Assignments

This section features all the journal assignments for the course. Students compiled their journals for final submission in the journal portfolio.

Journal Assignment System

You will be asked to write 10 1-2 page journals for this class. The journals will be used as the basis for class discussion and will be handed in at the end of each class (email submissions are not accepted). Occasionally students may be asked to exchange journals with a partner for in-class peer review. Weekly Journals constitute 20% of your final grade, and are subdivided into draft journals and the graded journal.

Draft Journals

(15% of final grade) These journals will be considered drafts, and will not be graded individually. However, you will receive a grade based on your cumulative submission, and late journals will be penalized five points per day.

Graded Journal

(5% of final grade) A journal to be graded will be due in week 10. This will allow you to get a sense of the grading before the final portfolio of journals is due.

Cumulative Journal Portfolio

(30% of final grade) At the end of the semester you will submit your cumulative portfolio journals. Choose 2 in addition to the final journal (3 total) to be graded. Mark these two clearly as "grade." These three should be "perfect," - thoughtful, well organized, carefully edited, and free of grammatical and spelling errors. They should also be at least two, but not more than 2 1/2 pages in length (each). The rest of your portfolio need not be "perfect," but should be clean, not rough drafts. The final cumulative grade will be assigned based on the three "perfect" journals and the condition of the rest of the portfolio. There will be a substantial penalty for missing journals. Late journal portfolios will be penalized five points per day.

Journal 1: Getting Started

  1. What does the word "culture" mean to you?
  2. What does "Asian culture" mean to you? Write down any stereotypes or ideas you have. What things are associated with "Asian culture"? values?
  3. Think about where you got these ideas from in the first place (movies, family, classes, etc.)
  4. In your mind, what are some of the similarities between Chinese, Japanese, and Korean cultures?
  5. Differences?
  6. Do you consider the similarities more important? Or the differences?

Journal 2: "Zen" Gardens

"Zen" is probably one of the most overused Asian words in English-language writings. People often apply the concept very sloppily to any Japanese art or anything "Japanesey." The notion of "Zen Arts" was first popularized by critics such as D. Suzuki. But it is a rather vague term that can apply to a number of different types of artistic expression. The "dry landscape garden" (karesansui) of the Muromachi and the rustic tea garden of the Momoyama are both considered Zen-influenced styles of garden architecture, and yet they are very different. So how can they both be "Zen"?

Briefly describe (in general terms) how the karesansui and the rustic tea garden are influenced by Zen. What are some of the aesthetic characteristics associated with Zen, and how are they revealed in these two garden forms? What qualities of Zen does each embody? How would you compare and contrast the two forms? Which do you prefer and why?

Discuss with reference to:

  1. The aesthetic ideals of "austere elegance," the "beauty of empty space"
  2. The 7 characteristics of Zen arts identified by Shinichi Hisamatsu
  3. The aesthetic of "wabi"
  4. The idea that "tea and Zen have the same taste"

For class: you should also understand the concept of "borrowed landscape"

Journal 3: Lady Hyegyoung's Confucian Dilemma

Describe Lady Hyegyoung's Confucian dilemma. Confucianism emphasizes:

  • Subject's loyalty to ruler
  • Wife's loyalty to husband
  • Child's loyalty to parent
  • the duty of parent to child (especially important is the role of mother)

Confucianism also prescribes the "3 followings" for woman:

  • Daughter followers father
  • Wife follows husband
  • Widow follows son

Describe her choices and decisions to live in terms of Confucianism. How can you relate the composition of the memoirs to this dilemma? Did she make the right choice? Is she a heroine or a coward to you? Put yourself in her shoes, what would you have done?

Journal 4: "Taste" and Reading Material Culture - Looking at Literati Taste in Late Imperial China

Read introduction and chapters 1-3 of Six Records of a Floating Life. Look at chapter 4 if you have time. Make sure you look at chronology of his life. Read excerpts from Superfluous Things. Compare to Shen Fu's Chapter 2. Do readings and look at objects in Treasures of the Chinese Scholar's Studio. Write on A, B, C, and D. Think of culture as a "way of life" for this week, so we can think about the role of "taste" in the way of life of particular classes (and genders) in a society.

A. Think of an example of "low brow" taste in our culture (Big hair?), and an example of "high brow" taste (Opera)? Are there objects that appeal to "male" taste? "female" taste? Is there an object you own that you think is an expression of your "good taste"? What do you think it says about your class and gender identity? In Six Records of a Floating Life there are two major elements to Shen Fu's "way of life" to consider: the values expressed through his family relationships and his attitude toward his career.
B. How would you characterize these as portrayed in Chapter 1 and Chapter 3? The cultural activities he (and his wife) engage in, painting, gardening, flower arranging, decorating, poetry, drinking games, outings, visiting courtesans, etc. Reevaluate chapter 2 after reading excerpts from Superfluous Things (a kind of manual of "taste")

C. What is the place of such leisure activities in Shen Fu's life? How are his activities an expression of his taste? How does taste make the man? How are his leisure activities simultaneously an expression of literati values and his class identity (as someone aspiring to be a scholar gentleman) and a rejection of Confucian expectations for men of his society? Think about the objects in Treasures of the Chinese Scholar's Studio.

D. What do objects of material culture tell us about the user's "way of life"? (Relate this back to A) This exercise should get you thinking ahead to the MFA fieldtrip.

