Hamilton College
Instructors: Lisa Trivedi and Thomas Wilson
Asian Studies 180/History 180
Class time: MWF 11-11:50 AM

Texts for purchase:

Rhoads Murphy, A History of Asia ( New York: Longman, 2003)
Manimekhalai: The Dancer With the Magic Bowl (New Directions, 1989)
Wu Cheng-en, Monkey, Arthur Waley, trans. (New York: Grove Press, 1943)
Murasaki Shikibu, The Tale of Genji, Edward Seidensticker, trans. (New York: Vintage, 1985)


1st writing assignment 15%                    
Class participation 10%
1st version (50% of paper grade)         
In-class quizzes 25%
2nd version (50% of paper grade)
2nd writing assignment 15%                  
Final exam 20%
3rd writing assignment 15%

Class attendance is required. You may miss up to two classes without penalty to your final grade; it will be lowered by 1/3 of a grade for each additional class missed. We expect that your written work will be completed on time and according to the directions specified. A late paper will be marked down 1/3 of a grade for each day it is late. If you are experiencing any difficulty with your course work, we urge you to speak with us immediately. It is your responsibility to speak with us about any problems that you are having prior to a deadline; no extensions are granted on the day before or day an assignment is due. In order to earn a passing grade in this course you must complete the four writing assignments and the final examination.

Class Schedule :

8/30 Introduction

9/1 What is Asia?
A History of Asia , 1-8
Topics : Geography, cosmological maps: Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Islam, Shinto; Political Orders: principality, empire; nation-state; Functions of the city: ritual, administration, commercial; Defining Asia in its own terms

9/3 India: historical survey
A History of Asia , 64-86
Topics: Vedic peoples, the rise of kingdoms, Hinduism and the caste system, Mughal and British empires, the nationalist period

9/6 Ancient Religions: the Vedic era in India: Origin myths
“Prajâpati and Brahmâ,” Hindu Myths, 25-33
Topics : Rg Veda and Vedism, Brahmanas; creation myths; pantheon: Prajâpati, Brahmâ; dharma, karma

9/8 Ancient India & the Vedic era: ritual, sacrifice, and governance
“The Horse Sacrifice,” The Rig Veda, 87-95
Topics : sacred foundations of the social order, political legitimation through ritual

9/10 China: historical survey
A History of Asia, 88-109
Topics : ancient/classical feudalism; early, middle, late imperial eras; revolution; Republic, communism

9/13 Ancient China: Origin myths
“The Canon of Shun,” Book of Documents, 11-18
Topics : the son of Heaven, Heaven’s mandate, sacrifice

9/15 Defining Asia: sacred kingship & sacrifice
“The Single Victim at the Border Sacrifice,” Book of Rites, 416-420 through #7 (#8-13 concern tangential issues), 423-37 through #18, pp. 443 (#14)-448 (#29)

9/24: First writing assignment due by 3PM in our mailboxes located in KJ

9/17 China: Ancient Confucianism
Analects , Books 3-4
“The Spirits of Chinese Religion,” Religions of Asia in Practice, 296-299
Topics : ritual, humanity, gods

9/20 China: Ancient Daoism
“Laozi: Ancient Philosopher, Master of Immortality, and God,” Religions of Asia in Practice, 330-341
“The Spirits of Chinese Religion,” Religions of Asia in Practice, 299-304
Topics : Laozi, Zhuangzi; Dao, mutual production of things; immortality, gods

9/22 India: critique of Vedism & heterodox Brahmanism, Buddhism, Upanisads
Religions of Asia in Practice , 3-19
Bhagavad Gita, selections
Topics : salvation, devotion, patronage; dharma; Aranyakas

9/24 Defining Asia: Theravada Buddhist doctrines & sects
“Theravada Buddhism,” Sources of Indian Tradition, 90-113 (top)
Topics : Gautama Sakyamuni, samsara, karma, nirvana, Four Noble Truths, Eight-fold Path

9/27 Images of the Buddha and the Bodhisattva in Chinese Sculpture (Prof. Steve Goldberg)

9/29 Defining Asia: Theravada Buddhist patronage
Manimekhalai: The Dancer With the Magic Bowl
Topics : rise of mercantile class; spread of Buddhism; forms of patronage: community patronage; dâna

10/1 Formation of Early Empires on the Sub-continent
A History of Asia, 110-132
Religions of Asia in Practice , 30-36
Topics: ritual and political power; consolidation of Hinduism, puranas; early Islam, Southern Kingdoms

