Asian Culture Course

By:  Dr. Frank J. Collazo

December 26, 2007


Ask Asia Lesson Plans

Students are able to understand the Asian Culture through classroom activities.  This site provides lesson plans and activities to help your students explore Asian Countries including India, China, Japan, and Vietnam.




Click on the blue link “Lesson Plans.”  Several pages of titles and descriptions will appear.  Review the titles and select three from different Asian countries.  Click on each title and provide a summary of each lesson plan. 

A Time of Kingdoms and Dynasties

Summary:  Identify some of the advantages and goals of governments and discuss governmental power in terms of unification or fragmentation.  Students will study the histories of Korea's Silla, Koryo, and Choson Kingdoms, and construct an annotated timeline to associate characteristics and achievements of each and include a the current relations between North Korea and South Korea.

Angel Island, US Pacific Immigration Station 1910 - 1940

Summary:  Angel Island was the Pacific US immigration station that processed--and in many cases, detained--nearly 200,000 immigrants in the early 20th century.  The students to discuss themes of identity and civics, and to use primary resources to gain a better understanding of this important period of US history. The scope of the plan: understand that the experience of Chinese immigrants; understand the emotional impact of the immigrants due family separation; identify the location and understand the significance of Angel Island in Asian immigration history; learn the process of the immigration system, and the significance of Chinese history.

Shakti, Power of the Feminine

Summary:  This lesson will also provide students with examples of how Hinduism positively regards women. It is an introduction to Indian’s gods and goddesses. The scope of the plan: Doing research in visual literacy and critical readings, identify key elements of the concepts of shakti and devi, to include how their functions influence Indian society, philosophy, and culture.


Thailand:  Thailand, formerly known as Siam, is a beautiful, vibrant, and historically fascinating country.  An important part of Thai culture is the Royal Family.  You do not speak negatively about the Royal Family in public.  The story, and movies, “The King and I” were based on a real king and real events that shaped the future of Thailand to deal with the Western world.



Much of this site is commercial though you can gain a flavor for some elements of the country and people by visiting many of the commercial links.  Locate “Thailand” and click on “Royal Family.”  Click on “King Chulalongkorn,” read the story and then click on the “Back” Button of your browser and click on “King Chulalongkorn – Rama V The Modernizing Monarch.”  These are two perspectives of Rama V.  There is some overlap of information.  Provide a summary of three major changes he made in Thailand.  Return to the page listing the links and click on “Her Majesty Queen Sirikit of Thailand.”  (Note there are several links that refer to her, like “Long Live Her Majesty” that don’t include her name.)  Summarize her contributions to modern Thailand. 


  1. King Chulalongkorn's skills: One of the King's great skills was making haste slowly and striking a guiding balance between opposing interests.


  1. His Majesty's most gratifying achievement, at home, was freeing his subjects from slavery. The King made it his business to introduce legislation, which gradually freed his subjects from lives of unpaid servitude.


  1. King Chulalongkorn introduced many new government schemes, including health programs, which began to raise standards for the ordinary people.


  1. The introduction and development of the railway network within Thailand. The railway construction work was largely contracted to German companies (Germany not having any colonial interest in the S.E. Asian area). This was all done without ruffling too many feathers of the colonial powers so goodwill and cordiality was maintained with Queen Victoria in England and, likewise, with the French Republic.


  1. Summary: King Chulalongkorn passed away in 1910 and, having also been diligent with his many wives and concubines, left a total of 77 children (33 boys, 44 girls) to further the task of modernizing Thailand.


Her Majesty Queen Sirikit:  The Queen, rises above the mire of politics and helps lead her people by duty, service and respect for her country. Queen Sirikit's story is not one exclusively of privilege. It is a story of romance, self-discipline, courage, motherhood, devotion and, above all, support for her husband and service to the people of Thailand.


As the people of this nation well know, Her Majesty has been a constant motivator, supporter and inspiration to those less privileged that look to the Royal Family for example, guidance and fulfillment.  The Queen has accompanied her husband to every corner of the nation and, many times, has traveled alone on visits to distant provinces.  Her Majesty's established the Royal Project Foundations that echo those of her husband H.M. King Bhumibol although Her Majesty, understandably, tends to favor women's self-help programs in rural Thailand.


