Asian History News Dump, March 2007

This is a “dump”: all the Asia related stuff I’ve saved over the last…. two months? Anyway, nobody else has blogged about it, so I thought I’d toss it out there. I hope to resume more … measured blogging soon.
[Crossposted at all three Frog Blogs; sorry about the irrelevant stuff.]


Sino-Japanese Studies Journal Online

Filed under: — K. M. Lawson @ 9:43 pm

I am happy to announce the completion of a project that I have been working on in my spare time for about a month now: the digitization of the Sino-Japanese Studies Journal. The full journal is available online and downloadable as PDFs at ChinaJapan.org:

Sino-Japanese Studies Online Journal Archive

This biannual Sino-Japanese Studies Journal was created in 1988 by Joshua A. Fogel, now Canada Research Chair in the History of Modern China at York University and the leading scholar in North America in the field of Sino-Japanese studies. In Professor Fogel’s words:

From the start, SJS was conceived as a journal devoted to studies of China and Japan together, irrespective of discipline or time period. For many that would take the form of comparative Sino-Japanese research, while for others that meant actual Sino-Japanese interactions. Everyone involved has been committed to fostering this sub-field which at once covers both the China and the Japan fields while, at the same time, examines where these two meet.

It includes articles and translations in a range of fields: literature, history, contemporary politics, art history, etc. Its last (temporarily we hope) issue came out in 2003.

In 2004 Professor Fogel agreed to my proposal that we put the whole run of this journal, which had articles by many leading scholars but a limited circulation, online as PDFs with full Open Access. He approved, but there was a long delay when I realized that issues with the various formats of the available journal files meant that most of the journal would need to be scanned. I finally returned to this project in February, and finished the scanning and processing of the documents this week.

The PDFs were OCRed (text recognition) but the accuracy was only moderate. I did not go through and fix all of the OCR errors and the OCR engine was English only. However, using Adobe Acrobat, or through Google, the majority of the roman character contents of the journal issues can be searched.

I hope that the availability of this journal online will get much greater exposure for many of these articles. Even a number of current hot button topics, such as the Nanjing massacre (See articles by David Askew and Yang Daqing via the author index) and Japanese gas warfare and drug trafficking in China (See Andrew Markus and Bob Tadashi Wakabashi’s articles, for example) are addressed in numerous articles.

There are a lot of articles on intellectual history, on Edo period relations between China and Japan, reviews of historical works by Japanese and Chinese scholars, and other interesting pieces such as Fogel’s discussion of Japanese terms for China, Wixted’s discussion of reverse Orientalism or Zhao Jing’s discussion of Japan’s Communist Party reaction to the Tiananmen incident.

A Few Small Changes

Filed under: — K. M. Lawson @ 4:33 pm

While doing a regular WordPress software upgrade at Frog in a Well, I have made a few small technical changes to the three blogs:

1) In the list of Frog in a Well contributors to the right, the names now link to a list of postings by that contributor, along with a contact address where you can reach them, and a web page link, if they have one.

2) Each Frog in a Well weblog now has the “Next Page – Previous Page” navigation links at the bottom of the page.

3) I have changed the font to a slightly larger Georgia font.


Origami Revolution

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 8:25 pm

Hiroshima Atomic Bomb Memorial

I can’t recommend highly enough Susan Orleans’ profile of Origamist Robert Lang, in which she describes not only his groundbreaking technical and artistic work, but traces back the history of origami in the West and talks about the growth of origami clubs and culture in the world.

I got to hear talks, courtesy of the MIT Origami club, a few years back by Michael LaFosse and by the folder of the world’s smallest crane. There are some remarkable people out there, doing some incredible things. I’ve always been amazed at the ability to turn two-dimensional media into three-dimensional art, and if I had more time and energy, I’d really like to get better at it.

I myself got into origami out of self-defense: when my wife and I were in Yamaguchi for my graduate research, a few of her Japanese friends tried to show her how to do origami. Being blind, my wife can’t see instructions, and most people don’t really understand how to explain things non-visually; she asked me to show her a few things so that the next time it came up she’d have some idea what was going on. So we went down to the bookstore, got a few beginning books and a few packs of paper, and we began working on it. We got a lot of our practice in during those interminable NHK newscasts. I also started — and still do — carrying origami paper in my wallet so that we could practice whenever we had some time, especially while waiting at restaraunts. Our work, though basic, got better, and we delighted our relatives by using the stuff we folded for practice as packing material.

While we were in Cambridge, we joined the MIT Origami club for their annual January Seminars, where I learned how to do modular origami, geometric shapes made from simple units. That’s where we got to see some of the real masters, the people who will fold a frog for two hours, then unfold it so they can reverse the folds in the center, then fold it back up again, all to get the toes just right!

Lang has gone beyond that, in ways that just weren’t possible ten years ago: computer-aided design, laser-scored paper, mathematical modelling and new materials. The artistry is the same though: the wonderful feeling of creation, of surprise.


Girls’ Day 2007, Hilo

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 10:45 pm

The Hawai’i Japanese Center had an open house today for Girls’ Day, and I brought my camera. I didn’t make my 5-year old sit through the boring speeches, but once they were over we all had fun wandering the exhibits (actually, when you do it with a 5-year old, you’re not “wandering” but “examining in great but sometimes random detail”) and eating mochi and brownies.


The course we all have to teach

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 3:05 am

Alan Baumler, my colleague from next door has sent along this “call to arms”

As some of our regular readers may remember, there is a Frog tradition of posting our syllabi for comments. One class I will be teaching in Fall is Japan in the Age of the Samurai. Here is the description.

In this class we will examine the development of Japanese society and culture during the age of the samurai, roughly 1100 to 1550. We will look at the development of the class of bushi, their political, economic and military roles. We will also look in depth at the development of a social identity that was flexible enough to include the courtier-warriors of the Heian period and the ronin of Sengoku. This was also an age of considerable social and intellectual change, and we will look at urbanization, international relations and the development of Buddhism as well as changes in rural society and other topics. Readings will include important secondary sources and some primary sources. The course will also involve a research paper.

I was going to call the class “Land tenure and social status in Medeival Japan,” but I was told by pretty much everybody that I needed a better title to attract students. So “Age of the Samurai” it is. Basically we will be covering the late Heian to the end of Sengoku, and it is not a class just about warriors, but they are pretty central to the period. It is a topics class, which means it is mostly for juniors and seniors, and I will be running it more like a colloquium than a lecture class, and all the students will be doing research papers.

So, I need to pick maybe four books to have them all read. I was thinking of using

Helen McCullough trans. Tale of the Heike

Pierre Souyri The World Turned Upside Down

Thomas Conlan States of War: The Violent Order of Fourteenth Century Japan

Mary Berry The Culture of Civil War in Kyoto

Any suggestions? Books to substitue? Things I should be reading as I teach these books? Articles or chunks from other things I should assign? For this type of class I usually make up a reader with a bunch of articles and chapters from other books so any ideas would be most welcome.

I don’t have a lot to add: my own version of this is running currently, and overlaps considerably with Alan’s choices. I am particularly curious myself about the Berry as a course text, since I’ll be getting to it in a month or so. I’m a little surprised not to see any John Whitney Hall or Jeffrey Mass at that level (especially the Mass, for documents). The Cambridge History of Japan for that period might be a good resource, too, though more for the instructor than the students.

So, gentle readers: any other suggestions?

Powered by WordPress