Asian Cultures

Asian Cultures

This introductory unit explores the histories and cultures of Asia across time, up to the modern era. The curriculum aims to provide both the essential knowledge and intellectual skills necessary for more advanced study of Asia, and to lay the groundwork for comparative investigation of trans-Asian phenomena. Topics and themes may include: religion, ritual, and philosophical thought; sacred kings and capitals; hierarchy and social order; family, kinship and gender systems; art, architecture, and archaeology. This semester, the curriculum will focus on early South and Southeast Asia, India, China, Korea, and Japan.

Each week, students should attend lectures on Mondays and Tuesdays and a single one-hour tutorial. Visit MyUni to view your assigned tutorial time. Changing tutorials can only be done through the university’s formal timetabling system. Instructors do not arrange tutorial changes, and changing tutorials week-to-week is not permitted. If you do not attend the tutorial in which you are officially enrolled, you will be marked absent.

Lecture times: Mondays and Tuesdays, 12-1pm
Lecture Location: Quadrangle Building, General Lecture Theatre K2.05

Research shows that students who enrol in two or more units of study that “clash” have lower learning outcomes. We strongly discourage students from taking clashing units and do not provide special support to students with clashes.
Lecture recordings in ASNS1601 are released about 7 days AFTER each lecture and are supplied for revision purposes only. Notes are not made available online.
Also, please note that institutional assistance with clashes should be sought from the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, NOT instructors.
Required textbook: Rhoads Murphey et al., Introduction to Asian Cultures (2nd edition revised). This textbook is only available for purchase from the University Co-op Bookstore; it will also be used in semester 2 for ASNS1602. NOTE, this book is similar to the textbook from previous years, but not the same.

Required online readings: Other required readings are accessible through the library web and online by clicking the links in this unit outline. It is the responsibility of each student to access these readings for personal use. See the coordinator early if you have trouble downloading.

Readings assigned each week will focus on the country/topics to be covered in lecture that same week. Doing the readings before the lectures will help with comprehension of the lectures and the ability to answer study questions.

Blackboard will deliver updates, links, and assessment information. Consult the site regularly. If you have trouble accessing Blackboard from home, you should do so from a computer on campus and/or seek assistance from the university’s ICT Helpdesk.

Tutorials are meant to be intellectual discussions among students aimed at exploring the ideas and themes covered each week. You are expected to demonstrate your familiarity with weekly readings and engage in a discussion aimed at clarifying themes and ideas. This unit outline includes “Tutorial Discussion Questions.” These questions will be the centerpieces of weekly tutorial discussions and they should help guild your reading and prepare you for assessments. These same questions may also appear on assessments.


Assessment Weight Due Date
In-Lecture Quiz 25% In Monday lecture period, week 8
LIBR1000 required 5 May (week 9)
Mid-Semester Essay 30% 21 May, 4pm (week 11)
Final Exam 45% During formal exam period

In-Lecture Quiz (25%): This quiz will be conducted during the lecture in the week listed above, starting at 10 minutes after the normal lecture starting time. The tutorial quiz will consist of several short-answer essay questions and a geography section. The essay questions will be based on the study questions included in this unit outline. Note that an unexcused absence on the day of the quiz will result in a mark of zero on the quiz. The Geography content and more details will be posted to Blackboard.

LIBR1000 (formerly known as ARTS1000): “LIBR1000 eSearch to Research” is a REQUIRED online tutorial that teaches key research skills needed to succeed in Arts subjects. Doing this tutorial carefully should help you do well on the mid-term essay as well. Pay particular attention on methods for identifying, using, and citing scholarly sources. See Blackboard for details. Students who have completed ARTS1000 do not need to do LIBR1000.

