Syllabus blogging

As is something of a tradition here, I am asking for help with my classes.

This one is HIST 206 History of East Asia, (i.e. Rice Paddies.)

This has not changed much, but one thing I am doing is switching up some of the primary source stuff. I always have them read some short primary source things each week, and usually I make them write about them. Traditionally I let them pick a couple during the course of the semester, with the expectation that they can pick whatever interests them the most. Almost always they find a deep intellectual attraction to whichever readings come last.

This time I am picking weeks to have them write, in this case the Han, Heian Japan, and one or two in the Treaty Ports to 1949 period.

Does anyone have good suggestions for readings that world work in any of these? I have a few up there, but I will be needing more.


  1. Don’t know the scope, but Francis Xavier’s letter from Japan is always popular in my class.

  2. Murasaki Shikibu’s diary is a good Heian source: not as snappy as Sei Shonagon, but honestly that makes it easier for students to take seriously as a source; translating humor and sarcasm across time and culture is, as you know, deeply challenging. Gives you an opening to talk about Genji without actually having to read Genji, which I think is a plus.

    For an alternative, the Taiheiki, chronicle of the 12th century Gempei War, gives a good look at the semi-aristocratic warrior in the early phase. Of course, we know it’s written later, so it’s a weak source in a lot of ways; might be more useful for your later discussion of medievalism.

    I’m partial to Helen Craig McCullough’s translations, though if you can afford Royall Tyler’s they’re supposed to be first-rate.

    I wrote a paper on the Treaty Ports early in my graduate career, but the scholarship and sources on them have gone way beyond anything I considered in the quarter-century since. Some of the Yokohama english-language newspapers have to be online at this point, right?

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