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Introduction to East Asia
A broad survey of East Asian civilization that highlights important cultural developments during representative eras of Chinese, Japanese, and Korean history. These snapshots will provide a basic foundation for understanding contemporary East Asia and serve as an ideal gateway to the East Asian Studies program.
 
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Grades

You final grade will ultimately depend on my assessment of your performance in each of the above areas, though the following descriptions should provide you with a rough idea of the defining characteristics of students within particular grade ranges:

APossesses a deep understanding of the major concepts and themes of the course. The “A” student is able to consistently identify and explain key ideas in the readings, develop genuine insights into the broader significance of these concepts, and demonstrate a high level of intellectual engagement in class discussions.
BDemonstrates a serious commitment to the course and a strong grasp of the major concepts and themes but with less depth and/or consistency than the “A” student.
CDemonstrates a reasonable effort to attend class and participate in discussions as well as a basic grasp of the course material.
DDemonstrates a minimal commitment to the course and a weak grasp of basic concepts and themes.
FFails to demonstrate an acceptable degree of effort in the course through low attendance, inability to discuss basic concepts and themes, missed assignments and/or plagiarized work.
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Class Participation icon
Class Participation
The Class Participation mark will be based on your ability to demonstrate that you have made a sincere attempt to read and understand the assigned material Although the quality of your comments will obviously be taken into consideration, all attempts to seriously engage the readings — from sharing your perspective on the material to simply asking a relevant question — will enhance your grade.
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"Essays" icon
Essays
Over the course of the term, you will be writing three 5-page (1250-word minimum) papers, each worth 20% for a total of 60% of your final grade. Please note that all sources should be “peer-reviewed” (i.e. academic books and journal articles, rather than non-academic websites) and that you must provide appropriate citations for both direct and indirect quotations using Chicago Style footnotes. If you have any questions regarding what does or does not constitute plagiarism, please refer to the college’s plagiarism policy. Essays that contain significant instances of plagiarism will receive a 0 and be reported to the Office of Academic Affairs in accordance with college policy. All papers should be submitted electronically at Blackboard/Assignments; due dates are listed on the syllabus, after which your grade will go down one degree (e.g. from B+ to B) for each day that the essay is late. The essay topics are as follows:
 
First Emperor of China cover
 
Essay 1: The First Emperor of China
The Grand Historian, Sima Qian, offers the following reflection on the First Emperor’s unification of China:
 
Then Qin faced south to call itself ruler of the empire, which meant that the world now had a Son of Heaven to head it. The masses hoped that they would be granted the peace and security to live out their lives, and there was not one of them who did not set aside selfish thoughts and look up to the sovereign in reverence. ... But the First Emperor was greedy and short-sighted, confident in his own wisdom, never trusting his meritorious officials, never getting to know his people. He cast aside the kingly Way and relied on private procedures, outlawing books and writings, making the laws and penalties much harsher, putting deceit and force foremost and humanity and righteousness last, leading the whole world in violence and cruelty. In annexing the lands of others, one may place priority on deceit and force, but insuring peace and stability in the lands one has annexed calls for a respect for authority. Hence I say that seizing, and guarding what you have seized, do not depend upon the same techniques.1
 
Explain why you either agree or disagree with Sima Qian’s assessment of the First Emperor. Your position should be supported by at least four examples of the First Emperor’s accomplishments and/or failures drawn from Jonathan Clements’ The First Emperor of China as well as references to at least two additional peer-reviewed secondary sources. Since Clements’ book does not have an index, you should take notes on relevant passages as you read through the text. For more details on the essay requirements see the Essay 1 Rubric below.
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Essays in Idleness and Hojoki cover
 
Essay 2: The Literature of Reclusion
Chomei and Kenko both lived during the Kamakura period (1185-1333) — a time when the sophisticated culture of the Heian court was displaced by the turmoil and violence of the shogunate (military government). Although both responded to the passing of Japan’s golden age by pursuing the life of a “recluse monk” (tonseisha), each developed a unique perspective on the relationship between Buddhist asceticism and the aesthetic values of the Heian aristocracy. As Meredith McKinney writes in the Introduction to her translation of Essays in Idleness and Hojoki:
 
It is a shock to move from Chomei’s tranquil seclusion in his little hut to the vigorous and shifting realm of Kenko’s engagement with the complexities of worldly life and how best to live it. More than a century separates the two works, a turbulent period in which much changed. Yet fundamental things unite them. Both these men, in their lives and in their writing, combined in an uneasy and fruitful union the two key elements of the literature of reclusion — religion (Buddhism) and the literary arts.2
 
