) while Hindi and Korean may be taken through the Self-Instructional Language Program.

  1. Intermediate-Level Study: A minimum of 3 units of intermediate course work (200-level) of direct relevance to Asia in at least two disciplines, selected from the lists of Program Courses and Approved Courses below. Recommendation: At least two of these courses should be related to the student’s regional focus within Asia and at least one should be outside the area of regional specialty.

  1. Advanced-Level Work: A minimum of 3 units at the 300-level including the designated Asian Studies "Senior Seminar", 1 unit of thesis work (Asian Studies 300-301 or Asian Studies 302), and at least one additional 300-level seminar from the lists of Program Courses and Approved Courses below. The 
    senior seminar and the thesis constitute the Senior Year Requirement.

  1. Discipline-Specific Courses: Majors are expected to choose one or two disciplines in which they will take courses and develop a theoretical or methodological sophistication that they will bring to bear on their study of Asia, particularly in their thesis and senior seminar work. Introductory work in each discipline should be taken early to fulfill prerequisites for upper level work in the chosen discipline.

  1. Area-Specific Courses: Majors should try to include three or four courses (not including language study) that focus on a student’s geographical area of specialization within Asia, and two courses that include a geographic area other than the region of focus (one of which is Asian Studies 105).

Requirements for the Correlate Sequence in Chinese or Japanese Language:

Correlate Sequence in Chinese Language: 6 1⁄2 units chosen from Chinese 
105, 106, 205, 206, 305, 306, 350, 351 and Asian Studies 399; at least 5 units must taken above the 100-level and two courses must be taken at the letter graded 300-level.

Correlate Sequence in Japanese Language: 6 1⁄2 units chosen from Japanese 105, 106, 205, 206, 305, 306, 350, 351, and Asian Studies 399; at least 5 units must be taken above the 100-level and two courses must be taken at the letter graded 300-level.

Correlate Sequence in Japanese Language: 6 1⁄2 units chosen from Japanese 105, 106, 205, 206, 305, 306, 350, 351, and Asian Studies 399; at least 5 units must be taken above the 100-level and two courses must be taken at the letter graded 300-level. 

In both correlate sequences, Junior Year Study Away, and summer courses may be substituted with program approval. 4 units must be taken at Vassar. Courses available for letter grades must be taken for letter grades.


I. Program Courses

 
105a. Introduction to Asian Studies
(1)
A survey of the peoples and regions of East and South Asia. Dynamic and enduring historical processes and events comprise foundation topics of the course, including regional geography, human origins and migrations, language diversity, political and economic systems, and the origins and development of belief systems and their expressions. The course considers common threads which run throughout Asia as well as developments unique to particular regions. Mr. Jarow.
 
110b. Asian Studies Study Trip: Social Change in Korea Through Film
(1)
Normally the study trip takes place during the Spring semester break. Enrollment for the trip is made early in the first semester. The course, which is taught in conjunction with the study trip, provides a multidisciplinary introduction to the Asian country to be visited. The focus of the trip varies depending on the faculty leading the trip and teaching the course. Language instruction is recommended when appropriate. Ms. Moon.
       Destination 2003/04: Korea
       Prerequisite: Permission of Instructor.
 
152a and b. Religions of Asia
(1)
(Same as Religion 152) This course is an introduction to the religions of Asia (Buddhism, Confucianism, Hinduism, Zen, Shinto, etc.) through a study of practices, sites, sensibilities, and doctrines. The focus is comparative as the course explores numerous themes, including creation (cosmology), myth, ritual, action, fate and destiny, human freedom, and ultimate values. Mr. Jarow “a” semester, Mr. Walsh “b” semester.
       Open to all students.
 
[210b. Introduction to Chinese Literature: Poetry and Fiction]
(1)
The major genres of works of poetry and fiction, both classical and modern. Emphasis is on close readings and discussions of chosen texts (in English translation) to explore various themes that reflect Chinese society and culture. Cinematic adaptations of fiction are presented and Chinese poetic and narrative principles introduced.
       Prerequisite: One course in Asian Studies, or literature, or permission.
       Not offered in 2003/04.
 
