East Asian ThoughtThis seminar examines the evolution of the East
Asian intellectual tradition through a close reading of primary sources,
beginning with the development of Confucianism, Daoism and Buddhism and ending
with a role-playing game that focuses on Korea’s attempt to modernize at the
end of the nineteenth century.
The distribution of grades for the course is as follows:
Your 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:
A Consistently demonstreates a deep understanding of the major
concepts and themes of the course, develops
into their broader significance, and maintains a high
of intellectual engagement in class discussions.
B Demonstrates a serious commitment to the
course (i.e. attendance and participation) and a strong grasp of the
major concepts and themes but with less depth and/or consistency than
the “A” student.
C Demonstrates a basic grasp of the
course material as well as a reasonable effort to attend
class and participate in discussions.
D Demonstrates a minimal commitment to the course
a weak grasp of basic concepts and themes.
F Fails to demonstrate an acceptable degree of
in the course through low attendance, inability to discuss basic
and themes, missed assignments and/or plagiarized work.Learning Objective
By the end of the course, students should be able to:
- develop and present arguments in a debate format.
- identify and accurately cite primary and secondary sources.
- develop a thesis that is defended using primary and/or
secondary sources and construct a coherent narrative that communicates
historical knowledge and provides an interpretation of the past.
- analyze diversity in the human experience, including race, ethnicity, and/or gender.
- analyze the causes and consequences of historical events in a global context.
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. All attempts to seriously engage the
readings—from sharing your perspective on the material to simply asking a
relevant question—will contribute to your grade. Your grade will also be
substantially affected by your participation in the Reacting to the Past game
that we will play at the end of the semester.
should be submitted to Blackboard/Assignments by the deadlines provided
on the syllabus. Late papers will be penalized a full grade (e.g. from
A to B) for the first day and one degree (e.g. from B to B-)
thereafter. All papers should include appropriate references to “academic” (i.e. peer-reviewed) sources; both direct quotations and indirect references to the ideas of another author should be properly cited using Chicago Style footnotes. Papers that contain significant instances of plagiarism
will receive a 0 and be reported to the Office of Academic Affairs. All
submitted work may be used for program assessment (with names removed).
After exploring the thought of Confucius and his two most important
early followers, Mencius and Xunzi, we will have an in-class debate on the
question of whether human nature is inherently good or bad. In preparation for
the debate, you will write a 4-5 page paper (1000-word minimum) in the form of
a “memorial” to Zhao Zheng, who reigned as the King of Qin from 247-221 BCE and
then as the First Emperor of China (Qin Shi Huang Di) from 221-210 BCE. The
purpose of your memorial is to convince the Qin ruler to allow you participate
in an upcoming court debate between the followers of Mencius and Xunzi,
respectively. The memorial should be dated to the year 240, when Zhao Zheng was
mature enough (at the age of nineteen) to develop his own ruling philosophy,
but before he had fully settled on the “Legalist” policies that ultimately led
to the unification of China in 221 BCE. (Take a look at the “The First Interview with the King of Ch’in: A Memorial” to see an actual memorial to Zhao Zheng by the Legalist thinker Han Feizi.)
Your paper should open with a discussion of the historical context that will frame the debate (i.e. the sociopolitical
turmoil of the Spring & Autumn and Warring States periods as well as
relevant details regarding the state of Qin in 240 BCE). You should then go on
to present a coherent argument for either Mencius’ or Xunzi’s position on human
nature, illustrating key points with direct quotations from primary and secondary sources. Finally, you should conclude by demonstrating (with as much
specificity as possible) how the adoption of your chosen position will help Zhao
Zheng become a “true king”—one who is capable of securing the “Mandate of
Heaven” that Zhao Zheng’s great-grandfather (King Zhaoxiang) implicitly claimed
when he extinguished the Zhou dynasty in 256 BCE.
Some of the questions you may wish
to reflect on as you write the paper include: how do Mencius and Xunzi define
“human nature” (M: 6A1-2, 6A6; X: 180-181); how do they account for “bad”
behavior (M: 6A6, 6A8-9, 6A15; X: 179-180); how do they feel that “goodness”
should be cultivated (M: 6A14-15; X: 179-180, 182); and do they value “humaneness”
(ren) and “ritual” (li) equally, or do they give priority to one
over the other (M: 6A16-19; X: 182-183). You may also find it helpful to look
at the index for major themes in Mencius on page 116 and read the brief
introductions to the chapters from Xunzi. Your paper must be submitted to
Blackboard/Assignments before class on the day of the debate in order to
avoid the late penalty described above.
Warring States Exegesis*
After completing the
section on the Warring States period, you will write a 4-5 page essay (1000-word
minimum) exploring the historical significance of a “primary source” passage
from the assigned readings on Daoism (Laozi
and Zhuangzi), Legalism, or
Huang-Lao. You must choose a passage that was not discussed in class, though
you may use material that was discussed in class to elucidate the
meaning of your chosen passage. Your paper should begin by quoting the
passage that you wish to focus on (or just the relevant parts if it is too long
to cite in its entirety). You should then provide an introduction in which you
state your “thesis” (i.e. the main point that you hope to demonstrate in the
body of the essay). Your exegesis of the passage should explain not only the
meaning of the text as it relates to the fundamental principles of the
tradition with which it is associated, but also how it contributed to that
tradition’s response to the sociopolitical turmoil that arose from the collapse
of the Zhou feudal order during the Spring and Autumn (722-481 BCE) and Warring
States (475-221 BCE) periods. Your argument should be supported through
relevant quotes from both “primary”
sources (i.e. the original writings of authors from the period in
question) and at least four “secondary”
sources (i.e. works that discuss various “primary” and “secondary” sources).