Launched a program to help village women start a business for weaving, candle making, herbal medicines, fabric dying or whatever else will bring gainful employment and remuneration to rural villages, Queen Sirikit is invariably the directing funds to worthy Royal Projects.


In instances where Government hands have been tied, Queen Sirikit has frequently dipped into her own Royal Budget to provide projects "start-up" funds. Care and compassion is an unstinting part of Queen Sirikit's life.


Her Majesty Queen Sirikit of Thailand will have some quality "time out" with family and friends on the occasion of her birthday.


The Kingdom of Bhutan: The Kingdom of Bhutan is little known to the Western world.  This small nation has an interesting approach to tourism and prides itself in its historical culture. 



Read about the Kingdom on this page.  It provides a general overview of the country and its people.  Summarize the history and culture as described on this page.  Also describe the people’s attitude towards tourism including the typical number of tourists allowed in the country each year. 

Summary of History and Culture:  Bhutan is a country nestled in the Himalayas. Its geographical location is between India and Tibet. The country has been visited by many saints, mystics, scholars, and pilgrims over the centuries. The eland is blessed by its people with an invaluable spiritual and cultural legacy that has shaped the Bhutanese lives. Visitors and guests to the country will be surprised that the culture and traditionally lifestyle is still richly intact and the degree which it permeates all strands of secular life. From the traditional woven garments tot eh prayer flags on high mountains slopes, from the built environment to the natural environment, from the religious mask dances to the folk dances, the cultural heritage is proudly evident and offers unique cultural setting.


Buddhism has been the prominent religion since the 7th century. The country has been identified as one of the ten biodiversity in the world, one of 221 global endemic bird areas. Its eco system harbors some of the most exotic species in the eastern Himalayas: 770 species of birds, and over 50 species of rhododendron, besides medical plants and orchids. It has a host of wild animals: snow leopard, sheep, tiger, golden languor, water buffalo and elephant.


Information and Tourism: The country has developed a controlled tourism program. In 2006, less than 18,000 tourists entered the country. The projections are not very encouraging-declining in the coming years.


Asian American Cybernauts Page:  Many people from Asia immigrated to America.  They brought with them their heritage and added to the diversity of the United States.  This site houses a wide variety of information about Asian Americans and their culture and provides activities for educators to view.



Click on “Culture” and then under “Documentaries and Histories” click on “Asian American Chronology” and provide the year California barred entry to Chinese and Mongolians and the year the “In re Ah Yup” ruling took place.

Date California barred entry to the Chinese and Mongolians : 1858       

Date of the “In re Ah Yup” ruling :1878            

Chinese Historical and Cultural Resources:  This site is primarily an auction site but includes short “bits” of cultural and historical information.


Click on the heading “Society” and then on “Education System.”  Name the three titles and what each taught.  (If you follow some of the links, you will find more interesting information.)

Name: Dynasty, Wu-Di; King: Huang Di - Xuan Yuan Shi, Events in china: Made You Xiong his capital. Huang Di was a vigorous soldier-emperor. He ordered his officer Can Ji to establish Chinese characters. (Ancient inscriptions of pictographs belonged to the late Da Wen Kou culture were found in Dakou of Dadu, in Shangdong, 2800-2500 B.C.). Huang Di invented magnet and the wheel, built the first brick structures, erected an observatory for studying stars, corrected the calendar, and redistributed the land. Fought a fierce battle against rival leader Chi You and defeated him.


Name: Emperor Shuns time; King: Shao Hao - Jin Tian Shi (2,597 - 2,513 B.C.); Events in China: Shao Hao- Son of Huang Di and Lei Zu. Built his kingdom at Qian Yang and made Qiu Fu his capital. He was buried at Yun Yang.


King: Zhuan Xu - Gao Yang Shi (2,513 - 2,435 B.C.): Zhuan Xu- Grandson of Huang Di and son of Chang Yi. Assisted Shao Hao and was awarded the land of Gao Yang. Zhuan Xi first built his kingdom at Gao Yang and made Diqiu his capital.


