What is Asian Studies?

General Scope of Asian Studies

Asian Studies explores diverse topics and themes on the literary, cultural, philosophic-religious, aesthetic, social, institutional-political, educational and other related spheres of Asian people and civilization. It also endeavours to explain the complex interactions between them in terms of both tradition and transformation. Some emphasis is placed not only on the cultural diversity, unity and achievements of Asian countries but also on the comparative and interdisciplinary ways of promoting a broader and deeper understanding of the East. This may shed new light on Western civilizations, histories, traditions, cultures and modern changes.

Asiantudies at many major universities in the West (including Canada) offers programs of study that lead to the degrees of B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. It is a popular and rewarding major programme, for the growing importance of Asia in the world scene means more career opportunities in business, trade, law, journalism, government, education, social work, art, etc. for students who choose Asian Studies. In particular, it covers the geographical and cultural areas of East Asia (China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, etc.), South Asia (India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, etc.), and Southeast Asia (Thailand, Burma, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, etc.) offering various courses in most of the disciplines of the humanities and social sciences. Asian Studies courses, on the undergraduate level, attract students with divergent academic interests and career goals. Many of these courses are usually credited toward majors in regular degree programmes.

In a broad geographical and historical context, Asian Studies also relates to Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies, a significant discipline that examines the western part of Asia (Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Jordan, Turkey, and other Islamic countries). Furthermore, Asian Studies interacts with Near Eastern Studies, a full program in the study of the Near East that presents another significant region belonging to West Asia, prior to the rise of Islam, with extension to the Middle Ages in the case of Jewish and Syriac literature, and even to the present in the case of Modern Hebrew.

On the undergraduate and graduate levels in North America, Asian Studies is maintained by its three main groups of scholarship and teaching: East Asian Studies, South Asian Studies, and Southeast Asian Studies. At some major universities, these three paradigms of Asian Studies, along with Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies and Near Eastern Studies, have collaborated to develop some exciting introductory courses such as Civilizations of Asia, which deal with the histories and cultures of not just East Asia (the Far East) and South Asia but also the ancient Near East and the medieval and modern Middle East. With their emphasis on non-Western/non-European traditions, these new courses are certainly a welcome addition to the core university curriculum.

At the beginning stage of development in the 1950s and 1960s, Asian Studies grew out of core Arts disciplines such as language and literature, history, anthropology and sociology, geography, religious studies, philosophy, and political studies. Since the early 1970s, it has been an established major discipline at many large universities. It not only supports its related programmes in the humanities and social sciences, but also promotes a good deal of growing interdisciplinary and comparative knowledge about Asia in many professional programmes such as Business Management, Education, Journalism, International Relations, Urban and Regional Planning, International Communication, and even Technology and Medicine.

Asian Studies Curriculum: Core and Interdisciplinary

Many large universities offer Honours, Major and Minor programmes in East Asian Studies, South Asian Studies, and Southeast Asian Studies. In regard to the East Asia specialization, for example, three common sub-specializations are China (Chinese Studies), Japan (Japanese Studies), and Korea (Korean Studies). Two common trends of concentration are language and literature studies and, in collaboration with other departments, Asian area studies which requires fewer language courses. The Asian Studies courses offered on the undergraduate level may fall into the following major categories: 1) languages, literatures, and advanced reading courses; 2) classical, medieval and contemporary civilizations and histories, which may not necessarily require knowledge of an Asian language; 3) religion and thought; 4) society and culture; and 5) Asian traditions of art and architecture.

Because Asian Studies is interdisciplinary in its broad context, there are also a number of cross-listed courses offered by various departments in the humanities and social sciences, including History, Geography, Religious Studies, Philosophy, Anthropology, Sociology, Political Studies, and Economics. Furthermore, in recent years its interdisciplinary collaboration has developed some other relevant courses cross-listed with several professional programmes including Education, Business Administration, Communication, and Journalism. A student who intends to specialize in an Asian field is encouraged to take the core courses in the Asian language and civilization of the area of specialization, in addition the regular courses in his/her particular academic discipline.

Most of the introductory Asian Studies courses are open to all students pursuing various programmes or degrees. For Asian Studies majors, language training at the appropriate level is required because they need to obtain good knowledge of an East Asian languages (Chinese, Japanese, Korean, or Vietnamese) or South/Southeast Asian languages (Hindi, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Urdu, Indonesian, Burmese, Thai, etc.); for non-major students, some basic knowledge of an Asian language is encouraged as part of their general university education or for any practical career aims. Study of the necessary languages usually begins as early as possible in an Asian Studies student's academic career. A good foundation in language training is a prerequisite for admission to graduate studies; those students who do not have the necessary language preparation when they apply will be asked to make up this deficiency. For more information on graduate programmes in East Asian Studies, see American universities on the web and Canadian universities on the web.

Asian Studies Faculty

There are certain significant facts about Asian Studies faculty at most universities (including U.P.E.I.). For example, most Asian Studies scholar-teachers traveled extensively or lived in Asia; therefore, they are able to include first-hand cultural and scholarly accounts and personal illustrations in their classroom discussions. They belong to the various disciplines of humanities and social sciences and are highly knowledgeable of Asian peoples, languages, ideas, beliefs, values, societies, ethos and cultures. Not only are they trained in discipline-focused scholarship and its methodology, they also handle comparative and interdisciplinary topics and issues. For this reason, most Asian Studies specialists can offer elementary core courses as well as advanced courses on comparative and cross-cultural topics.

Regarding research and scholarship, Asian Studies professors are active members of the learned societies and frequently present major conference papers, maintaining good contacts with various national and international communities of scholars. They also produce the original scholarly works of national and international calibre, demonstrating certain comparative and cross-cultural themes. Many of them have received national or international fellowships or recognitions and served as special lecturers in Asian countries.