Reacting to the Past
Toward the end of the semester we will engage in a role-playing game that focuses on Korea’s
attempt to modernize at the end of the nineteenth century. After a few
preparatory classes, you and your classmates will take on the roles of
historical figures from the period and participate in a Reform Council
that will ultimately adopt a reform program for Korea. Each student
will write two memorials as well as a final paper in which you will
assess the reform program that was adopted by the class in the final
RTTP session. 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 formal memorials, make
oral arguments to the Council, and debate reform proposals with
classmates who will be representing different political and social
interests. You will need to negotiate with other members of the Council
in order to push through or block reforms and ultimately agree on a
final reform program, which will be promulgated in the king’s
name at the close of deliberations. Finally, your analysis of the
reform program will require you to demonstrate a deep understanding of
the issues that were debated during the game. In short, students who
have read the materials carefully and become fully immersed in the game
will likely do significantly better than those who rely on general
impressions and uncertain recollections.
are five particularly prominent roles in the game, each of which is
briefly described below. Those who are interested in playing one or
more of these roles should do a little research and submit a brief
explanation of which role(s) you would like to play and why. Role
requests are due by Friday, November 1; those who do not submit a
request will be assigned a role at random.
- KimHongjip (a.k.a. Kim Koengjip).
Chief Minister of the Deliberative Council, previously inclined toward
moderate reform but now willing to consider radical reforms in the wake
of Chinese defeats in the opening phase of the Sino-Japanese War.
- Yu Kilchun. Wrote Observations on a Journey to the West
about his impressions of Korea vis-a-vis the West. Strong advocate for
radical reform, but open to compromise when necessary to attain larger
- Min Yongdal. High official, member of Queen’s family. Known to be a man of integrity but inclined to be protective of royal prerogatives.
- Pak Chongyang.
#2 person in the Council. Spent time in Japan and America. Inclined
toward radical reform, pro-American, and leery of Japanese intentions.
- Pak Chunyang. Leader of the Taewon’gun faction. Strongly opposed to Westernizing reforms and adamantly anti-Japanese.
student will write two 500-word memorials on
two of the four topics that will be debated in class (namely,
political, social, economic, and education reform). Those who are
affiliated with a faction (most of the class) should coordinate with
the other members to choose topics of interest while ensuring that the
perspective is appropriately presented at each debate. Memorials should
be written in character, make use of both primary and secondary
sources, and include references to Chinese and/or Japanese perspectives
on the topic in question. All sources should be properly cited using
Chicago Style footnotes. Since the class will need to read your
memorial in order to prepare for the debate, it must be posted to
Blackboard by 6 pm two days prior to the debate; to post your memorial,
go to Assignments, click “RTTP: Written Memorials,” choose the correct
thread, and click “Reply”; then write your character’s name and faction
in the Subject line and attach your memorial by clicking “Browse My
Computer.” Late memorials will be penalized .5/10 for each hour that it
student will make one oral presentation based on one of their two
written memorials. Those with a factional affiliation should consult
with their colleagues to determine which of the two memorials they
should formally present. It is ultimately up to the faction to ensure
that it’s perspective is appropriately represented at each debate.
Final Reform Program
the end of the game, each of the four factions will submit a reform
proposal, which should explain the faction’s reform philosophy and
provide a reform edict for each of the four topics. After all four
proposals have been debated, the Council will select a single refom
program by majority vote; if a majority is not achieved in the first
round, the least popular proposal will be eliminated and a new vote
will be taken on the remaining proposals; if a majority has still not
been achieved, the process will be repeated with the top two proposals.
Reform proposals must be posted to Blackboard by 6 pm two days prior to
the debate. Late proposals will result in each faction member being
penalized .5% for each hour that it is late. Members of the winning
faction will each receive a 1% bonus.
Reform Program Analysis*
concluding the game, each student will write a 10-page (2500-word
minimum) analysis of the reform program that was adopted by the class.
The paper should begin with a discussion of “modernity,” both as a
general concept and with specific reference to the modernization of
East Asia. This should be followed by a discussion of the particular
challenges associated with the modernization of Korea and an assessment
of the reform program’s potential to address these challenges at the
end of the nineteenth century. Your paper should conclude with the
development of a thesis regarding the impact of the East Asian
intellectual tradition on the modernization of Korea. Be sure to
include appropriate citations for both direct and indirect quotations
using Chicago Style footnotes as well as a bibliography of primary and
secondary sources that were cited in the paper.
JeeLoo. An Introduction to Chinese
Philosophy. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, 2006. [ICP]
● Fingarette, Herbert. Confucius: The Secular
as Sacred. Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland Press, 1998. [SAS]
Bary, Wm. Theodore and Irene Bloom (compilers). Sources of Chinese Tradition. Second Edition,
Volume 1. New York: Columbia University Press, 1999. [SCT]
● Additional readings are available by clicking links on the syllabus and by downloading /printing the “Reacting to the Past” Gamebook and Readings.
Office Hours, Etc.
225 North Loomis Road, Room 23
Tuesday: 4-5 ● Wednesday: 4-5 ● Thursday: 2-5 ● Friday (Tea/Talk): 4-5
Home Page: http://bhoffert.faculty.noctrl.edu
* All papers should be submitted to Blackboard/Assignments.
Papers may be used for program assessment (with names removed).