East Asian Studies

Torii Gate in Japan

The undergraduate concentration and secondary field in East Asian Studies encompasses instruction in Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Manchu, Mongolian, and Vietnamese languages and history, religion, politics, philosophy and literature/media..

Director of Undergraduate Studies: Melissa McCormick
Undergraduate Coordinator: Naia Poyer

Gateway Courses

Students interested in a concentration in East Asian Studies should begin language study (Chinese, Japanese, Korean, or Vietnamese) in the first semester of their freshman year, if possible.

Spring 2022

EAFM 111: East Asian Media Studies
Alexander Zahlten

This course explores the explosion of media in East Asia and the resulting forms of media production, circulation and consumption that transform everyday life, economy and politics. From pop culture phenomena such as K-Pop, fan fiction and internet platforms such as Sina Weibo, 2channel or DC Inside, from mobile phone culture to video games and social networks used in political protests, complex media forms and practices are developing with lightning speed across the region and exerting global influence. The starting point of the course are questions such as: What effects does this intense new media environment have in East Asia? How are ways of thinking and behaving adjusting to completely new forms of media? What are the consequences for the future of East Asia? How do media influence us in ways that go beyond the films, music, games, news or other forms that they supply us with?

EASTD 153: Buddhism, Japanese Arts and Culture
Ryuichi Abe

This course is designed to enable students to analyze a wide range of Japanese cultural creations - including the traditional Noh theater, classical and modern Japanese paintings, and contemporary anime – by illustrating the influence of Buddhism both in their forms and at their depths. The first part of the course is a study of major Buddhist philosophy and its impact on Japanese literature. The second part observes Buddhist ritual practices and their significance for Japanese performing arts. The last part traces the development of Japanese Buddhist art, and considers the influence of Buddhism on diverse contemporary popular Japanese art media.

EASTD 170: Medicine and the Self in China and the West
Shigehisa Kuriyama

Comparative historical exploration of the striking differences and unexpected similarities between traditional conceptions of the body in East Asian and European medicine; the evolution of beliefs within medical traditions; the relationship between traditional medicine and contemporary experience.

FRSEMR 71D: Zen and the Art of Living: Making the Ordinary Extraordinary
James Robson
*Course open to Freshman Students Only

This seminar explores the rich history, philosophy and practices of Zen Buddhism as it developed in China, Korea, and Japan. We will first consider the emergence of the Zen tradition out of the Buddhist tradition and then explore the full range of its most distinctive features (Zen monastic meditation), cultural practices (painting, calligraphy, and poetry), and radical—even iconoclastic—innovations (such as the use of kōans, which are seemingly nonsensical sayings that defy rationality). We will also critically evaluate some less well-known facets of the Zen tradition, such as gender issues, the veneration of mummified masters, and the question of how Zen was implicated in modern nationalistic movements in Japan during World War II. During the mid-20th century, Zen became a global phenomenon as Zen masters began to move around the world and introduce the practice of Zen meditation to those in search of religious alternatives to Western organized religions, rationalism, and materialism. Zen attracted the attention of writers, musicians, artists, and athletes.  Why did Zen develop such a trans-cultural appeal at that moment in history? Why are there so many books with the title: “Zen and the Art of…..”? Why do so many computer and tech companies have Zen in their names? How has Zen meditation fed into the current “meditation/mindfulness” boom?  These are some of the questions we will explore in this seminar through readings, film screenings, museum viewings, and a visit to a Zen meditation center.

GENED 1049: East Asian Cinema
Jie Li

This course introduces major works, genres, and waves of East Asian cinema from the silent era to the present, including films from Mainland China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. We will discuss issues ranging from formal aesthetics to historical representation, from local film industries to transnational audience reception.

This course does not assume prior knowledge of East Asian culture or of film studies, but rather seeks to provide students with a basic understanding of modern East Asian cultural history through cinema, and with an essential toolkit for analyzing film and media, including narrative, cinematography, editing and sound. In addition to critical approaches, students are strongly encouraged to creatively respond to course materials by collaborating on their own short films, beginning with the illustration of film terms in the first two weeks and culminating in the “Golden Monkey Awards”—a class screening of final projects with Oscar-like awards in various categories.

As a General Education course, East Asian Cinema will help students develop aesthetic responsiveness and interpretive ability to moving images in an increasingly media-saturated world. While becoming acquainted with some analytical vocabulary and critical approaches to cinema, students will also gain insights into East Asian cultures and histories, aesthetic traditions and ethical values, as well as the politics and economics that went into the films’ production and reception. Above all, the course will encourage students to be creative and enterprising with the digital media technologies at our disposal, to engage in collaborative teamwork and experiment with unorthodox ways of looking at the world through amateur filmmaking.