10/1: In-class Quiz #1 on reading from A History of Asia

10/4 Fall Recess (No Class)

10/6 Hindu Devotion
Speaking of Siva , selections
Hymns for the Drowning , selections
Religions of Asia in Practice , 19-26, 36-39
Topics : Bhakti devotionalism, caste

10/7: Revisions due by 3PM in our mailboxes located in KJ 136

10/8 Hindu Cosmology and Images of Vishnu, Brahma, and Shiva (Prof. Steve Goldberg)

10/11 Empire Building: China (Qin to Tang)
A History of Asia , 108, 134-140
“The World Beyond China,” Chinese Civilization: A Sourcebook, 54-56
“Heaven, Earth, and Man,” Chinese Civilization: A Sourcebook, 57-59
“Emperor Taizong on Effective Government,” Chinese Civilization: A Sourcebook, 112-15
Topics : empire, civil bureaucracy, aristocracy, Confucian syncretism; Tang codification

10/13 China: the ritual city of Chang’an
“The Examination System,” Chinese Civilization: A Sourcebook, 128-31
“A Pilgrim’s Visit to the Five Terraces,” Chinese Civilization: A Sourcebook, 132-36
Topics : sacred geography of the city, imperial court and ritual
Begin reading Tale of Genji

10/15 China: China’s Cosmopolitan Age”
“The Dancing Horses of Xuanzong’s Court,” Chinese Civilization: A Sourcebook, 123-24

10/18 Defining Asia: Mahayana Buddhist doctrine
“The Lotus School: The Tiantai Synthesis,” Sources of Chinese Tradition, vol. 1: 444-458
Topics : Tiantai, Pure Land, Lotus Sutra, Bodhisattva, Avalokite´srvara, Guanyin, Kannon, Chan/Zen, koan

10/20 Japan: historical survey
A History of Asia , 154-158 (middle of page)
“Earliest Japanese Chronicles,” Sources of Japanese Tradition, 12-33
Topics : sacred kingship, imperial lineage, courtier
continue reading Tale of Genji

10/22 Japan: Shinto (film)
continue reading Tale of Genji

10/25 Classical Japan: the Nara-Heian periods
A History of Asia , 158-168 (top left)
“Impact of Chinese Civilization,” Japan: A Documentary History, 21-33
continue reading Tale of Genji
Topics: aristocracy, Taika Reforms, Taiho Code; Kyoto (& Chang’an); sacred kingship; imperial lineage, courtier

10/27 Defining Asia: Mahayana Buddhist ritual practice ( Japan)
“A Sutra Promoting the White-robed Guanyin,” Religions of Asia in Practice, 350-58
Topics : devotional paintings of the Buddha; Shingon, Kukai (774-835), mantra, mandala, Dainichi, three mysteries, Nembutsu, Nichiren (1222-82), honzon

10/29 A Voice of One’s Own: Yamato-e painting and Wayo (Japanese) or Onna-de (woman's hand) calligraphy (Prof. Steve Goldberg)
Complete reading Tale of Genji

11/1 The World’s First Novel? Putting The Tale of Genji in its Literary and Historical Context (Prof. Melek Ortabasi)

11/3 Medieval Japan: Kamakura and Ashikaga shoguns
A History of Asia , 168-174
“Rise of the Warrior (Samurai) Class,” Japan: A Documentary History, 101-116
Topics : Shogun, samurai; military culture

11/5 Defining Asia: Defining Asia through Travelers’ Eyes
A History of Asia , 148-53, 188-194
Marco Polo, The Travels, selections

11/4: Second writing assignment due by 3PM in our mailboxes located in KJ 136

11/8 Medieval Sea Trade in Asia
Before European Hegemony: The World System A.D. 1250-1350 , 1-38
Topics : shift from overland to maritime trade, south China sea trade

11/10 Defining Asia: Mongols and the Mughal Empire
A History of Asia , 176-188 (middle)
Topics : Akbar, centralized state, imperial cities, religious syncretism

11/10: In-class Quiz #2 on reading from A History of Asia

11/12 Late Imperial Chinese City
A History of Asia , 140-52
“The Attractions of the Capital,” Chinese Civilization: A Sourcebook, 178-85
Topics : urbanization, breaking out of the ward system, Kaifeng, Lin’an ( Hangzhou)

