Asian Culture and Arts - 2005-2006




Fall Quarter Activities - Week Six


Announcements: Dr. Sunil Kothari completes his residence with the program at the end of this week.

Integrative Essay Assignment on China, Due Thursday, Dec. 1

The century-old philosophical and religious tradition and experience of China is made of the so-called “Three Teachings”: Confucianism, Daoism and Buddhism. These three teachings are generally regarded as separate schools of thought, but for any Chinese society or Chinese individual, they co-exist as intertwined and indispensable elements of the natural and spiritual world. As most Chinese writers and philosophers repeat such sayings as “the three teachings are one teaching,” and “the three teachings return to the one,” people in China have breathed the completely harmonious integration (or syncretism) of these three trends of thought in every aspect of their daily life and practical existence. A Confucian scholar may easily practice Buddhist rituals and harbor Daoist fantasies, and a Buddhist monk can worship Daoist deities in the same temple and observe Confucian etiquette at the same time.

This does not mean, however, that there have never been any conflicts or clashes between the three schools of thinking and teaching in Chinese society or Chinese history, or more precisely and minutely, in a Chinese person's mentality. Each school has a complicated system of interpretation and response to the cosmic order and human nature; each philosophy prescribes a unique set of rules and demands. Throughout Chinese history, different periods enacted persecution of different religious beliefs, such as late Tang's attempts at eradicating Buddhism and Communists' sweeping banning of so-called feudal and superstitious practices during the last century, mostly for political and ideological control. While those large-scaled religious persecutions have failed one after another, for a Chinese person, decisions and mental negotiations are constantly being made between his/her Confucian, Daoist and Buddhist tendencies on the daily basis.

For your last integrative essay, which is due after the Thanksgiving break, on Thursday, Dec.1, you are asked to critically examine the syncretism of these three teachings, Confucianism, Daoism and Buddhism, in the creative constitution of two Chinese characters. Monkey and Tripitaka (a.k.a Xuanzang), are two main characters from the novel Monkey. Both are fantastic creations derived from a true historical event, a significant pilgrimage, with the latter clearly based on the real, historical figure who executed the pilgrimage in 7th Century Tang Dynasty. Take a good look at these two characters in the novel Monkey and compare the character Tripitaka with the real Xuanzang in the book The Silk Road Journey with Xuanzang. Describe in details and with specific examples (incidents, episodes and accounts drawn from the novel and the history book) how each of the characters manifest and embody the integration of three Chinese philosophies within one body, one mentality and one personality.

Your 3-5 page essay should observe all the formalities of good academic writing. This paper should indicate your basic understanding of the unique characteristics of each of the three philosophical schools along with their fundamental differences. Needless to say, some additional research will be helpful. More importantly, your essay should display a comfortable level of familiarity with each of the two assigned readings for week nine: Monkey and The Silk Road Journey with Xuanzang (or Xuanzang: A Buddhist Pilgrim on the Silk Road-depending on which version you have acquired).


Basic Writings by Chuang Tzu, trans. by Burton Watson. NY: Columbia Univ., 1996.
The Butterfly Dream (Chinese Opera), translated by A.C. Scott. (On closed reserve in the library.)

Tuesday, November 1

10-12: Com 110 (Roy), Com 341 (Williams), Com 323 (Tsutsumi) and Com 210 (Jang)

Workshops on language and arts; note: Tsutsumi-sensei's classes begin at 11:00.

1-4: Com 107 - The Three Teachings of China:Confucianism, Daoism, and Buddhism (Rose Jang)

Wednesday, November 2

10-12: Com 310 (Tsutsumi), Com 320 (Roy), Com 323 (Jang), Com 338 (Williams)

Seminars on themes introduced by the readings

1-3: rehearsals, films, and independent practice on your own

Thursday, November 3

10-12: Com 110 (Roy), Com 341 (Williams), Com 323 (Tsutsumi) and Com 210 (Jang)

Workshops on language and arts

1-4: Lecture Hall 3 - China (Rose Jang)

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