Mid-Semester Essay (30%): JSTOR and Project Muse are important digital “warehouses” for scholarly journal articles. The University pays a high subscription fee for students and staff to have access to these resources for study and research. (You should be aware that only a small percentage of scholarship is freely available on the Internet) These are important sites, but they are also just two of many scholarly subscription services available through the Library Web. Please explore here:
Your task is to use JSTOR or Project Muse to find one scholarly article on a topic of interest, read it carefully, and write a 1000-word summary essay. Summarize the main ideas (the key thesis or argument) of the article as a whole and describe the focus of each section. Also attempt to identify and describe the kind(s) of sources the author used (archeological ruins, old buildings, ancient texts, works of literature or art, performance, etc.). Your essay should be well structured and carefully written in an academic style. At the top of the essay, include a full and correct bibliographic citation written in either Chicago Style or MLA Style. DO NOT PROVIDE A URL
– Be sure you are using a scholarly article and NOT an editor’s preface, opinion piece, or book review. Scholarly journals can include all these things. Avoid them.
– The article must be published in the past 15 years and written in English.
– The article must be a work of the humanities or social sciences that focuses on the history, culture, literature, art, music or performance of premodern Asia (before about 1800).
– You must pick an article that’s not assigned for this unit of study.
– Consult with the coordinator or your tutor if you are at all unsure about your article of choice.

Grading for this assessment will be based on the criteria set out by the Japanese Studies Department (see this link: It is important that you demonstrate the ability to: 1) find, read and demonstrate comprehension of a scholarly source; 2) write in an academic style and include a full and correct bibliographic citation, and 3) to communicate well in English. If you are unsure about what constitutes a “scholarly source” or of how to write in an academic style, seek the assistance of your tutor or the unit coordinator early in the semester. Doing the LIBR1000 tutorial carefully and using the WriteSite ( should also help you do well on this assessment.

Essays are due for submission in the School of Languages and Cultures office (5th floor Brennan-MacCallum Building) by the date and time indicated above. You must complete and attach a School Cover Sheet, available at the School office. More details on this assessment will be posted to Blackboard.

Final Exam (45%): The final semester exam, to be held during the examination period, will consist of several essay questions. Questions will test students on two things: Their general, factual knowledge on the material covered in lectures and readings, and their ability to synthesize that material and think comparatively about the people, cultures, and institutions of several countries or regions of Asia. More details on the final exam will be made available on Blackboard.

Students who complete this unit successfully should:
• acquire broad, introductory knowledge on the early political, social, economic, cultural, and philosophical systems of the countries being studied;
• grasp the many complex ways the several countries are related;
• gain a sense for the overall geography of Asia;
• come to appreciate the significance of premodern history and culture in Asia;
• capably present learned knowledge both verbally and in writing
Policies and Advice are included at the end of this unit outline.
** NOTE: Due to scheduling complications and other constraints, some of the lectures are marked “TBA” (to be announced). You will be updated by email on the status of these lectures. Some may be cancelled.

Week 1
Lecture 1: Orientation
Lecture 2: Thinking about Asia

– Murphey text: pp. 15-38. (NOTE: Page and chapter numbers for the Murphey text refer to the numbers that appear at the very top of pages, inside the box.)

No tutorial this first week.

Week 2
Lecture 1: China and Chinese People: An Introduction
Lecture 2: University-level education: tips for excelling in this unit and beyond

– Murphey text, pp. 92-115.

Tutorial Study Questions:
? Describe China’s geographical features and discuss their influences on China’s climate and agriculture?
? China is a multi-ethnic nation with more than fifty ethnic groups living there. Describe the geographical distribution of the five largest ethnic minorities and compare them with each other in terms of language, religion, and history.
? When did China transform itself from an archaic monarchy into a centralized state? What were the driving forces behind the transformation?
? What are the distinctive features of Hanyu, or the Chinese language? Compare and contrast Hanyu with your mother tongue.
? China is a country with arguably the longest continuous civilization? Based on your understanding of China so far, do you observe the influence of some aspects of this tradition on China nowadays? What are they?
Week 3
Lecture 1: China’s Golden Age
Lecture 2: Ming China

– Murphey text, pp. 116-136.

