Introduction to East Asia
This course will provide a broad overview of East Asian civilization through a selection of primary and secondary texts, as well as other media such as film and art, that will highlight important cultural developments during representative eras of Chinese, Japanese, and Korean history. Although the resulting snapshots cannot hope to paint a comprehensive picture of East Asian civilization, they will provide you with a basic understanding of the historical and cultural foundations of contemporary China, Japan, and Korea. The course is therefore an ideal introduction to the numerous courses on East Asia offered at North Central College as well as a gateway to the East Asian Studies major and minor.
10% Class/BodhiBlog Participation
20% Midterm Exam
25% Final Exam
45% Essays (3x15%: 5 pages/1250-word minimum)

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.
Class/BodhiBlog Participation
The Class Participation mark (worth 10% of the final grade) 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. You can also enhance your grade by posting reflections on the readings and/or class discussions to the BodhiBlog, which can be accessed through Blackboard. Although your mark will ultimately depend on my subjective evaluation of the quantity and quality of your comments, you may reasonably expect to receive at least a “B” if you attend class regularly, actively participate in class discussions, and contribute a minimum of 5 substantial postings to the BodhiBlog.
Midterm and Final Exams
The midterm and final exams will include an assortment of quiz-style questions (such as multiple choice, true/false, and fill-in-the-blank), a list of key terms for you to “identify and state the significance of,” and essay-style questions that focus on major themes covered in the course. Further details will be provided prior to each exam.
Over the course of the term, you will be writing three 5-page (1250-word minimum) papers, each worth 15% for a total of 45% of your final grade. Please note that your sources should be “peer-reviewed” (i.e. academic books and journal articles, rather than non-academic websites) and that you must provide appropriate citations (Chicago Style footnotes or MLA “bracket” citations) for both direct and indirect quotations. 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:

Essay 1: According to, a biography is “An account of someone’s life written by someone else.”[1] Based on this definition — or any other that you prefer — compare the portraits of Xuanzang presented in Sally Hovey Wriggins’ The Silk Road Journey with Xuanzang and the movie The Monkey King 2 (which is based on the sixteenth century novel Journey to the West). Are they both legitimate portrayals of the historical Xuanzang? Why or why not? Your response should include at least three references to each work. I have also posted some additional sources at Blackboard/HST165/Xuanzang which will help you explore the topic in more depth. If you need to review the movie, it is on reserve at Oesterle (for library viewing only); for pay-per-view options, click here.

Essay 2: Who was Basho and what was the ultimate purpose of his “journeys”? How is his style of writing (haibun — a combination of prose and haiku poetry) relevant to this ultimate purpose? Explain why his travel journals do or do not belong in the category of “autobiography.” End your paper with a haiku that expresses your overall impression of Basho. The essential characteristics of haiku are provided at the beginning of the Wikipedia page on Haiku; additional links (including suggestions for how to write haiku) are available at Blackboard/HST165/Basho.

Essay 3: According to Richard E. Kim, “the most important element in Korean literature of the past and even the present … is the concept of Han [/][2] 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.”[3] Present at least three examples of how Kim “liberate[s] himself and his characters from the iron grip, from the centuries-old clutch of Han.”[4] How do these examples demonstrate the “autobiographical” nature of Lost Names — despite the fact that the main character is actually fictional.

[1] “Biography,”, accessed March 22, 2017,

[2] Richard E. Kim, Lost Names: Scenes from a Korean Boyhood (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1998), xiii.

[3] Kim, Lost Names, xiv.

[4] Kim, Lost Names, xiv.

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. (HEA)
  • Wriggins, Sally Hovey. The Silk Road Journey with Xuanzang. Second Edition. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2004.
  • Basho. Basho’s Journey: The Literary Prose of Matsuo Basho. Translated by David Landis Barnhill. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2005.
  • Kim, Richard E. Lost Names: Scenes from a Korean Boyhood. Second Edition. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2011.
Office Hours, Etc.
225 North Loomis Road, Room 23
Monday: 4-5  ~  Tuesday: 3-5  ~  Wednesday: 4-5  ~  Friday (Tea): 4-5
Phone: 630-637-5619
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