Asian Studies Program

Director: Martha Kaplan (Anthropology: South Asia and the Pacific); Steering Committee: Wenwei Du (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), Peipei Qiu (Japanese), Sonoko Sakakibara (Japanese), Bryan Van Norden (Philosophy: China), Michael Walsh (Religion/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 study away.

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" Asian Studies 350, 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 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
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.
112b.   Modern Asia: Tradition and Transformation
(Same as History 112b). An introduction to the history of modern Asia, with emphasis on Pacific East Asia. Since the seventeenth century, indigenous traditions and intrusion by a capitalist West have combined to shape this region. For many in the west, Asia has become an exotic or dangerous "Other" the "real Asia" remains elusive. Examining a series of historical developments that transformed Asian societies and cultures, the course provides a geopolitical overview of the region and basic knowledge of its peoples. Ms. Jiang.
130b.   Introduction to Modern Japanese Society and Culture
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.
210b.   Introduction to Chinese Literature: Poetry and Fiction
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. Ms. He
       Prerequisite: One course in Asian Studies, or literature, or permission.
[211.   Chinese Drama and Theater]
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 2002/03.
212a.   Chinese Film and Contemporary Fiction
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: The Masterpieces of Japan
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.
221.   Women in Japanese and Chinese Literature
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 2002/03.
233.   Buddhist Traditions
(Same as Religion 233)
235a.   Religions of China
(Same as Religion 235) Mr. Walsh.
[240.   Women in China]
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 2001/02.
286.   Modern Japanese Literature Tradition and Other Influence
What problems and opportunities does Japan's "traditional" culture, laden wtih stereotypical images such as samurai, geisha, and kabuki actors, present to a modern Japanese writer? What does it mean to create literature in the Japanese language? This course explores the problems of identity and nationality through the works of some of Japan's greatest modern novelists, playwrights, poets and filmmakers, including: Ogai, Soseki, Mishima, Kawabata, Tanizaki Kurosawa, Hagiwara, Inoue, etc. Mr. Rich
       Prerequisite: one course in literature or Asian Studies or permission of the instructor
       Two 75-minute periods.
350a.   Seminar in Asian Studies
An examination of selected topics relevent 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.
       Comparative Methodology. (Serves as Asian Studies Senior Seminar in 2002/2003). 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 India: The Bhagavadgita in the Mahabharata. This seminar focuses on the close reading and study of the Bhagavadgita, the most widely-known episode of India's great epic, that became a philosophical poem of monumental import. The text is read in its entirety, line by line, and considered from literary, linguistic, philosophical, historical, religious, and sociological perspectives. Mr. Jarow.
       Prerequisites: Hindu Traditions (Religion 231) or permission.

II. Language Courses



105a-106b.   Elementary Chinese
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.
182b.   Introduction to Chinese for Visitors
This is a special half semester course designed for students who are going to participate in the study trip to China (International Studies 110). The goal of this course is to give the students an opportunity to establish some basic knowledge and understanding of the Chinese language and its culture. By achieving in advance some familiarity with the language of the country they are traveling to, the students' traveling experience is enriched with knowledge of how a tone language works, how to make direct contact with people and how to exchange a few basic greetings. Ms.Parries
       Prerequisite: Permission of the Instructor
       Five 50-minute periods. Two laboratory hours.
205a-206b.   Intermediate Chinese
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. Ms. He.
       Prerequisite: Chinese 105-106 or 3 entrance units, or permission of instructor.
       Five 50-minute periods.
305a-306b.   Advanced Chinese
Intensified instruction in the reading of original Chinese language materials, reflecting aspects of a changing China. Emphasis is on communicative skills. Ms. He.
       Prerequisite: Chinese 205-206 or permission of instructor.
350a/351b.   Advanced Readings in Modern Chinese
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.


105a-106b.   Elementary Japanese
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 hiraganaand katakana syllabaries as well as approximately 600 kanji (Chinese characters). Ms. Qiu.
       Open to all classes.
       Five 50-minute periods.
205a-206b.   Intermediate Japanese
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. Sakakibara.
       Prerequisite: Japanese 105-106 or permission of instructor.
       Five 50-minute periods.
305a/306b.   Advanced Japanese
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. Sakakibara.
       Prerequisite: Japanese 205-206 or permission of instructor.
350a/351b.   Advanced Readings in Modern Japanese
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. Independent Work

290a or b.   Field Work
(1/2 or 1)
298a or b.   Independent Study
(1/2 or 1)
300-301.   Senior Thesis
A 1-unit thesis written over two semesters.
302a or b.   Senior Thesis
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)

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 EconomicDevelopment (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 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: UnderstandingDifferences (when topic is Asian) (1)
Religion 285 Religions of China (1)
Religion 350 Comparative Studies in Religion (when topicis Asian) (1)
Sociology 236 Women, Men, and Social Change in East Asia (1)
Sociology 257 Re-orienting America: Asians inAmerican History and Society (1)
Sociology 382 Reenvisioning Women in the Third World (1)