[211. Chinese Drama and Theater]
(1)
An introduction to the major Chinese dramatic genres—zaju, chuanqi, kunqu, Beijing Opera, and modern Spoken Drama—through a close reading of selected plays in English translation. Scheduled films of performances convey Chinese theatrical conventions and aesthetics. Discussions focus on major themes reflecting aspects of Chinese society and culture. Mr. Du.
       Prerequisite: One course in literature, or Asian Studies, or permission.
       Not offered in 2003/04.
 
[212. Chinese Film and Contemporary Fiction]
(1)
An introduction to Chinese film through its adaptations of contemporary stories. Focus is on internationally well-known films by the fifth and sixth generation of directors since the late 1980s. Early Chinese films from the 1930s to the 1970s are also included in the screenings. The format of the course is to read a series of stories in English translations and to view their respective cinematic versions. The discussions concentrate on cultural and social aspects as well as on comparison of themes and viewpoints in the two genres. Mr. Du.
       Prerequisite: One course in Asian Studies, or literature, or permission.
       Not offered in 2003/04.
 
213. Chinese Popular Culture
(1)
The course analyzes contemporary Chinese entertainment and popular culture. It provides both historical coverage and grounding in various theoretical and methodological problems. Topics focus on thematic contents and forms of entertainment through television, radio, newspaper, cinema, theatre, music, print and material culture. The course also examines the relations between the heritage of traditional Chinese entertainment and the influences from Western culture. Mr. Du.
       Prerequisite: one course in Asian Studies, cultural studies, film, literature, or theatre, or permission.
 
[220. Traditional Japanese Literature: The Masterpieces of Japan]
(1)
An exploration of Japanese literary and aesthetic traditions through the major works from the eighth to the eighteenth centuries. Works studied cover a wide range of genres, including Japan’s oldest extant myths, poetry, the tenth century lyrical prose, the earliest long novel in the world, the medieval prose, the dramatic theory and classical plays, and early modern novels. Issues addressed include the cultural traditions, the aesthetic principles, and the characteristics of different literary forms and individual authorial/narrative voices. Ms. Qiu.
       Prerequisite: One course in literature, or Asian Studies, or permission.
       Not offered in 2003/04.
 
[221. Women in Japanese and Chinese Literature]
(1)
An intercultural examination of the images of women presented in Japanese and Chinese narrative, drama, and poetry from their early emergence to the modern period. While giving critical attention to aesthetic issues and the gendered voices in representative works, the course also provides a comparative view of the dynamic changes in women’s roles in Japan and China. All selections in English translation. Ms. Qiu.
       Prerequisite: One course in literature, or Asian Studies, or permission.
       Not offered in 2003/04.
 
232. Imagining the Dao: Daoism and Chinese Culture
(1)
(Same as Religion 232)
 
233. Buddhist Traditions
(1)
(Same as Religion 233)
 
235b. Religions of China
(1)
(Same as Religion 235) Mr. Walsh.
 
[240. Women in China]
(1)
An interdisciplinary survey of women and gender in Chinese society and their modern transformation. The course examines from an historical perspective ideologies, social institutions, and literary representations of women and gender. Specific topics explored include the concept of Yin and Yang, sex and sexuality in ancient times, Confucian ideology concerning women and gender, marriage and concubinage, foot binding, and women’s liberation in twentieth-century Chinese revolution. A variety of primary sources from historical, literary, and visual materials are used. Ms. Jiang.
       Prerequisite: One course in history, or Asian Studies, or permission.
       Not offered in 2003/04.
 
280. Topics in Asian Studies
(1)
Selected topics in Asian Studies. May be repeated for credit when a new topic is offered.
       Topics for 2003/04:
       Selected topics in Chinese Literature and Culture. Instructor to be announced.
       Selected topics in Japanese Literature and Culture. Instructor to be announced.
       Political Economy of East Asia. Instructor to be announced.
       Open to nonmajors.
 