It is also common that Asian Studies faculty endeavor to bring to campus special intellectual and cultural events related to Asia, including guest speakers, film presentations, musical performances, and art exhibits. They also facilitate student fellowships, study abroad programmes, and international internship programmes, which are offered by various Asian countries including Japan.

Extra-Curricular Activities and Opportunities for Students

In addition to course work, Asian Studies at many large major universities in the West has developed and actively promotes extra-curricular activities related to Asia. These may include an annual film series, field trips to the local religious communities, interactions with various Asian cultural associations, special lectures/performances by artists and martial artists, and arts exhibitions.

Moreover, the special visits of Asian scholars, diplomats, journalists and performers provide Asian Studies students with additional opportunities and valuable challenges to meet the engaged or influential people from the cultures they are studying. There are also numerous Asian students who study at various campuses while interacting with Western students.

Study and Work Abroad

Asian Studies actively promotes a number of international exchange and inter-university study programmes in the areas of language and cultural studies. The Council on International Educational Exchange, for example, facilitates many North American universities with Asian Studies in encouraging students to participate in these language and cultural programmes.

There are many excellent summer or full-year programmes offered by the prestigious universities in Asian countries, including the following examples:

These international programs are designed for students who want to spend a summer semester or a full year in an Asian country studying both language and culture; they include language and cultural studies, orientation activities, and various field trips to historic and cultural sites. Most courses are taught in English and credited toward the regular undergraduate degrees. Participating students study and live with the international and regional Asian students who can assist their learning experiences. Many of these programmes maintain financial assistance and competitive scholarships.

In addition, numerous intensive summer language programmes in Japanese, Chinese, and Korean are regularly offered by American universities such as Yale, Stanford, Harvard, Cornell, Hawaii, Indiana, Michigan, and some other American universities and colleges in collaboration with Exchange: Japan and other East Asian resources. These programmes require special tuition fees.

There are also internship programmes for upper-year students, which are dedicated to various student interests in Asian languages, cultures, economies, and politics. These programmes offer different levels of partial financial support; for example, room and board are commonly provided by the host university. Furthermore, Asian Studies indirectly facilitates the international cooperative work programmes that provide full or partial fundings for the students who have undergraduate degrees and those who are completing the final year of their undergraduate studies. The popular areas of these programmes pertain to the mutual development of business, science, or technology between an Asian country and Canada (or U.S.A.).

Student Fellowships and Scholarships

On both undergraduate and graduate levels, Asian Studies actively promotes fellowships and scholarships for those students who wish to pursue language training programmes and Asia-related research projects in Asian countries. Applications for these scholarships and fellowships are annually considered for various language and cultural areas in East Asian Studies, South Asian Studies, and Southeast Asian Studies, as well as for certain economic, scientific and technological links between a particular Asian country and the applicant's country.

Competitions for foreign students take place annually for both semester and full-year fundings available from Asian countries such as Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, etc. Most scholarships and fellowships support return airfare, monthly living allowance, tuition and other academic fees, and field study allowance. Examples of these funding resources for Canadian and other students include the following:

Japan's Monbusho (Ministry of Education) 1-year scholarships for undergraduate students in Japanese language and Japanese Studies 5-year or 7-year scholarships in any undergraduate subjects 1.5/2-year research scholarships for graduate students in any university subject Application Deadline: June 30 every year

The Japan Foundation: Doctoral and Post-Doctoral Fellowships Application Deadline: usually November 10 every year

The Korea Foundation Korean Language Training Scholarships for graduate students Application Deadline: May 31 Every Year

The Korea Research Foundation: Graduate Research Fellowships in Korean Studies
Academy of Korean Studies and Korean Studies Fellowships Language training fellowships Research grants for graduate students Application deadline: December 31 every year

Taiwan's Ministry of Education and Taipei Economic & Cultural Office in Canada Undergraduate and graduate scholarships in Chinese Studies Application deadline: March 31 annually

The CCK (Chiang Ching-kuo) Foundation, Taiwan: Doctoral and Postdoctoral Fellowships

IUB (Inter-University Board) for Chinese Language Studies Fellowships for Chinese language studies at National Taiwan University or at Tsinghua University in Beijing For both undergraduate and graduate students Application deadline: February 1 annually Application from IUB For Chinese Language Studies (http://www.leland.stanford.edu/dept/iub)

Blackmore Foundation: Fellowships for Advanced Asian Language Training For graduate students, teachers, and other professionals dealing with Asians Japanese at the Inter-University Center, Yokohama, Japan Korean at Yonsei University, Seoul, Korea Chinese at the Inter-University Program, Taipei, Taiwan Balinese at Udayana University, Bali, Indonesia and others

Shastri Indo-Canadian Institute: (http://www.ucalgary.ca/~sici) Post-Doctoral Fellowships in India Studies Language Training or Research fellowships for graduate students in India Arts Fellowships for Indian art Application deadline: June 30 annually

Bangladesh Studies Program Graduate Fellowships in Bangladesh Studies Application deadline: November 1 annually

US-Indonesia Society: Student Travel Grants for Language Programme, Research and Independent Study Application 30 days before travel

In addition, other scholarships for both undergraduate and graduate students are available from the following Canadian-international funding sources: Asia Pacific Foundation Canada-Taiwan Scholarship Programme (for Chinese language training), Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Canada and Human Resources Development Canada CIDA (The Canadian International Development Agency) and Canadian Bureau for International Education(CBIE) - gbeaudoin@cbie.ca Canadian Bureau for International Education and Celanese Canada Internationalist Fellowships - http://www.cbie.ca

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