Name: Prime Minister Situ is a surname, which came from an official title. Shuns (2,255 2,205 B.C.) official title was Situ when he was under Emperor Yao (2,357 2,255 B.C), who later gave his throne to Shun. The rank of Situ is equivalent to that of a prime minister, with the duty of governing the people, in charge of land properties, education and culture. During the Zhou Dynasty, the rank of Situ was renamed as Da Situ. Among the descendents of Shun, a clan used his official title Situ as their last name, known as the Situs.

Hometown: The town of Zhao in Hebei Province.

King: Song Wen Di (424 454 A.D.); Events in China: Wei Taiwu proclaimed king (424 A.D.) In 439 A.D., Beiliang defeated Wei. China was officially divided into North (Bei ) and South (Nan) Dynasties, with Song in the South (Nan Dynasty) and Wei in the North (Bei Dynasty).


The India Resources Page:  This web site houses a wide variety of information about India.



Click on the link “India Resources” and then on “Religious Traditions.”  List the seven religious groups and provide a brief summary of each.  You can click on each title to go to a web site that will provide more specific information. 


1.      Name: Vedic Traditions

 Summary:  Veda (Sanskrit, “knowledge”), the most ancient sacred literature of Hinduism, or individual books belonging to that literature. This body of ancient literature consists primarily of four collections of hymns, detached poetical portions, and ceremonial formulas. The collections are called the Rig-Veda, the Sama-Veda, the Yajur-Veda, and the Atharva-Veda. They are known also as the Samhitas (roughly “collection”). The four Vedas were composed in Vedic, an early form of Sanskrit. The oldest portions are believed by scholars to have originated largely with the Aryan invaders of India some time between 1500 and 1000 bc; however, the Vedas in their present form are believed to date only from the close of the 3rd century bc. Before the writing down of the present texts, sages called rishis transmitted the Vedic matter orally, changing and elaborating it in the process. Large masses of material probably taken from the original Aryan milieu or from the Dravidian culture of India were preserved, however, and are distinguishable in the texts.


  1. Name: Hindu Traditions

Summary: Hinduism, a religious tradition of Indian origin, comprising the beliefs and practices of Hindus. The word Hindu is derived from the river Sindhu, or Indus. Hindu was primarily a geographical term that referred to India or to a region of India (near the Sindhu) as long ago as the 6th century bc. The word Hinduism is an English word of more recent origin. Hinduism entered the English language in the early 19th century to describe the beliefs and practices of those residents of India who had not converted to Islam or Christianity and did not practice Judaism or Zoroastrianism. In the case of most religions, beliefs and practices come first, and those who subscribe to them are acknowledged as followers. In the case of the Hindu tradition, however, the acknowledgment of Hindus came first, and their beliefs and practices constitute the contents of the religion.





Major Hindu Religious Festivals






Hindus themselves prefer to use the Sanskrit term sanātana dharma for their religious tradition. Sanātana dharma is often translated into English as “eternal tradition” or “eternal religion” but the translation of dharma as “tradition” or “religion” gives an extremely limited, even mistaken, sense of the word. Dharma has many meanings in Sanskrit, the sacred language of Hindu scripture, including “moral order,” “duty,” and “right action.”

  1. Name: Jain Traditions

Summary:  Jainism is somewhat similar to Buddhism, of which it was an important rival in India. It was founded by Vardhamana Jnatiputra or Nataputta Mahavira (599-527 bc), called Jina (Spiritual Conqueror), a contemporary of Buddha. As do the Buddhists, the Jains deny the divine origin and authority of the Veda and revere certain saints, preachers of Jain doctrine from the remote past, whom they call tirthankaras (“prophets or founders of the path”). These saints are liberated souls who were once in bondage but became free, perfect, and blissful through their own efforts; they offer salvation from the ocean of phenomenal existence and the cycle of rebirths. Mahavira is believed to have been the 24th tirthankara. Like adherents to their parent sect, Brahmanism, the Jains admit in practice the institution of caste, perform a group of 16 essential rites, called samskaras, prescribed for the first three varna (castes) of Hindus, and recognize some of the minor deities of the Hindu pantheon (see Hinduism); nevertheless, their religion, like Buddhism, is essentially atheistic.