11/15 Late Imperial Chinese Society
A History of Asia , 196-208
“A Schedule for Learning,” Chinese Civilization: A Sourcebook, 195-98
Topics : decline of aristocracy, Confucian gentry, civil examinations, civil bureaucracy, three examination levels: licentiate/county level, recommended person/provincial, presented scholar/metropolitan

11/17 China: Song-Ming Confucianism
“Ancestral Rites,” Chinese Civilization: A Sourcebook, 157-63
“Zhu Xi’s Neo-Confucian Program,” Sources of Chinese Tradition, 720-731
“Wang Yangming’s New Learning of the Mind-and-Heart,” Sources of Chinese Tradition, 842-847
Topics : Cheng-Zhu orthodoxy, Lu-Wang school, self-cultivation, syncretism; lineage, ancestor worship, spirit and ghost

11/19 Late Imperial Chinese Political Order
A History of Asia , 208-218
“Proclamations of the Hongwu Emperor,” Chinese Civilization: A Sourcebook, 205-207
“A Censor Accuses a Eunuch,” Chinese Civilization: A Sourcebook, 263-69
Topics : autocracy

11/22 Defining Asia: Encounters with Europe
A History of Asia , 219-239
Begin reading Monkey

11/24-26 Thanksgiving Recess (No Class)

11/29 Beijing: Imperial City
A History of Asia , 241-55

11/29: In-class Quiz #3 on reading from A History of Asia

12/1 Tokugawa Japan: Edo/Tokyo
A History of Asia , 255-67
Topics : daimyo, Oda Nobunga, Tokugawa Ieyasu, bureaucratization of the samurai
Read Monkey

12/3 Monkeys
Complete reading Monkey

12/6 Japanese cities: Osaka and Kyoto
Reading to be announced
Topics : rise of merchant class; decline of the samurai; reform

12/9: Third writing assignment due by 3PM in our mailboxes located in KJ 136

12/8 Defining Asia: Colonial Trade
A History of Asia , 268-319
Topics : Tea and Opium Trade, merchant classes; colonialism and imperialism

12/10 Defining Asia: Comparative Anti-colonial Movements
A History of Asia , 321-344; 352-369
Precepts and Odes Published by Hong Xiuquan . . . The Ten Commandments,” The Search for Modern China: A Documentary Collection, 139-143
Topics : anti-colonialism, nationalism; drain theory, extraterritorial rights; self-strengthening,  

Final Examination Date to be announced by Registrar’s office.
No early exams given under any circumstances; please schedule your departures from campus accordingly.

Writing Assignments:

Writing Assignments
No extensions granted within 24 hours of deadlines

Writing Assignment #1:

Drawing from the primary sources listed below discuss the indivisible nature of ritual, ruling, and society in ancient India and China. Be sure to use and analyze specific examples of religious thought and practice as well as social organizations and political institutions.

India : “Prajâpati and Brahmâ,” Hindu Myths and “The Horse Sacrifice,” The Rig Veda
China : “The Canon of Shun,” Book of Documents and Book of Rites , “The Single Victim at the Border Sacrifice”

NB: Do not use Rhoads Murphy’s History of Asia as a source of information on Asian religions.

Note: Be sure to focus your attention on ancient India and China, rather than the ways that the ideas in these texts differ from or are similar to ideas found in the modern Western world.
The first draft should be about 3 pages, double-spaced and typed in a standard twelve-point font. Make sure to provide complete citations for your evidence.

Writing Assignment #2:

How can fictional literature like The Tale of Genji be used as a primary source to gain insight into ancient Japan? There are at least two ways: Fiction can be used as a window on to other places and times by viewing fictional characters as historically representative of certain groups of people, such as rulers, courtiers, women of noble rank, servants. Fiction can also be used as a means to explore how its author understood the world in which she or he lived. In this case, The Tale of Genji constitutes Lady Murasaki’s personal testimony about life among Heian courtiers; a document that expresses her own understanding of religious rituals and customs, the ways that emperors and courtiers actually exercised power in and especially out of court, consensus and conflict over moral values, etc.

Use one of these approaches to formulate a thesis about Heian Japan on the basis of The Tale of Genji. For example, you might draw evidence from the novel to discuss the nature of Heian politics (the aristocratic life at court, the power wielded by the emperor, the process through which an heir is selected, etc.), religious values or activities of the period (particularly Buddhism, the use of natural imagery, the role of dreams in how characters understood their lives), or gender (duties of the husband and wife, status of sex, uses of sexual innuendo in dialogue, language, expression of inner sentiments, etc.). When formulating your ideas, please bear in mind an important theme of the course: the integration of religious practice and ideas, ruling, and socialstatus.