Tutorial Study Questions:
? What is the “Mandate of Heaven” and why was it important to Chinese political power?
? What were the five relations in Confucianism? Is Confucianism a religion? Explain.
? What was the legacy of the Qin dynasty to China’s future? Name specific things.
? Han Wu Di is often called China’s greatest emperor. Why?
? What is “Sinification” and how did it develop/advance during the Tang Dynasty?
? What impact did Tang achievements have on the future of China?
? When and by whom was Buddhism introduced into China? What impact did it have?
? When did the Mongols rule China and what long-term impact did their rule have?
Week 4
Lecture 1: Ancient Indian Languages and Modern Linguistics
Lecture 2: The Zero in India: A Lot More than Nothing

– Murphey text, pp. 68-91.
– Purushottama Bilimoria, “Why is There Nothing Rather Than Something? An Essay in the Comparative Metaphysic of Nonbeing”, Sophia vol. 51 (2012), pp. 509-530. Download and print from here:

Tutorial Study Questions:
? What is the Indus Civilization and its characteristics?
? What is the “Aryan invasion theory” and how is the study of ancient Indian languages relevant for modern linguistics?
? What are key features of Vedic culture and society?
? What are some of the religious differences between the Brahmanical tradition of the Hindus and the Shramanic traditions of Buddhism and Jainism?
? Discuss briefly the basic philosophical ideas of the Hindu Upanisads and Advaita Vedanta, the Mahayana Buddhist philosophies of Yogacara and Madhyamaka, and the Jain philosophy of anekantavada, and how these philosophies could be seen as relevant for modern science (mathematics, computer science, and Quantum theory).

Week 5
Lecture 1: Korea: Koguryo and the Three Kingdom Period
Lecture 2: Korea: Buddhism in Silla and Koryo

– Murphey text, pp. 137-154.
– Supplementary Readings (optional):
– Peter H. Lee, “Origins of Korean Culture”, in Sourcebook of Korean Civilization, pp. 3-35, 1993.
– Carter J. Eckert, “Aristocratic Societies Under Monarchical Rule” in Korea: Old and New: A History, 1991, pp. 24-41.
– Carter J. Eckert, “The Fashioning of an Authoritarian Monarchy” in Korea: Old and New: A History, 1991, pp. 42-56.
– Lewis Lancaster, “Introduction” in Buddhism in Koryo, 1996, pp. x-xv.
– William Henthorn, “The Mongols in Koryo” in A History of Korea, 1974, pp. 117-123.

Tutorial Study Questions:
? What were the major institutional underpinnings of society and politics during the Three Kingdoms period?
? Why did the early Korean states adopt Buddhism? What ideological, political and social role did it play in early Korea?
? What various factors led to the downfall of Silla and the rise of Koryo?
? What major events and incursions took place during the Koryo period and how did they change the character of the regime?

Week 6
Lecture 1: Early Japan: Environment, Mythohistory, and the Early Imperial State
Lecture 2: Classical (Heian) Japan

– Murphey text, pp. 155-176.
– Sections from Morris, The World of the Shining Prince. Download and print from here:

Tutorial Study Questions:
? List the things Japan first adopted from the continent (China and Korea). What FUNCTON did they serve?
? How were early Japanese politics and society different from their continental counterparts?
? What was the link between early Buddhism and the state?
? How did the Fujiwara gain power and maintain it?

Week 7
Lecture 1: The Ancient Indian Notion of Non-Violence (ahimsa) and Its Transformation into a Modern Tool of Political Protest
Lecture 2: The Creation of Historical Consciousness in Mughal India

– Rambachand Anantanand, “The Co-Existence of Violence and Non-Violence in Hinduism,” The Ecumenical Review vol. 55.2 (2009), pp. 115-121. Download and print from here:
– Chatterjee, Kumkum, “The Persianization of ‘Itihasa’: Performance Narratives and Mughal Political Culture in Eighteenth-Century Bengal,” The Journal of Asian Studies vol. 67.2 (2008), pp. 513-543. Download and print from here:

