SRP/PHL434: Philosophy of Asian Literature and Film

 Fall 2009


Core B International/Global Studies

Certified Writing Course



Policy Sheet and Syllabus


Instructor: Dr. Jinmei Yuan, Associate Professor

Office: Humanities Center, Room 114

Class Meetings: MWF 12:30-1:20

Office Hours: MW: 8:30-9:200 pm., MWF 11:30-12:20 pm., and by appointment

Phone: 280-3309           



Prerequisites: PHL/THL 250 or one of the followings: a) PHL 251 or 253, b) PHL/THL 351 or 353, or c) PHL 320 or PHL 323


Required Texts:

John M. Koller                                     Asian Philosophies (Fourth Edition), Printice Hall, 2002

Graham, A. C.                           Chuang-Tzu, the Inner Chapters, Hackett Publishing

Kawabata, Yasunari  (Tran. J. M. Holman)       The Dancing Girl of Izu and Other Stories,

Basic Books, 1998

Lin Yutang                                            Importance of Living by Lin Yutang, William Morrow and Company, Inc. 1998, originally published in 1937    

P. J. Ivanhoe                            Confucian Moral Self Cultivation,

Rabindranath Tagore                Gitanjali:Offerings from the Heart, Simon & Schuster Adult Publishing Group, 1997




Selection from East Asian literatures:

  1. Jinmei Yuan’s Loyal Courtiers and Their Rebellious Children (part)
  2. Mishima’s  Spring Snow (part), Penguin Books, 1985
  3. Kawabata, Yasunari’s    Snow Country (part), Knopf Alfred A, 1996

4.  Gao, Xingjian’s Soul Mountain (part), HarperCollins Publishers, 2001


Selection from East Asian philosophy:

5. Ames, Roger (ed.)                      Self as Person in Asian Theory and Practice, State University of New York Press, 1994

6. Confucius’ The Analects of Confucius: A Philosophical Translation (part), (Tran. R. Ames)  Ballantine Books, Inc. 1999

7.  Aung San Suu Kyi’s The Voice of Hope (part)

      8. Gandhi’ s The Bhagavad Gita According to Gandhi, Berkeley Hills Books, 2000

9. John M. Koller,  Sourcebook in Asian Philosophy

10. Others


Xerox Materials:  To be announced


Optional Texts:

Malhotra, Ashok Kumar,                                 Transcreation of the Bhagavad Gita, NJ: Prentice                            Hall, 1998

Li, Zehou                                          The Path of Beauty, Art Media Resource Ltd Press, 2001




Course Description and Course Objectives


Course Description:


            This course introduces East Asian way of thinking and moral values.  Based on a philosophical investigation, the course will discuss the moral values that guide the real life of people who live in East Asian world today.  A wide range of master works from famous East Asian writers and filmmakers will be introduced because the literature and film represent the practical life and culture in the East Asian countries.  These master works provide students with a ground to examine how Buddhism, Confucianism, and Daoism function in peoples’ lives.  The moral issues and wisdom involved in these master works will be viewed from many different perspectives, such as culture, history, and religion.   The course will discuss how and why the philosophy of non-violent action is rooted within Buddhist countries, such as, India and Burma; how and why aesthetic order and ritual order are highly prized in China and Japan; what the philosophical roots of East Asian family morality are and what is the impact of East Asian women movements in today’s world.  Students are encouraged to explore and reflect on the East Asian wisdom that may be valuable to our modern society nowadays.  Course requirements include discussion, examinations, and critical writing. 


Course Objectives:


To help students learn to:

1)      understand the basic philosophical concepts and moral principles that East Asian people often apply in their real life;

2)      identify the common values held by both western and eastern philosophers;

3)      open a wide worldview from the perspective of eastern wisdom to look at the world of today.

4)      recognize the contributions of East Asian philosophy and literature to world civilization.

5)      apply the concepts of the arts of living in East Asian philosophy to their daily lives and consider this application through discussion and written personal reflections.

6)      enrich the skills of critical thinking from the perspective of eastern philosophy.

7)      Synthesize research on one issue that is discussed by East Asian philosophers and remains an important issue in our contemporary society.


The overall goals of this class are for students to gain an awareness and understanding of positive and negative aspects in East Asian culture and way of thinking, to open a common discourse between East Asian philosophy and Western philosophy, and to learn the valuable doctrines and theories of East Asian culture.  I hope that some of these East Asian values and wisdom will help students solve problems that they might face in real life



Course Requirements and Grading


Course Assignments:


Written Assignments: Criteria for each paper will be identified in my web-notes.  Please read them carefully. Your final paper must be rewritten to show that you have improved your writing.