285. Comparative Education
(1)
(Same as Education (285)
 
287. Experiencing the Other: Representation of China and the West in Each Other's Literature
(1)
This course examines representation of China in Western Literature and the West in Chinese Literature from the end of the 17th Century. Through such an examination, issues such as identity, perceptions of the other, self-consciousness, exoticism, and aesthetic diversity are discussed. Readings include Defoe, Goldsmith, Voltaire, Twain, Kafka, Malraux, Sax Rohmer, Pearl Buck, Brecht, and Duras on the Western side as well as Cao Xueqin, Shen Fu, Lao She, and Wang Shuo on the Chinese side. Some feature films are also included. All readings are in English or English translation, foreign films are subtitled. Mr. Liu.
       One literature course and permission of the instructor.
       Two 75-minute periods.
 
290a or b. Field Work
(1/2 or 1)
Prerequisites: 2 units of Asian Studies Program or Approved coursework and permission of the program director.
 
298a or b. Independent Study
(1/2 or 1)
Prerequisites: 2 units of Asian Studies Program or Approved coursework and permission of the program director.
 
300-301. Senior Thesis
(1/2)
A 1-unit thesis written over two semesters.
 
302a or b. Senior Thesis
(1)
A 1-unit thesis written in the fall or spring semester. Students may elect this option only in exceptional circumstances and by special permission of the program director.
 
350a. Seminar in Asian Studies
(1)
An examination of selected topics relevant to the study of Asia in an interdisciplinary framework. Topics vary from year to year.
       May be repeated for credit when a new topic is offered.
       Open to nonmajors.
       Topics for 2003/04:
       Comparative Methodology. (Same as Philosophy 350). An exploration of some of the methodological issues raised by the prospect of one culture understanding and making judgments about another. The course considers essays on ethical and cognitive relativism, incommensurability, and the hermeneutics of suspicion and faith. Although the focus is primarily methodological, recent Western approaches to understanding Chinese philosophy provide test cases for some of the theories examined. This course satisfies the Senior Seminar requirement for Asian Studies majors, but is open to all qualified students. Mr. Van Norden.
       Prerequisites: A 200-level course in Asian Studies or a 200-level course in Philosophy.
       The Literatures of Classical India. (Same as Asian Studies 384, Religion 384). Mr. Jarow.
 
380b. Senior Seminar
(1)
The Senior Seminar addresses topics and questions that engage several areas of Asia and Asian Studies as a discipline. Topic may change yearly. The senior seminar is a required course for Asian Studies senior majors; ordinarily it may be taken by other students as well.
       Topic for 2003/04: Politics and Wars in Asia. This course covers international relations and military conflicts in Asia that have influenced the formation of modern nation-states (mainly China, Japan, and Korea) and the course of diplomacy in that important region. Though starting with the Opium War in 1840, we focus on the Second World War, the Korean War, and the Cold War. We also consider the deep U.S. involvement in the region, as well as how wars and their legacies have helped shape national identities in these countries. The course also has a South Asia component focusing on the decolonization and foundation of modern South Asia. Ms. Jiang.
       Prerequisites: Previous work in Asian Studies or History, or permission.
       Not open to students who have completed History 324.
 
384b. Literature of India: Healing Tradtitions and Texts of India and China
(1)
(Same as Religion 384). This seminar offers a comprehensive view of the traditional medical systems and healing modalities of India and China and examines the cultural values they participate in and propound. From a study of classical Ayur Vedic texts, Daoist alchemical manuals, and shamanic processes and their diverse structural systems, the course goes on to explore the relationship between healing systems, religious teachings, and social realities and looks at ways in which the value and practices of traditional medical and healing systems continue to be enacted in India, China and the West. Mr. Jarow.
       Prerequisites: Hindu Traditions (Religion 231) or permission.
 
399a or b. Senior Independent Study
(1/2 or 1)
Prerequisites: 2 units of Asian Studies Program or Approved coursework and permission of the program director.

II. Program Language Courses

Chinese

 
105a-106b. Elementary Chinese
(11/2)
An introduction to Mandarin Chinese (putong hua or guoyu). While the approach is aural-lingual, reading and writing skills are introduced early in the program. The two semesters cover about 600 characters. Grammatical analysis, pattern drills, and conversational practice are stressed throughout. Mr. Du.
       Open to all classes.
       Five 50-minute periods. Two laboratory hours.
 