Tutorial Study Questions:
? Explain the Indian doctrine of non-violence, its use in the Indian Independence Movement, and its later applications in other modes of political protest.
? Discuss the ideological differences between the various notions of ‘dharma’ and non-violence in the Indian Epics (Mahabharata, Ramayana, Bhagavadgita), Gandhian philosophy, Jainism, and Buddhism.
? What are the main features of the Indian caste system and how is it perceived in India today and traditionally in the Indian religions of Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism?
? What is the connection between vegetarianism and non-violence according to Indian traditions?
? What were the possible reasons for the success of the introduction of Islam in India?
? How is the European creation of the university related to Islam?
? In what ways did Islam affect perceptions of the past and the writing of history in India?
? How did Persian culture influence Indian architecture, literature, and the arts?
Lecture 1: In-lecture quiz.
*** The quiz will begin at 10 minutes after the hour on Monday. Please arrive early.

Lecture 2: The idea of Indianization and the earliest polities of Southeast Asia

– Murphey text, pp. 247-262.
– J. Stephen Lansing, ‘The “Indianization” of Bali’, Journal of Southeast Asian Studies 14 (1983): 409-21. Download and print from here:

Tutorial Discussion Questions:
? List and describe some of the different types of evidence and hypotheses used by scholars to account for the spread of “Indianisation”?
? Why would rulers in early Southeast Asia decide to import Indian culture? In other words, what did they import and why?
? How are Hinduism and Buddhism interpreted in Southeast Asia?
? What do archeological remains tell us about Southeast Asian rulers, their world views and the organisation of the state?

Week 9
Lecture 1: Buddhism, from India to Southeast Asia, Sriwijaya and Central Java
Lecture 2: Mainland and inland states of Southeast Asia: Angkor, Central and East Java.

– Keith W. Taylor, “The Early Kingdoms”, in N. Tarling (ed.), The Cambridge History of Southeast Asia. Volume 1 “From Early Times to c. 1800”, pp. 137-82 Cambridge, 1992. Esp. pp158-164 & 176-181. Download and print from here:

Tutorial Discussion Questions:
? Specifically identify some of the key features of Sriwijaya as a maritime polity?
? Why is Borobodur regarded as the greatest Buddhist monument in Southeast Asia?
? Why was worship of mountains important in Southeast Asian Hinduism, particularly for Majapahit?
? How did the kingdoms of mainland states differ from those of island Southeast Asia?

Week 10
Lecture 1: Ming China
Lecture 2: Qing in Prosperity and Decline

– Murphey text, pp. 197-246.

Tutorial Discussion Questions:
? Describe China’s tribute system. How did it function?
? What were the benefits and deficiencies of the rigid examination system implemented by the Ming?
? Discuss the ways in which Chinese collaborated with the Manchus in the Qing dynasty. Was collaboration important?
? Why did the massive population growth occur during the Qing dynasty?
? How dies the textbook discuss family as being of greater importance than the individual in Qing China.
? How did the Qing rulers maintain a separate Manchu identity while ruling China more successfully than the Mongols had before them?

Week 11
Lecture 1: Korea: Gender in Choson Dynasty (En-gendering Neo-Confucianism)
Lecture 2: Medieval Japan

– Murphey text, pp. 177-196.
– Martina Deuchler, “The Tradition: Women during the Yi Dynasty,” Virtues in Conflict: Tradition and Korean Women Today, ed. Sandra Mattielli (Seoul: The Samhwa Publishing Co., Ltd., for the Royal Asiatic Society, Korea Branch, 1977), 1-47. Download and print from here:

– Supplementary readings (optional):
– Kim Key-hiuk, ‘Korea in Traditional East Asia’ in The Last Phase of the East Asian World Order, 1980, pp.1-38.
– Fujiya Kawashima, What is Yangban? A Legacy for Modern Korea, 2002, pp.1-33.
– Peter Yun, “Confucian Ideology and the Tribute System in Choson-Ming Relations” Shachong (Korea University), No. 55, 2002, pp. 67-83.
– Susan S. Shin, “Tonghak Thought: The Roots of Revolution?, Korea Journal 19:9, Sep.1979, pp 204-223.
– Ki-moon Lee, “The Inventor of the Korean Alphabet” in The Korean alphabet: Its History and Structure, edited by Young-Key Kim-Renaud, 1997, pp. 10-30.