There are three types of written assignments:


1) Short Papers (4%)

Students will be required to write 1 short paper (4 pages, approx. 250-300 words per page) or 2 short papers (2 pages each) establishing, assessing, and responding to the significance of the readings.  The instructor will give a list of topics for you to choose.  You will choose no more than two of them to write about.  The writing should be in essay style and should address: 1) an interest issue addressed in the readings; 2) your reflection on the issue.  All papers must be typewritten and will be due at class time on the indicated day (see the schedule).

2) Summaries of moral issues in the film (6%)

Each student should write three 1-page summaries for three films: 1) Himalayas (Nepal) or Water (India); 2) To Live or Farewell My Concubine or Ju Dou (China); 3) Snow Country or Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence (Japan).  The summaries should include two parts: 1) the ethical/aesthetical issues that the films bring in; 2) what philosophical/religious theories involved in the films.  The summaries can be brief but both part one and part two have to be clearly stated.  Summaries have to be typed.


3) Final Paper (20%):

You will choose an East Asian philosophy topic on which you will write your final paper.  Students should be prepared to redraft their final paper in light of written comments by the instructor within two weeks of receiving them back.

The final paper will be 12 total pages and is broken down into two parts.  The first part of the paper is a creative work.  You need to write a short piece (an essay, a story or a dialogue) that is guided by the Eastern wisdom and written in the Eastern style.  This part is no more than 2 pages.  The second part of the paper is your discussion of the Eastern wisdom shown in your 2 page creative writings.  You need to develop an argument to criticize the social problems that we face today from the perspective of East Asian philosophy and examine whether the Eastern wisdom could be a contribution to the modern world for solving our problems.    


First draft and rewriting process: Students need to submit their first draft of the final paper on Nov. 15.  I will give written comments on your first drafts.  You might need to make appointment with me to discuss your idea of how to prove your first draft.  The first draft is 5% of your total grade.  

Final draft: The final draft will be due in the fourteenth week of the class. You need to submit your first draft with your final draft.  Your final draft is 15% of your total grade.


Criteria for all three types of written assignments:

                        All written assignments will be graded on the following criteria:


Clarity and Logic—how clearly the issues are presented and how well reasoned are the conclusions

                                    Thoroughness—how completely the issues are analyzed

                                    Documentation—how correctly are concepts attributed to sources


                                    Writing Mechanics:

Grammar/Punctuation—how well are the rules of grammar and punctuation followed

                                    Spelling/Typing—how accurate are the spelling and typing

Sentence Construction—how well are awkward, incomplete sentences avoided

                                    Organization—how logical is the flow of the paper


Grading guidelines for short paper and final paper:


For a grade of A:


In addition to those items required for a grade of B.  The paper shows an exceptional degree of understanding of the issues discussed in the course.  An especially thoughtful reflection on the student’s capacity of critical and creative thinking is evident.  The paper demonstrates insight into the relationship between the issues in the course and the student’s mission and future responsibilities.


For a grade of B:


The paper should demonstrate the student’s understanding of the relevant concepts and clearly articulate the student’s philosophical inquiry to these concepts/issues.  The assignment is well organized.  Paragraphs contain topic sentences and are coherent and appropriate in length.  Sentences are smooth and carefully crafted.  Transitions connect sentences and paragraphs so the writing is not choppy.  There are virtually no errors in punctuation, spelling, grammar, and usage.  The paper avoids triteness and generalizations.  The thesis statement is clearly delineated.  The introduction presents the issue and outlines its significance.  Terms are adequately defined.  The writer shows an understanding of the topic.  Conclusions are well supported and follow from the argument.  The paper is tight, not wordy.  The bibliography is correctly displayed and refers to a sufficient number of current sources.  Sources are correctly cited.


For a grade C:


The paper demonstrates a basic understanding of the concepts and issues involved.  The student has basic skills to do a philosophical reasoning but the application of course-related concepts and issues is sometimes inadequate.  The paper shows research beyond the level of assigned texts in the course.  The work is well organized, but the paragraph structure may sometimes be disjointed.  The paper contains no more than a few awkward passages.  There are some errors in punctuation, spelling, grammar and usage.  The language is too general, but none of these errors is glaring or highly distracting.  The sources cited may be limited in number or somewhat out-of-date.  There may be some errors in format in the citations and bibliography.