150b. Introduction to Classical Chinese
(1)
Classical Chinese is the literary language in which almost all of Chinese literature was written prior to the twentieth century. This course introduces students to the rudiments of reading Classical Chinese, with an emphasis on early Chinese philosophical texts. No previous background in Chinese language, history, or culture is required. Among the texts to be studied are passages from the sayings of Confucious and Taoist works. Mr. Van Norden.
       Open to all students.
       Does not satisfy the language requirement.
 
205a-206b. Intermediate Chinese
(11/2)
Further practice in conversation and learned patterns; acquisition of new grammatical structures, vocabulary, and about 800 additional characters. Emphasis on communicative skills in listening, speaking, reading and writing. Instructor to be announced.
       Prerequisite: Chinese 105-106 or 3 entrance units, or permission of instructor.
       Five 50-minute periods.
 
305a-306b. Advanced Chinese
(1)
Intensified instruction in the reading of original Chinese language materials, reflecting aspects of a changing China. Emphasis is on communicative skills.
       Prerequisite: Chinese 205-206 or permission of instructor.
 
350a/351b. Advanced Readings in Modern Chinese
(1)
These two courses are equivalent to fourth year Chinese or beyond. The courses aim to further develop the advanced students’ speaking, reading and writing proficiency. Included are readings of modern and contemporary literary works, journalistic writings, and other nonliterary texts. Readings are arranged according to topics. These courses can be repeated if topics are different. Ms. Parries.
       Prerequisite: Chinese 306 or permission of instructor.

Japanese

 
105a-106b. Elementary Japanese
(11/2)
An introduction to modern Japanese. Students develop communicative skills based on the fundamentals of grammar, vocabulary and conversational expressions. Emphasis on both oral and written proficiency. The course introduces hiragana and katakana syllabaries as well as approximately 600 kanji (Chinese characters). Instructor to be announced.
       Open to all classes.
       Five 50-minute periods.
 
205a-206b. Intermediate Japanese
(11/2)
This course puts equal emphasis on the further development of oral-aural proficiency and reading-writing skills with an intense review of basic grammar as well as an introduction of more advanced grammar, new vocabulary, expressions, and another 600 kanji (Chinese characters). Ms. Qiu.
       Prerequisite: Japanese 105-106 or permission of instructor.
       Five 50-minute periods.
 
305a/306b. Advanced Japanese
(1)
This course is designed to develop each student’s ability to read contemporary Japanese text from newspapers, magazines, and literary works, with a solid grammatical foundation and mastery of kanji, as well as gaining proficiency in writing at an advanced level. Continued training in aural-oral proficiency in spoken Japanese through exercises, classroom interactions and audio-visual materials. Ms. Qiu.
       Prerequisite: Japanese 205-206 or permission of instructor.
 
350a/351b. Advanced Readings in Modern Japanese
(1)
This course aims to further develop the advanced student’s reading and writing proficiency. It distinguishes itself from the regular Advanced Japanese in assuming oral-aural fluency prior to taking the course. It emphasizes a faster pace of reading and covers a larger volume of reading materials. Ms. Matsubara.
       Prerequisite: Japanese 305/306 or permission of instructor.

 

III. Approved Courses

In addition to the Program courses and language courses listed above, there are Approved Courses given in other departments and programs. These can count towards an Asian Studies major. Look under the respective departments for course descriptions and semester or year offered. An updated list of approved courses is available in the Asian Studies Program Office and on-line on the Asian Studies Program web site at the beginning of each term. Students are also urged to consult the additional course offerings of Asian Studies Program faculty members listed under their home departments; while these courses may not focus specifically on Asia, they often include case studies, examples, or materials related to regions of Asia.
 