Fundamental to Jainism is the doctrine of two eternal, coexisting, independent categories known as jiva (animate, living soul: the enjoyer) and ajiva (inanimate, nonliving object: the enjoyed). Jains believe, moreover, that the actions of mind, speech, and body produce subtle karma (infra-atomic particles of matter), which become the cause of bondage, and that one must abstain from violence to avoid giving hurt to life. The cause of the embodiment of the soul is thought to be karmic matter; one can attain salvation (moksha) only by freeing the soul of karma through the practice of the three “jewels” of right faith, right knowledge, and right conduct.


  1. Name:  Buddhist Traditions      

Summary:  Buddhism, a major world religion, founded in northeastern India and based on the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama, who is known as the Buddha, or Enlightened One. Originating as a monastic movement within the dominant Brahman tradition of the day, Buddhism quickly developed in a distinctive direction. The Buddha not only rejected significant aspects of Hindu philosophy, but also challenged the authority of the priesthood, denied the validity of the Vedic scriptures, and rejected the sacrificial cult based on them. Moreover, he opened his movement to members of all castes, denying that a person’s spiritual worth is a matter of birth.


Buddhism today is divided into two major branches known to their respective followers as Theravada, the Way of the Elders, and Mahayana, the Great Vehicle. Followers of Mahayana refer to Theravada using the derogatory term Hinayana, the Lesser Vehicle.

Buddhism has been significant not only in India but also in Sri Lanka, Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar (formerly known as Burma), and Laos, where Theravada has been dominant; Mahayana has had its greatest impact in China, Japan, Taiwan, Tibet, Nepal, Mongolia, Korea, and Vietnam, as well as in India. The number of Buddhists worldwide has been estimated at between 150 and 300 million.


  1. Name:  Zoroastrian Traditions  

Summary: Zoroastrianism, religion that arose from the teachings of the devotional poet Zoroaster, known as Zarathushtra to ancient Iranians, who is regarded as the faith’s founding prophet. Scholars believe that Zoroaster lived sometime between 1750 and 1500 bc or 1400 and 1200 bc. The Zoroastrian scripture, called the Avesta, includes poems attributed to Zoroaster. The religion continues to be practiced today by Zoroastrian communities in India, Iran, the United States, Canada, and other countries. According to Zoroastrian doctrine, Ahura Mazda is a perfect, rational, and omniscient (all-knowing) entity. Thus, Zoroastrians believe that Angra Mainyu created sin, disease, death, and similar evils. Ahura Mazda is said to have created six Amesha Spentas (“Holy Immortals”), who represent aspects of material creation, in addition to other minor spiritual beings who assist in protecting the world and all creatures. Angra Mainyu is said to have produced numerous Daevas (demonic spirits), who represent aspects of pain, suffering, and death, to attack Ahura Mazda’s creations.


  1. Name: Islamic or Muslim Traditions     

Summary: Islam, one of the three major world religions, along with Judaism and Christianity that profess monotheism, or the belief in a single God. In the Arabic language, the word Islam means “surrender” or “submission”—submission to the will of God. A follower of Islam is called a Muslim, which in Arabic means “one who surrenders to God.” The Arabic name for God, Allah, refers to the God worshiped by Jews and Christians. Islam’s central teaching is that there is only one all-powerful, all-knowing God, and this God created the universe. This rigorous monotheism, as well as the Islamic teaching that all Muslims are equal before God, provides the basis for a collective sense of loyalty to God that transcends class, race, nationality, and even differences in religious practice. Thus, all Muslims belong to one community, the umma, irrespective of their ethnic or national background.


Within two centuries after its rise in the 7th century, Islam spread from its original home in Arabia into Syria, Egypt, North Africa, and Spain to the west, and into Persia, India, and, by the end of the 10th century, beyond to the east. In the following centuries, Islam also spread into Anatolia and the Balkans to the north, and sub-Saharan Africa to the south. The Muslim community comprises about 1 billion followers on all five continents, and Islam is the fastest-growing religion in the world. The most populous Muslim country is Indonesia, followed by Pakistan and Bangladesh.