For a grade of D:


The relevant concepts and issues from the course materials are presented, but some inaccuracies may exist.  The student’s skills of reasoning are discussed, but sufficient detail or clarity may be lacking.  Application of course-related concepts and issues is often inadequate.  Research is at the level of the assigned texts for the course.  The work is adequately organized, though some paragraphs may be disjointed or misplaced.  Generally, it shows that the writer has followed a logical plan.  The writing is competent but wordy, general, or imprecise.  Sentences may at times be awkwardly constructed, but their meaning is clear.  Paragraphs do not develop topic sentences.  Errors in grammar, punctuation and spelling are distracting.  Errors in citations and in the bibliography are more extensive.


For a grad of F:


The student’s description and discussion of the relevant concepts and issues contains major errors or is omitted form the paper.  The student fails to demonstrate significant thoughtfulness about his or her personal critical and creative thinking.  The paper lacks a clear thesis.  The language is frequently muddled and unclear.  The technical errors in writing are numerous and highly distracting.  The writer’s understanding of the topic is in question.  Bibliography and citations are missing or incorrect. 


            Due days for your assignments: see the Tentative Schedule


In-Class Work and Participation (30%)


In addition to the writing portfolio, the instructors will assess and grade each student's overall involvement, development, and accomplishment in the course. This grade will take into account all aspects of a student's performance, including:

1)      In-class work (Attendance, class participation, Pop-quiz, class preparation and Contributions): (15%)

Instructor will give students 15 group activities (15%) as in-class work.  The dates of these group activities are unexpected and the make-up work is not acceptable.  

2)      Questions (5%):

Each student needs to bring at least 5 questions to the class during the course of the semester.  Students need to discuss/answer each questions in a few sentences based no his/her knowledge.  Submitting your 5 questions at the last class of the semester is not encouraged. 

3) Presentation (10%):

Each student needs to do one oral presentation to report his or her research.  The instructor will give the students a list of research topics at the fifth meeting.  The presentation includes two parts.  Part one is a Photo Story “movie” made by students.  Part two is students’ presentation about the eastern philosophical points of view in your “movie.”  The instructor will teach the students how to use PhotoStory3 software to make your “movie.”


For the oral presentation, the instructor’s evaluation will be based on:

                        a.  Good preparation

b.  Specific topic

                        c.  Good understanding and personal thinking

                        d.  Good skills of leading a discussion

e.  Good conclusion


The schedule for student presentations will be arranged at the fifth class.


Two Exams (40%)


Test material will be taken from lectures, handouts, and reading assignments.  Exams will include objective questions as well as a written portion including some definition and short answer/essay questions.   


Grading: Your course grade will be based on the following assignments:


Exams: (40%)

Exam1……………………………….100 points=20%

Exam 2………………………………100 points=20%


Written Assignments: (30%)

One short essay……………….……………………4%

Summary 1…………………………………………2 %

Summary 2…………………………………………2%

Summary 3………………………………………….2%

Final Paper…………………………………………20% (The first draft: 5%; the final draft: 15%)


Activities/Participation: (30%)

In-class work………………………………………..15%

5 questions……………….………….…….…………5%



Grading Scale:


90 above=A,

85—89 =B+,

80—84 =B,

75—79 =C+,

70—74 =C,

61—69 =D,

below 60=F


The list of films that will be involved in this class:


Instructor will show the required films on Thursday 6:00-8:00pm at L02 (Dates have not confirmed yet). 

There are eight films with *.  They are the required films.   Watching these films are parts of your assignments.  Students are encouraged to watch these films as a group on Thursday.  After each Thursday, the instructor will put the film in the reserved desk in the library for a week.  If you are not able to watch the film with the group on Thursday, you need to watch it before the class when we discuss it in the coming week.  Students are also encouraged to watch the rest if they have time.


Family Relationships and Morality:

*The King of Mask (China)

*To Live (China)

* Shower (China)

Red Cracks, Green Cracks (China)

                                                            Red Sorghum (China)


Human and Nature:

                                                      *Himalayan (Nepal)

                                                            Keke Xili

                                                            *Snow Country (Japan)

                                                            The Dancer of Izu (Japan)


Individuals and Social Problems:

                                    Lover (Vietnam and China)

*Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence

Shall We Dance (Japan)

Sailor (Japan)

Rashomon (Japan)

*Farewell My Concubine (China)

World Peace:

The Burmese Harp (Japan)

                                   *Aung San Suu Kyi (Burma)

                                   Interview with Dalai Lama (Tibet)

Women’s Rights:

                                 *Ju Dou (China)

                                 Joy Luck Club (China)

                                 *Water (India)


Human Rights: 

                                 1998 Tiananmen Movement (China)

                                  Circle (India & Pakistan)           


The links with other Asian Literature reading materials will be found in my WebPages


Instructor will create a link with World Literature course for helping students to understand the Asian Literature assignments in this course better.