Some Hints For Journal 5

2 major changes in Chinese society 16-19c:

  1. Economic growth, shift to market economy, emergence of stronger merchant class, luxury goods available to more.
  2. Expansion of educational system, middle-class (merchants, etc.) gain access to education, increased competition for official posts, increased literacy for women.

Both 1 and 2 lead to: emergence of nonveau-riche, increased social mobility, anxiety among gentry over status. Remember, Shen Fu is in lower rungs of gentry class. He has some status but no money. How does he substitute "taste" for conspicuous consumption?

Journal 5: MFA Looking Assignment - 2 Parts

Beyond the Screen

Pick 1 object from each of the following categories. Describe the object (date, place, materials, how it was made, size). Then write a brief description fitting the object into your knowledge of the Chinese scholar's taste and lifestyle. One paragraph each:

  1. Find an object that reflects the gentry taste
  2. Find an object that reflects the male identity
  3. Find an object used by a woman. How does it reflect feminine taste?
  4. Find an object that tells you a lot about the scholar's "way of life." Pretend you are a detective or archeologist; tell us what you can reconstruct about the culture from the object. Evaluate 1 "room" based on the criteria of Wen Zhenheng's "Superfluous Things".

The Asia Collection

  1. Find 1 Japanese item: describe, guess how it was used, how was it a part of "way of life", how is taste different from Chinese scholar's taste (or same)?
  2. Do the same for a Korean item. Compare both Chinese and Japanese taste (you'll have to make some generalizations).
  3. Find an object which appeals to your taste.

Things to think about when you view furniture:

  • Are these items necessities or luxuries?
  • To what extent are they decorative?
  • To what extent functional?
  • How are function and form balanced?
  • Who used these pieces (men, women, children, adults, commoners, gentry, the imperial household?) How were they used?
  • How was the furniture arranged within each "room"?
  • How were the pieces made? How did Ming construction techniques affect the form?
  • How is "craft" important? Did the craftsman leave a mark?
  • What are the materials? How are materials important?
  • How were the pieces acquired?
  • Think about cost.
  • How was furniture moved from place to place?
  • What can you tell about the lifestyle of the literati from the furniture? (activities, frequency of moves, etc.)

Journal 6: China Pop

One of the biggest changes in post-Mao China has been the shift to a market economy (a shift is that is still incomplete). Many believe that the transition from communism to a market economy should be accompanied by increasing cultural pluralism and democratization. Has this been true for the PRC? What is Zha's position on this issue? Describe one aspect of cultural change in 1990s China (as described in China Pop) as an illustration of your own position.

Journal 7: Science Fiction

Do you think there are cultural differences between "Japanese" and "American" views of science? Based on the readings, how would you compare Japanese and American visions of the future? the past? Make reference to the views expressed in Japan Dreaming, Tanner, and Napier. You might disagree with their conclusions. Discuss examples from Akira and/or Ghost in the Shell. Consider Christianity as an influence.

Journal 8: Asian Food

After completing readings for the food unit: Visit an Asian restaurant/food stand (or if you are lucky, at an Asian person's home). Describe your experience:

  • Presentation
  • Cost
  • Color
  • Service
  • Texture
  • # of courses
  • Hotness/Coldness of food
  • Portion size
  • Flavor
  • Utensils
  • What seems to be most important?
  • Aesthetics, nutrition, medical properties of food, table manners, large cheap portions, speed, social aspects of eating, taste?
  • Can you make any general distinctions between Chinese, Japanese, and Korean Cuisine?
  • What status does each have in American culture?

Journal 9: Invented Tradition

What does the word "tradition" mean to you? Are there any family traditions that you have in your own family? Describe the "traditional American wedding". What does Laurel Kendall mean by the term "invented tradition"? Describe some of the "invented traditions" in contemporary Korean wedding practices. How does the state play a role in "invented tradition"? or in inventing tradition?

Journal 10: Wrapping Up

Go back over your journal for the first week. How have your ideas about "Asian culture/cultures" changed over the course of the semester? What new things have you learned? What old notions have been reconfirmed in your mind? Can you better distinguish between Chinese, Japanese, and Korean cultures? Or are you beginning to see the links between the 3 cultures more clearly? Do you buy the notion of such a thing as "East Asian Culture"? Or do you think the cultural/political/historical differences are so great as to preclude any kind of Pan-Asian identity. I expect you to write at least 2-3 pages for this assignment.

Final Submission: Journal Portfolio

Including the final journal, you should have written 10 journals over the course of the semester. Collect them all together and resubmit them to me. Choose 2 to revise. I will grade these 2 and the final journal (3 total). Compile all of these materials in a packet, and either bind or clip them together (no 3-ring binders please)

Your packet should include:

  • journals 1-10, including final summing up journal
  • 2 revised journals, marked "grade"

I will grade the 3 (revised + final) journals on both content and form. I'll expect you to correct all grammatical and spelling errors. You should also revise or expand your discussion of the issues with thought to our class discussions. (For example, I'll expect you to understand the concept of "filial piety.") I'll be looking for comprehensive coverage of the issues, thoughtfulness, and stylistic elegance. I also give points for creativity and improvement (that's why I ask you to hand in all your old journals). If you pick your 2 best journals, this really shouldn't involve much work. If you're unsure about what I'm looking for, refer to the model journals. Points will be deducted for missing journals.