How do these two texts exemplify Chomei and Kenkos distinct approaches to the tonseisha ideal and the literature of reclusionwith which it is associated. Your response should include at least three examples from each text as well as references to at least two peer-reviewed secondary sources. The paper should conclude with a reflection on how this comparison helped you develop a deeper understanding of the transition from the court-centered rule of the Heian period to the military domination of the Kamakura shogunate. Since McKinney’s translation does not have an index, you should take notes on relevant passages as you read through the text. For more details on the essay requirements see the Essay 2 Rubric below.
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Lost Names cover
 
 Essay 3: Lost Names
According to Richard E. Kim,
 
One of the most important elements in Korean literature of the past and even the present — from the point of view of understanding Korean literature psychologically and philosophically — is the concept of Han [/].3
 
Yet he goes on to say that “what I have been trying to find in and through my writing is nothing less than the ways and means — psychological and philosophical — to destroy the Korean version of Han.”4 Your essay should begin witha discussion of han, followed by at least three examples of how Kim “liberate[s] himself and his characters from the iron grip, from the centuries-old clutch of Han.”5 Your paper should ultimately explain how these examples, together with the author’s discussion of han in the Preface (especially pages xiii-xxiii), the Authors Note on pages 197-8, Kathy Masalkis interview with Richard E. Kim, and appropriate references to peer-reviewed secondary sources, helped you develop a deeper understanding of Koreas emancipation from Japanese colonization. Since Kims novel does not have an index, you should take notes on relevant passages as you read through the text. For more details on the essay requirements see the Essay 3 Rubric below.
 
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1 Sima Qian, Records of the Grand Historian, Third Edition, trans. Burton Watson (New York: Columbia University Press, 1995), 81.
2 Kenko and Chomei, Essays in Idleness and Hojoki, trans. Meredith McKinney (London: Penguin Books, 2013), ix.
3 Richard E. Kim, Lost Names: Scenes from a Korean Boyhood (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1998), xiii.
4 Kim, Lost Names, xiv.
5 Kim, Lost Names, xiv.
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Reacting to the Past logo
Toward the end of the semester, we will do a role-playing game that focuses on the period from July 1940 to November 1941, when Japan was embroiled in a three-year war with China and quickly running out of the natural resources it needed to continue its conquest of China and maintain its industrial economy back home. Taking on the roles of leading figures in Tokyo (army and navy officers, bureaucrats, and members of the Imperial Court), you will read important works from Japan’s past and advise the emperor on how to proceed. Will you strike south” to seize the natural resources of Southeast Asia — at the risk of war with Britain and America? Or will you secure the resources you need from England and America — even if it means abandoning Japan’s ultimate goal of leading a Pan-Asian coalition that would eliminate Western imperialism from the region? Please note that this “game” demands a high degree of student preparation: you will need to read various primary and secondary source materials in order to prepare petitions for consideration by the cabinet, make speeches that support or oppose such petitions, and more generally work toward achieving your personal goals as well as those of any political faction with which you are aligned. In short, students who become fully immersed in the game by reading the materials carefully (and repeatedly) will likely to significantly better than those who rely on general impressions and uncertain recollections. To get started, download the RTTP Gamebook on Blackboard by clicking the RTTP tab on the left side of the course’s Blackboard page. The 20% grade for this section of the course will be calculated as follows: 3.5% for a quiz on the pre-game readings, 1.5% for attendance, 5% for participation, and 10% for two 500-word written assignments (see RTTP Written Assignment Rubric below).
 
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Reflection on Contemporary East Asia
 
East Asia may not be as cohesive and distinctive a region as it once was, and perhaps there is no longer any definable “East Asian civilization.” Modernization and Westernization shredded many East Asian traditions beginning as early as the late nineteenth century, and the mid-twentieth Cold War divided East Asia between competing outside ideologies and power blocs, whose legacies linger still. Recent East Asian economic takeoff, meanwhile, might be interpreted merely as an extension of a universally successful modern model. ... Yet, over the whole of East Asia, the ghost, not so much of Confucius as of the entire East Asian past, still hovers, often invisibly but nonetheless powerfully, especially in the form of the extensively shared vocabulary among the East Asian languages. China (including Greater China), Japan, [and] Korea ... are all very different places, but they also literally share many of the same words and ideas. And, if there is any one thing that does seem fairly certain at the start of the twenty-first century, it is that East Asia is once again, as it had been for much of human history prior to the nineteenth century, a major world center. (HEA, 400)
 
