Asian Studies

Director: Jesse Kalin (Philosophy); Steering Committee: Wenwei Du (Chinese), E. H. Rick Jarow (Religion: South Asia), Jin Jiang (History: East Asia), M. Glen Johnson (Political Science: South Asia), Martha Kaplan (Anthropology: South Asia and the Pacific), Seungsook Moon (Sociology), Aili Mu* (Chinese), Anne Pike-Tay (Anthropology), Peipei Qiuab (Japanese), Sonoko Sakakibara (Japanese), Bryan Van Norden (Philosophy: China), Andrew Watsky (Art History: East Asia), Yu Zhou (Geography).

ab Absent on leave for the year. * Part time.

The Asian Studies Program provides students with a multidisciplinary approach to the study of the history, economics, politics, geography, languages and literatures, religions, and cultures of the peoples of Asia. While students are required to focus on a particular region of Asia (e.g., East Asia, South Asia, Southeast Asian, China, Japan, India), including language study, intermediate and advanced coursework, and a senior thesis in this area, they are also expected to be familiar with other parts of Asia through the introductory course and some coursework outside their area of speciality. The senior seminar is intended to address issues that affect several areas of Asia and Asian Studies as a discipline. A student's course of study for the major is designed in close consultation with the director and an adviser. Students should obtain the application form, which includes a statement of interest, from the program office prior to meeting with the program director. This should be done in the first semester of the sophomore year if the student is intending to apply for JYA.

Study Abroad: Study abroad in some region of Asia or some alternative structured field experience in Asia greatly enhances a student's learning experience and understanding of Asia and its regional complexities. It is strongly recommended that Asian Studies majors avail themselves of such an opportunity. Advice and literature on different programs are available through the Offices of the Dean of Studies and Asian Studies.

Requirements for the Concentration: 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 one (1) unit of independent study or field work be counted towards the major.

1) Asian Studies 105: Introduction to Asian Studies.

2) Language: Competency in one Asian foreign language through the intermediate college level must be achieved and demonstrated by completion of relevant courses or special examination. A maximum of 4 units of Asian language study above the introductory level will be counted toward the 12 units for the major. Instruction is offered in Chinese and Japanese, while Hindi and Korean may be taken through the Self-Instructional Language Program.

3) 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 Program and Approved courses listed 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.

4) Advanced-Level Work: A minimum of 3 units at the 300-level including the designated Asian Studies "Senior Seminar" (in 1999/00 Asian Studies 382b), 1 unit of thesis work (Asian Studies 300-301 or Asian Studies 302), and at least one additional 300-level seminar from the list of Approved Courses below. The senior seminar and the thesis constitute the Senior Year Requirement.

5) Recommendation for Discipline-Specific Courses: The Asian Studies major is an interdisciplinary area studies program. While Asian Studies majors do course work related to Asia in several different departments, majors are expected to identify one or two disciplines in which they will develop a theoretical or methodological sophistication that they will bring to bear on their study of Asia, particularly in their fulfillment of senior year requirements.

6) Recommendation for Area-Specific Courses: In mapping out a plan of study, students should try to include the following: 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 one's region of focus (one of which will be Asian Studies 105).

Correlate Sequence in Chinese Language: 61/2 units chosen among Chinese 105, 106, 205, 206, 298, 305, 306, and 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: 61/2 units chosen among Japanese 105, 106, 205, 206, 305, 306, 350, 351, and 399; at least 5 units must be taken above the 100-level and two courses must be taken at the 300-level.

In both correlate sequences, Junior Year Abroad 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 and Ms. Jiang.

180a. Religions of China, Korea, Japan (1)

(same as RELI 180a.)

181b. Introduction to Modern Japanese Society and Culture (1)

An introduction to aspects of modern Japanese society and culture, including women in Japanese society, the life of young professionals and college students in Japan, the place of traditional culture and custom in modern Japan, cultural misunderstandings between Japanese and other cultures, and language and communications in Japan. The course emphasizes comparative analyses between a student's own culture and society and Japanese culture and society. Ms. Sakakibara.

[210. Introduction to Chinese Literature: Poetry and Fiction] (1)

The major genres of works of poetry and fiction, both classical and modern. Emphasis will be 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 will be presented and Chinese poetic and narrative principles introduced.

Prerequisite: One course in Asian Studies, or literature, or permission.

Not offered in 1999/00.

(See Asian Studies 250b.)

212a. 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.

[220. Traditional Japanese Literature] (1)

An exploration of Japanese literary tradition through readings in translation and discussion of the major works from the eighth to the eighteenth centuries. Works studied cover a wide range of literary genres, including the oldest extant anthology of Japanese verse,Manyoshu (Collection of Ten Thousand Leaves, eighth-century); the tenth-century lyrical prose, The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter and Tales of Ise; the early eleventh-century long novel, The Tale of Genji; the medieval miscellanies, The Ten Foot Square Hut and The Essays in Idleness; Zeami's (1363-1443) dramatic theory and his Noh play; Ihara Saikaku's (1642-93) fiction; the puppet plays by Chikamatsu Monzaemon (1653-1734), and Matsuo Basho's (1644-94) haiku. 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 1999/00.