Tutorial Discussion Questions:
? How did neo-Confucianism affect the character of Choson dynasty society in terms of social hierarchy and gender differentiation?
? Who were yangban, what did they do, and what was their place in society?
? What was the major contribution made by King Sejong during the Choson dynasty, and why was it significant?
? Was the so-called “rise of warriors” a complete overthrow of Japan’s classical system or not? Explain your answer.
? How and why did religion and cultural production (such as art and literature) change in Japan’s medieval era?
? What impact did the Mongol empire have on Japan?
Week 12
Lecture 1: Unification-era Japan
Lecture 2: Early Modern Japan

– Murphey text, pp. 284-305.
– Stavros, “Military Revolution in Early Modern Japan.” Download and print from here:

Tutorial Discussion Questions:
? What influence did firearms have on Japan’s unification? (Especially institutional changes)
? What were the keys to the long Tokugawa peace?
? What factors contributed to the decision to modernize during the 19th century?
Week 13
Lecture 1: Semester Overview and Final Exam Prep Session
Lecture 2: TBA

No tutorials this week

As the University moves to adopt a new online student management system in 2014, there will be some changes to the grade codes that are used to report on your results. This will not affect the standards you are expected to meet in order to achieve a Pass, Credit, Distinction or High Distinction grade, but your academic transcript may look a little different from mid-year onwards.
The University will keep students updated on the timing of these changes throughout the year. You can also check in with the Ask Sydney website for help with understanding the common grade codes that appear on your academic transcript.

One of the most important things you can learn at university is how to take notes effectively. This task entails developing a keen sense for which parts of a lecture are important and need to be written down, and which parts are best simply absorbed. Attempting to write down every word a presenter says or writes can be an ineffective use of time. It is often better to listen carefully and attempt to grasp the big picture, jotting down key words and phrases. Specialized words and details can usually be looked up in follow-up study.
Students are permitted to record lectures for personal use only. Be aware, however, that lectures are protected under intellectual property rights. Distribution or conveyance of recordings and lecture slides in any way or form is strictly prohibited. If you miss a lecture and would like to get a copy of the available materials, you may visit the coordinator during consultation hours. Please bring a USB drive. Lecture notes and recordings are not provided generally.

During the semester, emails from the instructor will be sent to University of Sydney email accounts. Be sure to check your account regularly. Not checking email will not serve as an excuse for failing to complete an assignment or follow instructions.
Electronic communication from students to instructors should be conducted exclusively using university email accounts. With consideration for the tremendous volume of emails instructors receive, please limit your communications to carefully-considered questions, comments, or concerns, and please be sure that your questions are not already answered in this unit outline or on Blackboard.
Guidelines for getting a response:
? Include a proper salutation (such as “Dear Dr Stavros”), your full name, and SID. The coordinator will NOT answer an email that begins with “Hey.” To him and many others, starting an email like that is extremely impolite.
? Write in complete, grammatical sentences.
? Questions about academic material and assessments are best answered in person, not via email. Please come to see the instructor during consultation hours. Do not email to ask permission to visit during consultation hours. Permission is not necessary.

Be aware that the instructor checks email about twice a day from Monday to Friday, and almost never in the evenings or weekends.
Students must save copies of all submitted assessments. In principle and where applicable, assessments for this unit will be graded in accordance with the “Core Grading Criteria” of the Department of Japanese Studies ( All grades assigned during the semester are preliminary (raw). Grading decisions related to late submissions, absences, or any other assessment matter will be made in accordance with Faculty guidelines.
If a student experiences a hardship that is likely to impact long-term performance—including such things as illness or misadventure—they should bring it to the attention of the coordinator as soon as possible. After consultation with the coordinator, he or she may be invited to file for Special Consideration through the Faculty. Bringing hardships to the coordinator’s attention long after the fact, such as after a major assessment is graded and returned, will weaken a Special Consideration case. Note that consideration will not be given for missing an assessment due to avoidable circumstances or poor planning on the part of the student. Unexcused late work will be marked down 2 percentage points for each working day it is late.

The Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences assesses student requests for assistance relating to completion of assessment in accordance with the regulations set out in the University Assessment Policy 2011 and Assessment Procedures 2011. Students are expected to become familiar with the University’s policies and Faculty procedures relating to Special Consideration and Special Arrangements.
Students can apply for:
• Special Consideration – for serious illness or misadventure
• Special Arrangements – for essential community commitments
• Simple Extension – an extension of up to 5 working days for non-examination based assessment tasks on the grounds of illness or misadventure.
Further information on special consideration policy and procedures is available on the Faculty website at

Academic honesty is a core value of the University. The University requires students to act honestly, ethically and with integrity in their dealings with the University, its members, members of the public and others. The University is opposed to and will not tolerate academic dishonesty or plagiarism, and will treat all allegations of academic dishonesty or plagiarism seriously.
The University’s Academic Dishonesty and Plagiarism Policy 2012 and associated Procedures are available for reference on the University Policy Register at (enter “Academic Dishonesty” in the search field). The Policy applies to the academic conduct of all students enrolled in a coursework award course at the University.
Under the terms and definitions of the Policy,
• “academic dishonesty” means “seeking to obtain or obtaining academic advantage (including in the assessment or publication of work) by dishonest or unfair means or knowingly assisting another student to do so.
• “plagiarism” means “presenting another person’s work as one’s own work by presenting, copying or reproducing it without appropriate acknowledgement of the source.”
The presentation of another person’s work as one’s own without appropriate acknowledgement is regarded as plagiarism, regardless of the author’s intentions. Plagiarism can be classified as negligent (negligent plagiarism) or dishonest (dishonest plagiarism).
An examiner who suspects academic dishonesty or plagiarism by a student must report the suspicion to a nominated academic in the relevant faculty. If the nominated academic concludes that the student has engaged in dishonest plagiarism or some other sufficiently serious form of academic dishonesty, the matter may be referred to the Registrar for further disciplinary action under the terms of the Academic Dishonesty and Plagiarism Policy 2012 and Chapter 8 of the University of Sydney By-Law 1999 (as amended).

The Faculty’s Student Administration Manual is available for reference at the “Current Students” section of the Faculty Website ( Most day-to-day issues you encounter in the course of completing this Unit of Study can be addressed with the information provided in the Manual. It contains detailed instructions on processes, links to forms and guidance on where to get further assistance.

According to Faculty guidelines, it is suggested that students spend two hours for every class contact hour in reading and preparing for lectures and tutorials as well as for revision of what they have learned in class. This means that, in this unit of study, you should spend approximately six hours per week on such activities outside class time. Individual students may, of course, vary in their study habits and skills, and when preparing for assessment tasks, you may have to allocate more time to your studies. In order to gain the most understanding from lectures and to play an active role in tutorials, it is highly recommended that students do the weekly assigned readings prior to attending lectures.
Students should attend all lectures and tutorials. According to Faculty policies, not attending more than 20% of tutorials without excuse can negatively affect a semester grade; not attending more than 50% can result in an Absent Fail for the semester. Arriving late or leaving early for a session can result in an absence. If you arrive late for a lecture or tutorial and disrupt the session in any way, you may be asked to leave.
Students are expected to perform to a level appropriate their status as adults enrolled at a leading academic institution. In addition to meeting the explicit guidelines for each assessment, students should endeavor to be diligent and rigorous in their work, follow instructions carefully, and take responsibility for their individual performance.

For full information visit
The Learning Centre assists students to develop the generic skills, which are necessary for learning and communicating knowledge and ideas at university. Programs available at The Learning Centre include workshops in Academic Reading and Writing, Oral communications Skills, Postgraduate Research Skills, Honours, masters Coursework Program, Studying at University, and Workshops for English Language and Learning. Further information about The Learning Centre can be found at
The Write Site provides online support to help you develop your academic and professional writing skills. All University of Sydney staff and students who have a Unikey can access the WriteSite at

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