"The Way that can be talked about is not the lasting Way": so begins this classic text of world literature and Chinese philosophical and religious thought. The Tao Te Ching has been read, interpreted, and applied in a variety of ways throughout Chinese and world history. We'll do a close reading as well as explore the larger commentarial tradition surrounding it, using it as a gateway to explore further dimensions of East Asian culture and to spark conversations within the class.
Building on the "Introduction to Early Buddhism" module, we will explore the development of Mahayana Buddhist traditions, focusing especially on Madhyamika and Yogacara trends, the Zen and Pure Land Schools, the Heart Sutra, the Lotus Sutra, and interactions with Chinese religio-philosophical systems, especially Daoism, and the fascinating culture of the Dunhuang caves.
Building on the previous two Intro to Buddhism modules in this sequence, we will explore the colorful and varied forms of Vajrayana Buddhism, focusing especially on developments in Tibet, but not ignoring the larger world of esoteric Buddhism. The various sects, arts such as the creation of sand mandalas, ritual practices, and various forms of teaching will all be explored.
This is the textual language of the early classical Chinese philosophical and literary tradition, bearing a relationship to modern forms of Chinese like that of classical Latin to a modern Romance language. Just as one does not need to know Italian to study Latin, no prior knowledge of modern forms of Chinese is needed to study the classical language. This language served as a kind of "lingua franca" throughout East Asia for much of history, much like the role Church Latin served in medieval Europe. In this module we will begin building the grammar, syntax, and vocabulary to eventually be able to engage with the texts associated with Chinese thinkers such as Confucius, Laozi, Zhuangzi, and Mozi. If a cohort forms, we can continue this study within a continuing sequence. We will focus exclusively on developing the ability to read it as a literary language.
In this class we will explore some of the major texts and movements within historical Daoism, especially Laozi, Zhuangzi, and Daoist alchemy and long-life practices. We will also examine how some of these Daoist concepts are incorporated by Ursula K. Le Guin into her speculative fiction.
Exploring Death's End Continuing Series
The third volume in Liu Cixin's Remembrance of Earth's Past series, Death's End builds on the setting of the first two novels, culminating in a dazzling series of events and thoughtful ruminations on their meaning. Join us as we explore this novel largely through class discussion framed by preceptor commentary. There are few series better for an introduction to Chinese science fiction than this one.
One of the most beloved of all classical Chinese novels, Journey to the West features Monkey, Pig, Sand-demon, White Horse, and the monk Tripitaka as they make a pilgrimage from Tang-dynasty Chang’an to India to bring back Buddhist scriptures, having outrageous adventures all along the way. Full of humor and wit, this is a major work of East Asian fantastic literature. Come along with Monkey and the gang for a tour through this foundational text!
Exploring The Dark Forest Continuing Series
The second volume in Liu Cixin's The Remembrance of Earth's Past series continues the story of Trisolaran alien invasion and the range of human responses to that threat. As with the Three-Body Problem module, we will read and discuss the novel, both for its inherent interest and for the ways it can serve as an accessible gateway to various aspects of Chinese history, culture, and science fiction.
Join us as we explore Choo’s delightful debut novel, which has also been made into a Netflix series. The story focuses on Li Lan, a young Chinese woman, who lives in 1890s colonial Malaya with her father, who returns one evening with a proposition — to become the bride, a ghost bride, of the recently deceased heir to the fabulously wealthy Lim family. After a visit to the Lim mansion, Li Lan finds herself haunted by her ghostly would-be suitor, but also by her growing desire for the Lim’s living heir, Tian Bai. She is drawn into the multifold realms of the Chinese afterlife, with their ghost cities, funerary paper offerings, wandering spirits and rigid bureaucracy. Li Lan must navigate her way through this web of complicated relationships both to save her life and meet her destiny.
Join us as we explore this award-winning Chinese science fiction series from Liu Cixin. The focus will be on participant discussion framed by preceptor commentary. Beginning with The Three-Body Problem, we will explore the various themes of technological and social crisis that alien invasion might present, as well as how they can be interpreted in the context of Chinese history and society.
Exploring The Three Body Problem First in the Series
First ever Asian winner of the Hugo award for best novel, as well as winning the Chinese Yinhe (“Galaxy”) award for best novel, and nominated for the Nebula award for best novel, and serving as the source material for an upcoming Netflix series by the same name, The Three-Body Problem is an exploration of both humanistic and technological themes in the context of Chinese history and contemporary society, all set in a narrative of alien invasion. There are few novels better for beginning to explore Chinese science fiction, so please join us as we take a deep dive into this fascinating masterpiece!
Come join us as we explore various aspects of the weird, the strange, the uncanny, the dreamlike, and the visionary in East Asian literature, religion, folktales, poetry, and popular media. Whether it is ecstatic visions in Daoist texts, shamanistic expressions in Chinese poetry, gumiho and ghosts in KDramas, or stories such as that of the Yuki Onna (Snow Woman) in Japanese folklore, we’ll explore them all (and perhaps more!) in this class.
Confucianism, Daoism, Legalism, Mohism---these Chinese philosophical systems all have their foundational roots in the Warring States period of Chinese history (475–221 BCE), and as such share a set of common interests, even if their proposals for attaining those interests greatly differ. In this module we will cover the basic concerns of each of these systems, paying attention to their differences as well as their similarities, and perhaps most importantly, seeing how their proposals for the attainment of human flourishing may still have something to offer to contemporary people.