250b. Topics in Asian Studies (1)

Selected topics in Asian Studies. May be repeated for credit when a new topic is offered.

Open to nonmajors.

Topic for 1999/00b: Aspects of Chinese Literature. Selected works of Chinese literature from a variety of periods and genres, including the Book of Odes (Iyric poetry), Tso Chuan (historical narrative), at least one classic Chinese novel, the short stories of Lu Xun, and philosophical and political essays of Mao Tsetung and others. Mr. Van Norden.

280b. Women in China (1)

An interdisciplinary examination of women in Chinese society. Taking a historical perspective, the course discusses ideology, social institutions, and literary representation. Specific topics explored include the traditional Chinese woman, Yin and Yang, the Confuscian ideal, beauty, female warriors, marriage and concubinage, and footbinding. Both historical and literary sources are used.

284b. Modern Japanese Literature (1)

A survey of Japanese literature in translation form the Meiji period to the present. Since the Meiji Restoration, Japan has gone through tremendous change - - rapid modernization, fascist imperialism, defeat in W.W.II, rapid recovery, and economic success. Readings are selected from a variety of authors and works from the last 130 years. Through these readings, we are able to see Japan's struggle and creative thoughts, which have been shaped by its position between Western and traditional culture.

288b Zen Buddhism: Origin and Development (1)

(Same as Religion 288) An exploration of the origin and developments of Zen Buddhism in East Asia and its influence on contemporary Western culture. Through an examination of theoretical background of Zen Buddhism, ontological implication of Zen meditation, and Zen concept of language in comparison with contemporary Western philosophy of language, the course provides a critical evaluation of the meaning of Zen tradition in modern time.

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.

(Same as Philosophy 350a.) Topic for 1999/00a: Comparative Methodology. An exploration of some of the methodological issues raised by the prospect of one culture understanding and making judgments about another. The course will consider 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 will provide test cases for some of the theories examined. Mr. Van Norden.

382b. Asian Diasporas (1)

(Same as Geography, Anthropology 382; serves as the Asian Studies "Senior Seminar" for 1999/00.) Focusing on Asian diasporas, the course engages the current surge of interest in diaspora studies from both anthropological and geographical perspectives. Attention is given to issues of colonial and post-colonial struggles, formation and transformation of ethnic identities, roles of middlemen minorities, and nationalism and transnationalism of Asian diasporas. The principal cases are drawn from East Asian and South Asian communities in Southeast Asia, the Pacific Islands, and the U.S. Ms. Kaplan and Ms. Zhou. 

II. Language Courses


105a-106b. Elementary Chinese (11/2)

A study of the national language (Kuo Yü). While the approach is aural-lingual, the reading and writing skills are introduced early in the beginning of the program. The two semesters cover over 500 characters. Grammatical analysis, pattern drills, and conversational practice are stressed throughout. Mr. Du.

Open to all classes.

Five 50-minute periods. Two laboratory hours.

205a-206b. Intermediate Chinese (11/2)

Further practice in conversation and learned patterns; acquisition of new grammatical structures, vocabulary, and about 800 additional characters. Texts include cultural topics on literature, language, religion, customs, history, geography. Mr. Du.

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, including novels, essays, poems, plays, newspapers, documents. Ms. Mu.

Prerequisite: Chinese 205-206 or permission of instructor.


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). Ms. Sakakibara.

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).

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.

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. Watsky.

Prerequisite: Japanese 305/306 or permission of instructor. 

III. Independent Work

Prerequisite for field work or independent study: 2 units of work in approved Asian studies courses. Permission of the program director is required for all independent work.

290a or b. Field Work (1/2 or 1)

298a or b. Independent Study (1/2 or 1)

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.

399a or b. Senior Independent Study (1/2 or 1)

IV. 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 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 Area Studies in Ethnography (when Asian) (1)

Anthropology 366 Problems in Cultural Analysis (when Asian) (1)

Anthropology 382 Asian Diasporas (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)

English 228 Asian-American Literature (1)

Geography 235 East Asia: People, Culture, and Economic Development (1)

Geography 340 Advanced Regional Studies (when Asian) (1)

History 222 Modern China, 1800-1949 (1)

History 223 Contemporary China, 1945-Present (1)

History 224 Modern Japan, 1860-1980s (1)

History 229 History of India (1)

History 323 Remembrance of War and Modern East Asian Nations (1)

History 351 The Vietnam War (1)

Int'l Studies 110 International Studies Study Trip: India (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 (1)

Political Science 255 Government and Politics in South Asia (1)

Political Science 267 NGOs and Global Society (1)

Religion 152 Eastern Religious Traditions (1)

Religion 231 Hindu Traditions (1)

Religion 233 Buddhist Traditions (1)

Religion 250 Across Religious Boundaries: Understanding Differences (when topic is Asian) (1)

Religion 350 Comparative Studies in Religion (when topic is Asian) (1)

Sociology 236 Social Change in East Asia: Culture, Modernity, Gender, and Sexuality (1)

Sociology 257 Class, Gender, and Ethnicity/Race in Asian American Communities (1)

Sociology 382 Women and the Politics of Third-World Development (1)