Asian Studies

Director: Martha Kaplan (Anthropology: South Asia and the Pacific);Steering Committee: Wenwei Dub (Chinese), Tomo Hattori (English), E. H. Rick Jarow (Religion: South Asia), Jin Jiang (History: East Asia), Jesse Kalin (Philosophy), Seungsook Moon (Sociology), Himadeep Muppidi (Political Science: South Asia), Anne Pike–Tay (Anthropology), Peipei Qiu (Japanese), Sonoko Sakakibaraab (Japanese), Bryan Van Norden (Philosophy: China), Andrew Watsky (Art History: East Asia), Yu Zhou (Geography).

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 Asia, 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 specialty. 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 2001/02 Asian Studies 380a), 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. Van Norden and Ms. Jiang.

130b. 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. Instructor to be announced.

[210. 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 2001/02.

[211. Chinese Drama and Theater] (1)

An introduction to the major Chinese dramatic genreszaju, chuanqi, kunqu, Beijing Opera, and modern Spoken Dramathrough 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 2001/02.

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.

[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 2001/02.

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.

Topic for 2001/02b: Ethnography of China. (same as Anthropology 240) This course introduces central aspects of Chinese culture and society, and considers two related anthropological issues: the relationship between continuity and change of social forms; and the ethnography of large, complex societies. Drawing on ethnographic studies, films, and other forms of cultural representation, we explore areas of Chinese social life, including kinship and family, gender identities and relations, communities and the state, religion and ideology, social categories and social mobility, as well as popular culture. This examination highlights cultural transformations in these areas as they are impacted by the implementation and dismantling of national sociopolitical agendas in modern Chinese history. While focusing primarily on mainland China, this course also investigates variations and connections in other Chinese communities and diasporas. Mr. Jing

[250. Topics in Asian Studies] (1)

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

Open to nonmajors.

Not offered in 2001/02.

280a Modern Japan (1)

This course examines one of the most dramatic and unanticipated national transformations in world history. Within less than a century, an isolated, resource-poor country on the edge of East Asia was able to remake itself in the image of a Western nation-state through industrialization and militarization. While Japan shared the experience of modernity with the Western world, its historical circumstances ensured that modernity in Japan be fraught with distinctive tensions and complications. Students problematize easy conventions by engaging with multiplicity of social experiences, the premise and the problems of modernity and modernization, and issues of historiography. Latest scholarship and primary sources, including audio-visual materials, are used extensively. Mr. Shimoda. One 3-hour meeting.

358a. 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 Art 358a) Topic for 2001/02: The Japanese Print. An examination of Japanese wood–block prints from the seventeenth through the nineteenth century. The seminar considers such issues as the technical aspects of producing wood–block prints; the varied subject matter, including the "two wheels of the vehicle of pleasure" (prostitution and theater), the Japanese landscape, and the burgeoning urban centers; and, the links between literature and prints, especially the often parodic reworking of classical literary themes in prints. Mr. Watsky.

Prerequisite: permission of instructor.

One 2–hour period.

380a. Women's Movements in Asia (1)

(Same as Sociology 380a; serves as Asian Studies "Senior Seminar" for 2001/02.) This interdisciplinary course examines the reemergence of women's movements in contemporary Asia by focusing on their cultural and historical contexts that go beyond the theory of "resource mobilization." Drawing upon case studies from Korea, Japan, India, and China, it traces the rise of feminist consciousness and women's movements at the turn of the twentieth century, and then analyzes the relationships between contemporary women's movements and the following topics: nationalism, political democratization, capitalist industrialization, ambivalence toward modernization, and postmodern conditions. Ms. Moon

Prerequisite: Permission of instructor.

383 Buddhism in America (1)

(Same as Religion 383) Is Buddhism with its doctrine of no-self compatible with American culture, individualism, and capitalist market theory? What was the initial attraction of Buddhism to Americans and what do American practitioners expect from Buddhism? Can we credit the Buddhism of the Beat Generation as an authentic form of Buddhism or mere illusion? Can Buddhism provide religious ethics and a sense of meaning of purpose to Americans? This course tries to answer these questions, among others, by examining the nature and characteristic features of American Buddhism- how it shares grounds with Buddhism in Asia and where it diverges from it- and how it constructs the meaning of religion in American culture. Ms. Park

II. Language Courses


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.

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. Mr. Du

Prerequisite: Chinese 105–106 or 3 entrance units, or permission of instructor.

Five 50–minute periods.

305a–306b. Advanced Chinese (2)

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.


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. Qiu.

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.

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  Cultural Localities (when Asian) (1)
Anthropology 360 Current Themes in Anthropological Theory and Method (when 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 358 Seminar in Asian Art (1)
English 228 Asian/American Literature (1)
English 326 Studies in Ethnic 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 (1)
History 223 Contemporary China (1)
History 224 Modern Japan (1)
History 229 History of India (1)
History 323 Remembrance of War and Modern East Asian Nations (1)
History 351 The Vietnam War (1)
Music 212 World Musics (1)
Philosophy 110 Early Chinese Philosophy (1)
Philosophy 210 Neo–Confucianism and Chinese Buddhism (1)
Political Science 255 Government and Politics in South Asia (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 Women, Men, and Social Change in East Asia (1)
Sociology 257 Class, Gender, and Ethnicity/Race in Asian American Communities (1)
Sociology 382 Reenvisioning Women in the Third World (1)