Introduction to East Asia
This course is 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 introduction to the numerous courses on East Asia offered at North Central College as well as a gateway to the East Asian Studies majors and minors.
 
Grades
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.
 
Essays
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 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 (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: 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 examples of the First Emperor’s conduct drawn from Jonathan Clements’ The First Emperor of China, with at least three focusing on the period prior to the unification and three on the subsequent period when he reigned as the Son of Heaven. Note: since Clements’ book does not have an index, you should take notes on relevant passages as you read through the text.
 
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 reclusion with which it is associated. Your response should include at least three examples from each text and conclude with a reflection on how this comparison helped you develop a deeper understanding of the development of Japanese civilization. Note: since McKinney’s translation does not have an index, you should take notes on relevant passages as you read through the text.

 
 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 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.”5 How do these examples, together with the author’s discussion of han in the “Preface to the Fortieth Anniversary Edition” (especially pages xiii-xxiii), the Authors Note on pages 197-8, and Kathy Masalkis interview with Richard E. Kim, demonstrate the historical value of Lost Names — despite the fact that the main character is actually fictional. Note: since Kims novel does not have an index, you should take notes on relevant passages as you read through the text.
 

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.
 
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. 
 
Office Hours, Etc.
225 North Loomis Road, Room 23
Tuesdays 3-5  ~  Wednesdays 4-5  ~  Thursdays 2-4  ~  Tea/Talk on Fridays from 4-5
Phone: 630-637-5619
E-mail: bhoffert@noctrl.edu
Home Page: http://bhoffert.faculty.noctrl.edu