The course will provide a window into the Far East and help to extend the students’ scope beyond the Western narrative of world history that usually dominates European curricula. The goal is not just to learn about the history, culture, traditions, and politics of the region, but also to develop the ability to view the world from a new perspective. Moving chronologically and with an emphasis on China, we begin during the semi-mythological Shang and Zhou dynasties, when the tenants of Chinese thought took shape. Examining cores texts, we meet the founders of Confucianism and Daoism and learn how, unlike in Western religions, the secular can be the sacred.
With an understanding of these traditions (and the later addition of Buddhism) we will walk through history, examining great periods of cultural heterogeneity and foreign occupation that sharply juxtapose the isolationist mentality of the region often seen in modern times. This exploration of the rich past comes to a head with the early 20th century fall of Imperial China, the invasion by the Japanese, and the rise of communism. After further examination of Japan and Korea, we will explore current events related to the area, including China’s recent economic success, the EU’s engagement with the region, North Korea’s nuclear program, and other outlooks for the future.
This module is recommended for any student who has an interest in history, culture, or language and who desires to be exposed to a different side of the human narrative. The course will require regular reading, possible yet occasional short reflection writings and quizzes, and a final essay of which the topic must fall within the scope of the material covered in the class.