Anthropology 240 Cultural Localities (when topic is Asian) (1)
Anthropology 360 Problems in Cultural Analysis (when topic is Asian) (1)
Art 257 The Arts of China (1)
Art 258 The Arts of Japan (1)
Art 259 Japanese Art of the Momoyama Period, 1568-1615 (1)
Art 260 Japanese Art of the Edo Period (1615-1868) (1)
Art 358 Seminar in Asian Art (1)
Education 285 Comparative Education (1)
English 228 Asian/American Literature (1)
Geography 235 East Asia: People, Culture, and Economic Development (1)
Geography 237 China: Political-Economic Transformation (1)
Geography 340 Advanced Regional Studies (when topic is Asian) (1)
History 112 Modern Asia: Tradition and Transformation (1)
History 222 Modern China (1)
History 224 Modern Japan (1)
History 279 The Vietnam War (1)
History 324 Politics and Wars in East Asia (1)
Music 212 World Musics (1)
Philosophy 110 Early Chinese Philosophy (1)
Philosophy 210 Neo-Confucianism and Chinese Buddhism (1)
Philosophy 350 Seminar in Chinese Philosophy-Comparativve Methodology (1)
Political Science 255 Government and Politics in South Asia (1)
Political Science 363 Decolonizing International Relations (1)
Religion 152 Religions of Asia (1)
Religion 231 Hindu Traditions (1)
Religion 233 Buddhist Traditions (1)
Religion 250 Across Religious Boundaries: Understanding Differences (when topic is Asian) (1)
Religion 285 Religions of China (1)
Religion 350 Comparative Studies in Religion (when topic is Asian) (1)
Sociology 236 Women, Men, and Social Change in East Asia (1)
Sociology 257 Re-orienting America: Asians in American History and Society (1)
Sociology 380 WomenÕs Movements in Asia (1)
Sociology 382 Reenvisioning Women in the Third World (1)

Vassar Summer Language and Culture Program in China

Vassar College offers a study abroad summer program at Qingdao University, Qingdao, China in association with Bard College. The program is committed to high academic standards and to providing opportunities for students to develop their knowledge of Chinese language and culture in an authentic linguistic environment of total immersion. Each session of the program lasts eight weeks from late May to late July. A Vassar or Bard faculty member directs the program, and resides in Qingdao when students are there.

The program is open to all Vassar students. Based on the level of language instruction needed by actual participating students, the program will offer, in a particular year, elementary, intermediate, and advanced courses. These courses are taught by the faculty members of the Institute of International Education (Guoji Jiaoliu Xueyuan) of Qingdao University, who specialize in teaching Chinese as a second language. Based on his/her actual level, a student could take one of the four language sequence courses--Chinese 101-102, Chinese 205-206, Chinese 305-306 and Chinese 340-341 with Chinese 201 (Special Topics) to complement the cultural aspect of the advanced courses. Additionally each student may take two mini-courses of Chinese calligraphy and martial arts (non-credit). Each language sequence course includes daily morning sessions of four-hour intensive language instruction, afternoon one-to-one sessions of oral practice with a native Chinese college student, two weeks of home stay in a Chinese family, weekend excursions (including Beijing and Confucius' Residence, Temple and Tomb), interactive recreational activities with Chinese faculty members and students, and an adequate amount of time for students' self-study.

A student will earn three-unit, letter-graded Vassar credits upon the successful completion of the whole session. Vassar participating students are entitled to the same financial aid as they are on campus. 

The summer program offers the following courses:

Chinese 101-102: Elementary Chinese 3.0
An introduction to Mandarin Chinese (putonghua or guoyu). While the approach is aural-lingual, reading and writing skills are introduced early in the course. This 3-unit intensive course covers the content similar to that of the on-campus Chinese 105-106. Grammatical analysis, pattern drills and conversational practice are stressed throughout. Open to all classes. 

Chinese 205-206: Intermediate Chinese 3.0
Further practice in conversation and learned patterns; acquisition of new grammatical structures, vocabulary, and about 800 additional characters. Emphasis on communicative skills in listening, speaking, reading and writing. Prerequisite: Chinese 105-106 or 3 entrance units, or permission of instructor.

Chinese 305-306: Advanced Chinese 2.0
Intensified instruction in the reading of original Chinese language materials, reflecting aspects of a changing China. Emphasis is on communicative skills. Prerequisite: Chinese 205-206 or permission of instructor.

Chinese 340-341: Advanced Readings in Modern Chinese 2.0
This sequence course is equivalent to fourth-year Chinese or beyond. The course aims to further develop the advanced students' speaking, reading and writing proficiency. Readings will include modern and contemporary literary works, journalistic writings, and other nonliterary texts. Readings are arranged according to topics and the course may be repeated if topics are different. Prerequisite: Chinese 306 or permission of instructor.

Chinese 201: Special Topics 1.0
When necessary, students may petition for approval to enroll in university course work or special academic internships associated with an advanced language course.