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 and Japanese 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 cultural foundations of contemporary Chinese and Japanese societies and as such will serve as both an introduction to the various courses on East Asia offered at North Central and a gateway to the East Asian Studies Major.

Grades
10% Class/BodhiBlog Participation
25% Quests (5x5%)
45% Essays (3x15%: 5-6 pages/1250-word minimum)
20% Final Exam

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.

Quests
In order to encourage you to keep up with the readings and periodically review the material that we’ve covered, there will be five “quests” (somewhere between a quiz and a test), one at the end of each major period that we are covering. The quests are worth 5% each and will include a variety of questions (multiple choice, fill-in-the-blank, true/false, etc.) to be completed on Blackboard within a two-day period (see syllabus for dates; late quests will be downgraded 50%). Each quest will have a fifteen-minute time limit, which should be long enough to search for some of the answers in the textbook and web pages — though the more prepared you are, the easier your quest will be.

Essays
Over the course of the term, you will be writing three 5-6 page (1250-word minimum) papers, each worth 15% for a total of 45% of your final grade. Although you may use information from the required readings, you must have a total of at least five “academic” sources (i.e. peer-reviewed books and journal articles, rather than non-academic websites) for each paper. Please note that you must provide appropriate 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. Since I take plagiarism very seriously, I strongly recommend that you become familiar with the boundaries of academic honesty … and don’t attempt to transgress them. 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 and due-dates are as follows:

Essay 1 (due 4/11): Confucianism, Daoism, and Legalism each provided a unique solution to the sociopolitical chaos that arose from the collapse of the Zhou feudal order during the Spring & Autumn (722-481 BCE) and Warring States (403-221 BCE) periods. You are a young, ambitious official in the small and militarily weak state of Zhou — which, historically speaking, will be conquered by the Qin in 256 BCE. Fortunately, the year is 261 BCE and you have a plan that can reverse the state’s waning fortune and restore your king, the reigning “Son of Heaven,” to his rightful position as ruler of the Middle Kingdom (i.e. China). You therefore decide to write a memorial to the throne in which you explain how Confucianism, Daoism, Legalism, or a combination of the three can save your state from the impending demise that, according to your numerous appeals to Yijing divination, looms close on the horizon.

Essay 2 (due 5/11): Throughout most of its history China has been one of the most advanced nations in the world, but by the middle of the 20th century it had been carved up by foreign “imperial” interests, such as Great Britain, Germany, the United States and Japan. Given this context, explain how the major policies of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), such as the Great Leap Forward, the Cultural Revolution, and the post-Mao reforms initiated by Deng Xiaoping, have helped and/or hindered China’s attempts to reestablish itself as a major world civilization. Does the current strength of China’s economy demonstrate that the CCP is on the right track to restore China’s former greatness — or would China fare better under a democratic system that allowed other political parties to challenge the leadership of the CCP?

Essay 3 (due 6/3): Although China clearly exerted a tremendous influence on the development of Japanese civilization, the cultural elements that were borrowed were inevitably transformed into something uniquely Japanese—a process known as iitoko-dori. Discuss the significance of one particular element of Japanese culture with regard to the broader development of Japanese civilization, referring to “foreign” influences where appropriate. Your paper should provide relevant information regarding the origin and/or development of the cultural form in question, as well as a discussion of why it is (or how it became) uniquely Japanese. Although you may choose to write on any element of Japanese culture, you may wish to focus on one of the topics being explored in this course, such as Shinto, the Heian court, the bakufu (military government), the Japanese Tea Ceremony, Haiku poetry, or anime (Japanese animation).

Required Texts
  • W. Scott Morton and Charlton M. Lewis, China: Its History and Culture, Fourth ed. (CHC)
  • W. Scott Morton and J. Kenneth Olenik, Japan: Its History and Culture, Fourth ed. (JHC)

Office Hours, Etc.
225 North Loomis Road, Room 23
Monday: 4-5  ~  Wednesday: 4-5  ~  Thursday: 2-4  ~  Friday (Tea): 4-5
Phone: 630-637-5619
E-mail: bhoffert@noctrl.edu
Home Page: http://bhoffert.faculty.noctrl.edu