According to oxforddictionaries.com, the term civilization can be defined as “The society, culture, and way of life of a particular area.” Halcombe sketches out arguments both for and against the proposition that it is still meaningful to speak of “East Asian civilization.” Which argument do you find more convincing? Using specific examples from the course, explain why contemporary East Asia does or does not continue to share a sense of society, culture, and/or way of life that is sufficient to warrant the label “civilization.” Your paper should be at least 750 words and include at least three aspects of civilization that China, Japan, and Korea do or do not share. For more details on the paper requirements, see the Reflection on Contemporary East Asia Rubric below.
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Required Texts
  • Holcombe, Charles. A History of East Asia: From the Origins of Civilzation to the Twenty-First Century. Second Edition. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2017. 
  • Clements, Jonathan. The First Emperor of China. Albert Bridge Books, 2015. 
  • Kenko and Chomei. Essays in Idleness and Hojoki. Translated by Meredith McKinney. London: Penguin Classics, 2013.
  • Kim, Richard E. Lost Names: Scenes from a Korean Boyhood. Second Edition. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2011.
  • Moser, John E. Japan, Pan-Asianism, and the West, 1940-41: Game Book. Unpublished Manuscript, Version 3.3, August 2019. (Download @ Blackboard/HIST165/RTTP)
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Virtual Office Hours: image of computer monitor saying "The teacher is in"
Virtual Office Hours & Contact Info
I will be available online (via Zoom) at the following times:
Mondays to Fridays, 10
:30-11:30   Tea/Talk on Fridays from 4:30-5:30
Phone: 630-637-5619  •  E-mail: bhoffert@noctrl.edu
Home Page: http://bhoffert.faculty.noctrl.edu
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Rubric icon
Essay 1 Rubric: The First Emperor of China
 

Unsatisfactory
0 - .69
Satisfactory
.70-.79
Good
.80-.89
Excellent
.90-1.0
MARK
LENGTH
<1000
words
1000-1250
words
1250-1500
words
>1500
words
2%
STYLE
Ideas are poorly expressed; substantial spelling/grammar mistakes; no “Chicago Style” citations
Ideas are adequately expressed but there are many stylistic errors Ideas are clearly expressed with some stylistic errors Ideas are eloquently expressed with very few stylistic errors 2%
EVIDENCE FROM THE BIOGRAPHY
There are significant problems with the references to Clements’ biography of the First Emperor The  examples of the FE’s accomplishments and/or failures do not adequately support the thesis
The thesis is adequately supported by 4 examples of the FE’s accomplishments and/or failures The thesis is strongly supported by at least 4 examples of the FE’s accomplishments and/or failures 10%
ADDITIONAL SECONDARY SOURCES
There are no references to secondary sources The paper lacks appropriate references to peer-reviewed secondary sources There are appropriate references to at least 2 peer-reviewed secondary sources There are 2 or more secondary sources that are well chosen and skillfully used
3%
THESIS
The paper lacks a clear thesis regarding Sima Qian’s assessment of the First Emperor
The thesis is not presented in the introduction and/or not sufficiently discussed in the conclusion The thesis is presented in the introduction and adequately discussed in the conclusion The thesis is clearly stated in the introduction and insightfully discussed in the conclusion 3%
TOTAL




20%
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Essay 2 Rubric: The Literature of Reclusion
 

Unsatisfactory
0 - .69
Satisfactory
.70-.79
Good
.80-.89
Excellent
.90-1.0
MARK
LENGTH
<1000
words
1000-1250
words
1250-1500
words
>1500
words
2%
STYLE
Ideas are poorly expressed; substantial spelling/grammar mistakes; no “Chicago Style” citations Ideas are adequately expressed but there are many stylistic errors Ideas are clearly expressed with some stylistic errors Ideas are eloquently expressed with very few stylistic errors 2%
EVIDENCE FROM PRIMARY SOURCES
There are significant problems with the references to Hojoki and Essays in Idleness
There are less than 3 references to one or both of the two texts
The thesis is adequately supported by 3 examples from each of the two texts
The thesis is strongly supported by at least 3 examples from each of the two texts
10%
SECONDARY SOURCES
There are no references to secondary sources The paper lacks appropriate references to peer-reviewed secondary sources There are appropriate references to at least 2 peer-reviewed secondary sources There are 2 or more secondary sources that are well chosen and skillfully used 3%
THESIS
The paper lacks a clear thesis regarding Japan’s transition from the Heian to the Kamakura period
The thesis is not presented in the introduction and/or not sufficiently discussed in the conclusion The thesis is presented in the introduction and adequately discussed in the conclusion The thesis is clearly stated in the introduction and insightfully discussed in the conclusion 3%
TOTAL




20%
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Essay 3 Rubric: Lost Names
 