Expectations and Policies



Course Format and Learning Activities: The format of the class is lecture/discussion with group activities. The professors from other departments will join students’ discussion sometimes (see the tentative schedule).  The learning activities in this course will include four steps:


1) From the first week to the third week: the topic that we will focus on is “The Position of Human Being in the Universe according to East Asian Philosophers.” we will focus on the introduction of the origin and development of the main schools of East Asian Philosophy.  We will read essays selected from East Asian philosophers’ works. The related films (short pieces) will be shown in the class.  Students will be encouraged to look at the differences between Eastern culture and Western culture.


2) From the fourth week to the seventh week: the topic that we will focus on is “Non-violence Movement and Indian Culture.”   Students are required to read the materials of the Philosophy of Indian literature and film before each class.  The important influence of Indian Philosophy to other East Asian countries will also be involved. Instructor will assign two film as after-class assignments. 


3) From the eighth week to eleventh week: The topic that we will focus on is: “The Eastern Wisdom—the Way of Living this Life.”  We will discuss the philosophy of Chinese literature and films and the influence of Chinese culture.  Instructor will assign four films as after-class assignments. Students are encouraged to do their group research on Family Morality in East Asian culture.  


4) From the twelfth week to fourteenth week: The topic that we will focus on is: “Morality and Aesthetical Goal of Life.”   We will discuss the philosophy of Japanese literature and films and the relation to Indian and Chinese philosophies.  Instructor will assign two films as after-class assignments.  Students need to pay attention to how people in Japan combine beauty and morality in their daily life.


Each meeting of this class, in that period, will consist of one discussion, initiated by student participants.  Students will work as a team (no more than three people).  The group that will initiate a discussion needs to bring at least three questions (from either readings or films) to the class.  Initiating a discussion involves briefly surveying material to be discussed.  The group who is initiating the discussion needs to contribute his or her understanding of the issues.  Each student will, over the course of the semester, initiate one or two such discussions.  Each discussion is about ten minutes.




Exams: Exams must be taken with the group.  If you cannot take an exam due to an excused absence, you will not be penalized.  You need to take the make-up exam within a week. “Travel Arrangements” are not an acceptable excuse for missing an exam.  If you fail to take an exam for an unacceptable reason, you will receive a zero for that exam.


Class Attendance/Participation: The only way to succeed in college is to attend class. Your attendance and participation are very important in this class, as much of the learning and application of concepts take place in class.  No more than two absences are allowed before your grade is affected. Each absence thereafter will result in 0.5 % deducted from your final grade. There may be exceptions at the discretion of the instructor for absences.


The instructor needs to be informed as soon as possible if your absence is related to extreme circumstances (family emergencies, hospitalization).


Academic Honesty Policy: You are expected to follow the college’s guidelines for academic honesty.  I advise you to consult the undergraduate issue of the Creighton University Bulletin 2002, pp. 87-88, the Creighton University Handbook for Students, and the statement on academic honesty at the college’s Web site at  If you have any questions concerning these guidelines, please see me.  Unless you have specific direction or permission otherwise, I expect your work to be your own and not to be work submitted for any other course.  If you are found guilty of a violation of academic honesty, your penalty will be at a minimum a zero on the relevant assignment and quite possibly an F for the course.  In a very serious case I may recommend even stiffer penalties to the Dean.  All cases in which a penalty is assessed for academic dishonesty must be reported to the Chair of the Department and to the Dean, who will put a record of the offense and penalty into the student’s permanent academic file.


Tentative Weekly Schedule


Date                 Topic                                                                Reading Assignment and Due Date


08/26 (W)        Introduction to Course/Syllabus                                    Handout

                                    Questioning and thinking

                        I. The Construction of Self in East Asian thoughts                                     

08/28 (F)       The concept of Self in East Asian culture    Handouts from Self as Person                                                               in Asian Theory and Practice, Ames, Roger (ed.)            