**Avoid plot summary; focus on what the text tells us about Japan at the time the book was written. Make sure that you offer concrete examples of the characteristics of Heian culture that can be identified in the novel.

NB: Do not use Rhoads Murphy’s History of Asia as a source of information on Asian religions.

Papers should be 3-4 pages in length, double-spaced and in a standard font. All papers should include complete citations in either footnote or endnote form.

Writing Assignment #3:

Scholars have variously argued that the folktale Monkey is a Buddhist, a Daoist, or a Confucian story. Still others have characterized it as a combination of the three teachings/religions. As students of Asia, use your knowledge of Asia’s rich religious/philosophical traditions to interpret this story. What does this folktale tell us about the three religions? How might we use this story to understand religious syncretism? Successful essays will make effective use of the variety of class materials available to you, including class lectures and discussion, textbook readings, and primary source readings from this and earlier parts of the course.
NB: Do not use Rhoads Murphy’s History of Asia as a source of information on Asian religions.

Papers should be 3-4 pages in length. They should be typed and double-spaced in a standard 12-point font. Use complete footnotes to cite relevant sources throughout your paper. Avoid plot summary; focus on what the text tells us about China at the time the book was written.  

The Writing Assignments

Grading Criteria : A “good” (i.e., B) essay is clearly written and logically sound. An “excellent” (i.e., A) essay presents a compellingargument for a thoughtful and imaginative interpretation of the sources that is evident only upon thoroughly re-reading the sources and careful reflection upon the problems raised. A compelling argument requires (1) a clear formulation of a problem, (2) analysis of the texts under scrutiny, and (3) a scrupulous use and citation of supporting evidence from the texts. A thoughtful interpretation requires digging beneath the surface meaning of the texts to a subtler understanding of their connections to broader (social, political, etc.) contexts. A “prose” grade of C– (i.e., slightly less than “satisfactory”) is assigned to grammatically correct but informal and stylistically weak writing; and D+ or below for repeated infractions of basic rules of writing, depending upon frequency and egregiousness of such errors.

Effective Writing : An important part of a writing assignment is to formulate an interesting and original topic. Do not simply summarize the content of your sources. Present an argument or a thesis based on your own interpretation of the sources. Be sure to develop your ideas fully. Keep in mind that most important, central ideas of the essay should be clearly stated, explicated, and documented. Do not assume that any major point you want to make is self-evident; it is always important to make explicit the connection between your argument and the evidence you cite. A well written paper requires thorough reading and precise written expression. A thorough understanding of your sources depends upon close reading, careful reflection, and re-reading. Precise written expression requires writing, editing, and re-writing.

Documentation : You must cite all sources of information that you use, even if you do not quote a source directly in your essay. If you do not cite the sources from which you derive information, or on which you base your description of an event, or interpretation of an idea, etc., the implication is that the idea is your own, or that it is based on your own primary research. Failure to cite such sources is plagiarism. Be sure to cite exact page numbers of any source from which you quote directly, although it is rarely necessary to cite the same source more than once in the same paragraph. Use proper citation forms (i.e., footnotes, end notes, in-text parenthetical notes) as described in the Hamilton College Style Sheet. Be consistent in the citation format used.

Revision Policy : Because this is “writing intensive” course, students are expected to revise the first writing assignment in consultation with their instructor. Students who receive grades of B+ or higher are exempted. Students who receive grades of C– or below on subsequent assignments are expected to revise their essays.


Instructors use this form when grading your essays to help identify precisely your writing’s strengths and weaknesses. Please use this as a guide when writing and revising your essays. Students working with a writing tutor are encouraged to show this form to their tutors.


_________Mechanics (grammar, spelling, punctuation, citation, organization)

Are there any spelling, punctuation, or grammatical errors?
Is the essay clearly and effectively organized?
Are sources quoted accurately and cited properly in footnotes and the bibliography?


__________Written Expression (prose, eloquence, interpretation, documentation)

Is the evidence (e.g., quoted passages, summaries of texts) effectively connected to the argument?
Is the prose clearly and persuasively written?
Are the ideas expressed articulately?
How compelling is the interpretation of the evidence?


________Argument (thesis, argument, evidence, analysis, documentation)

Is the thesis clearly stated?
Is the thesis supported by a compelling argument and the most pertinent evidence?
How persuasively are the (primary) sources analyzed?
Is the evidence used effectively?
Are ideas fully developed?