Unsatisfactory
0 - .69
Satisfactory
.70-.79
Good
.80-.89
Excellent
.90-1.0
MARK
LENGTH
<1000
words
1000-1250
words
1250-1500
words
>1500
words
2%
STYLE
Ideas are poorly expressed; substantial spelling/grammar mistakes; no “Chicago Style” citations Ideas are adequately expressed but there are many stylistic errors Ideas are clearly expressed with some stylistic errors Ideas are eloquently expressed with very few stylistic errors 2%
DISCUSSION OF HAN
The concept of han is not discussed
The concept of han is briefly discussed but without reference to the Preface, Author’s Note, or interview The concept of han is adequately discussed with reference to the Preface, Author’s Note, and/or interview There is a clear and insightful discussion of han based on the Preface, Author’s Note, and/or interview 2%
TEXTUAL EVIDENCE
There are significant problems with the textual evidence that is presented in support of the thesis
Some textual evidence is provided, but it does not adequately support the thesis There are appropriate discussions of 3 examples that illustrate a liberation from han There are insightful discussions of at least 3 examples that illustrate a liberation from han 10%
SECONDARY SOURCES
There are no references to secondary sources The paper lacks appropriate references to peer-reviewed secondary sources There are appropriate references to at least 1 peer-reviewed secondary source There is at least one secondary sources that is well chosen and skillfully used 1%
THESIS
The paper does not develop a clear thesis with regard to Korea’s emancipation from Japanese colonization
The thesis is not presented in the introduction and/or not sufficiently discussed in the conclusion The thesis is presented in the introduction and adequately discussed in the conclusion The thesis is clearly stated in the introduction and insightfully discussed in the conclusion 3%
TOTAL




20%
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RTTP Written Assignment Rubric
 

Unsatisfactory
0 - .69
Satisfactory
.70-.79
Good
.80-.89
Excellent
.90-1.0
MARK
LENGTH
<400
words
400-500
words
500-600
words
>600
words
.5%
STYLE
Ideas are poorly expressed; substantial spelling/grammar mistakes; no “Chicago Style” citations Ideas are adequately expressed but there are many stylistic errors Ideas are clearly expressed with some stylistic errors Ideas are eloquently expressed with very few stylistic errors .5%
CONTENT
The paper shows little understanding of the issues that are relevant to the topic
The paper shows minimal understanding of the issues that are relevant to the topic The paper appropriately represents the character’s perspective on the topic The paper insightfully represents the character’s perspective on the topic 4%
TOTAL




5%
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Reflection on East Asian Civilization Rubric
 

Unsatisfactory
0 - .69
Satisfactory
.70-.79
Good
.80-.89
Excellent
.90-1.0
MARK
LENGTH
<650
words
650-750
words
750-850
words
>850
words
1%
STYLE
Ideas are poorly expressed; substantial spelling/grammar mistakes; no “Chicago Style” citations Ideas are adequately expressed but there are many stylistic errors Ideas are clearly expressed with some stylistic errors Ideas are eloquently expressed with very few stylistic errors 1%
ASPECTS OF EAST ASIAN CIVILIZATION
The paper does not adequately discuss the “society, culture, and/or way of life” of China, Japan & Korea
The paper identifies less than 3 aspects of society, culture, or way of life that C, J & K do or do not share The paper identifies 3 aspects of society, culture, or way of life that C, J & K do or do not share There are at least 3 strong examples of civilization aspects that C, J & K do or do not share 4%
TEXTUAL EVIDENCE
The above aspects are inadequately supported by evidence from the readings The above aspects are minimally supported by evidence from the readings The above aspects are supported by appropriate evidence from the readings The above aspects are strongly supported by evidence from the readings 4%
TOTAL




10%
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Learning Outcomes for History Majors*

  • Students should be able to identify and accurately cite primary sources. They should be able to describe the potential insights and/or limitations an historical document will yield for a given historical problem.
  • Students should be able to identify and accurately cite secondary sources. They should be able to sum up the thesis as well as the strengths and/or weaknesses of the arguments.
  • Students should be able to develop and ask an historical research question. They should be able to choose appropriate primary and/or secondary sources for their research question.
  • Students should be able to answer their research question by establishing a thesis that is defended using primary and/or secondary sources. They should be able to construct a coherent narrative that communicates historical knowledge and provides an interpretation of the past.
  • Students should be able to analyze diversity in the human experience, including race, ethnicity, and/or gender. They should be able to analyze the causes and consequences of historical events in a global context.

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Learning Outcomes for East Asian Studies Majors*

East Asian Studies majors should be able to:
  • compare at least two different countries/regions in East Asia.
  • describe cultural values and characteristics of a particular East Asian nation.
  • describe social and/or economic changes in East Asia and their consequences.
* All submitted work may be used for program assessment (with names removed).
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