08/31 (M)        Discussion on Ames                                                                             

09/02 (W)        “Self” in eastern culture and

09/04 (F)         Movie Discussion: Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence

09/07 (M)        “Non-self” in Buddhist culture                                       Handouts


                        II. The Eastern Wisdom—The Way of Living This Life

(China and other countries)


09/09 (W)     “Forgetting self” in Daoism          

09/11 (F)         “Exemplary Person” in Confucianism

Film: Shower (China)

                                    Discussion on the film: Shower                          Lin Yutang’s     Importance

of Living

09/14 (M)          “The Art of Living”                                                                

                                    Zhuang Zi’s wuwei: Inner Chapters, 1&2      Graham’s Inner Chapters


09/16 (W)        Discussion on Daoist wisdom:

Inner Chapters, 3 & 4

                                    Chinese poetry and Daoist influences 

Film: Spring


09/18 (F)       The instructor will invite the Chinese contemporary writer, Luye to join us for a discussion our discussion on Daosim and Aesthetics in Daoist literatures


09/21 (M)        Discussion on Confucius’ Analects                                                                   Ivanhoe

09/23 (W)        Confucian way of being an exemplary person                                                    Ivanhoe           

09/25 (F)         Neo Confucianism: The idealistic way of Confucianism                                                                                      and its impact on East Asian culture

Discussion the film, To Live        


09/28 (M)        Short Essay (1) Due

                                    Family Morality and Individualism

Discussion the film, To Live        


09/30 (W)        Revolutionary Writers

10/02 (F)         Discussion on Lu Xun’s stories              Lu, Xun’s Diary of a Madman and

Other Stories, University

10/05 (M )       The role of Chinese women in China

                                    Discussion on the film, Ju Dou

                                    The instructor will invite a Chinese woman to join our discussion on

Women’s positions represented in the world literature and

the film Ju Dou

10/07 (W)        Discussion on Chinese Students’ movement                                           Handouts

                                    and the failure of Communism in China            


10/09 (F)         Exam I           


10/12 (M)        How the traditional moral value                                    

works in China today      

Discussion on the film,

                   1998 Tiananmen Movement

The instructor will invite Dr. Maorong Jiang from Political Sciences to join our discussion on Confusianist business-men and the economical development after 1998 Student movement.


10/14 (W)        III. Indian Culture and Non-violence Movement

                                    (India and other countries)


10/16 (F)         “Live Simple that Others May Simply Live”     Gandhi’s           The Bhagavad

Gita According to Gandhi

10/17-10/10/25 Fall Break


10/26 (M)        Discussion on Koller’s Asian Philosophies                                           Koller

10/28 (W)        Discussion on Koller’s Asian Philosophies                                          Koller

                      Film: Himalayas                        

Summary 1 and 2 Due


10/30 (F)         Discussion on the film, Himalayas                                                                     Koller

11/02 (M)        Non-violence Movement                                                                                               Handouts

                                    Discussion on Aung San Suu Kyi’s “The Voice of Hope”

11/04 (W)        Life in Indian and the deep philosophical roots in people’s daily life

 Film: Satyajit Ray’s classical work,                                                         Koller

11/06 (F)         Discussion on Satyajit Ray’s film

11/09 (M)        The problems in India Tradition

                                    Film: Water

11/11 (W)        Discussion on Water

11/13 (F)         “The light of hope”                                                           Rabindranath Tagore’s Gitanjali

11/16 (M)        Discussion on Tagore’s work

and its philosophical insight


11/18 (W)        Film, continue and discussion

                        The First Draft of Your Final Paper Due


            IV. Morality and Aesthetical Goal of Life


                                                                                                                                                                        Summary 3 Due

11/20 (F)         How to find the pure beauty in the real life                     Kawabata’s      The Dancing

Girl of Izu and Other Stories,

11/23 (M)    Discussion on the film, Snow Country

and Kawabata’s novels                                      

11/24-11/29  Thanksgiving-no class


11/30 (M)                    Japanese culture and society                                                     Handouts

                                    Discussion on the spirit of Bushido                      Final Paper Due

(No comments will be given for the final papers that are submitted later than Dec. 8)

12/02 (W)        Mishima’s life and the conflict between Japanese

                                    tradition and Western  value

                    The instructor will invite Ms. Emiko Unno to join 
                   our discussion on Mishima’s life and his works.


12/04 (F)         Zen Buddhism                                                                          Koller and handouts

12/07 (M)        Zen Buddhism                                                                          Koller and handouts

12/09 (W)        Create your own Zen Arts

12/11 (F)         Review


Final Semester Examinations

                        For 12:30 class, test time: 8:00-9:40am, Dec 16 (W), 2008                       

                        The Late Final Paper Due

(The penalty for the papers submitted later than Dec. 17  is –2% in your total grade and no comments will be given for the late final paper.)