  1. Name: Sikh Traditions

Summary:  In Islamic countries, both men and women continue to follow tradition, concealing their hair in public under head cloths, turbans, fezzes, or veils. Members of the Sikh religion of India do not cut their hair, wearing it bound up with turbans. Indian women traditionally wear their hair in long braids. In China and Japan men formerly shaved the front of the head and tied the back hair in a queue or pigtail. Chinese women combed their hair back into a low knot, and Japanese women—before the 17th century—wore their long hair unbound. Subsequently, they wore the hair drawn up off the neck and elaborately arranged, pomaded, and ornamented with ribbons, hairpins, or other objects. Warriors of some Native North American tribes traditionally shaved their heads except for a center tuft of hair. Intricate patterns of braiding and beading decorate the hair of sub-Saharan African women, and an adaptation of this style became fashionable with African American women in the early 1980s.


Korea:  This web site is operated by a school district in Utah.  There is good collection of resources on culture, history, and religion. 



Click on “History” and read the entire page.  Provide the names of the “Three Kingdoms” and the dates of each.  Then summarize the history of Korea starting when the Japanese conquered Korea. 

  1. Gourde (37 B.C.- 668 A.D.)
  2. Silla (founded in 57 B.C.)
  3. Baekche (founded in 18 B.C.)
  4. Fourth kingdom known as Kaya (founded in 42 A.D.)

Historical Summary:  In the 13th century Goryeo was invaded several times by the Mongolians from the north. Goryeo was also weakened by Japanese pirates. Korea was attacked by the Japanese in 1592-98 with destruction of many buildings and the killing of many Koreans. Kobukson, the world's first ironclad battleships, were built by Admiral Yi Sun-shin, which helped the Koreans prevent Japan from taking over Korea. The Korean society changed as traders and merchants began to trade with Japan and the West. In the 1800's the Joseon leaders wanted to close Korea to foreigners, while the merchant class wanted to improve their economy and technology to deal with outside trade. Japan began to grow stronger and in 1895 they defeated China during the Sino-Japanese War. Russia was defeated in 1905 in the Russo-Japanese War. Japan had become the military power in Northeast Asia. Japan annexed Korea as a Japanese colony in 1910. For 35 years Korea was ruled by Japan. Koreans were not allowed to speak their own language or to learn about their history during this time in an effort to obliterate the Korean culture. Japan plundered land and food. On March 1, 1919 many Koreans were killed or put in prison nationwide as they protested the colonial rule. Koreans remember this day as a symbol of their patriotism. Koreans strove to keep their cultural heritage that we see today in their many historical sites.


On August 15th, 1945 Japan surrendered ending the Pacific War, but 10 days later Korea was divided into North and South Korea. The United States took control of surrendering Japanese soldiers south of the 38th Parallel while the Soviet Union took control of the north. The United Nations called for elections in 1947 but the North Koreans refused.


A communist form of government came into power in North Korea (known as the Democratic People's Republic of Korea). The United States turned its authority over to South Korea (the Republic of Korea) in 1948 and left a small group of military advisors.


Japanese History:  This web site contains historical information about the Japanese ancient history. 



There are several general categories on this page.  Select three categories and click on one topic under each.  Provide the category, title, and a summary of the provided on each page.


  1. Category:  Religion      

Topic:  Early Japanese Buddhism

Description:      Nara Buddhism


In 552, the emperor of the Korean Paekche sent to Japan an image of Buddha along with some Buddhist scriptures. The Emperor of Japan, Kimmei, was pleased with the gift and the head of the most powerful clan in Japan, the Soga, urged that Buddhism be embraced as the new religion of Japan. For Buddhism was the religion of the civilized west and Japan had just begun actively importing the culture of China and Korea. Outside of the Emperor and the Soga, the reception given Buddhism was less than enthusiastic. Each of the clans worshipped their own kami , or gods; the chief of these gods, the Sun Goddess Amaterasu, was the creator of the world. Japan was the center of creation and the Japanese a select people. Buddha, on the other hand, was a foreign god, one that did not create the universe or have any central role in the pantheon of gods.


The conservative reaction against Buddhism was overwhelming. The Soga set up a shrine for the image of Buddha and began to venerate it, but when an epidemic spread across Japan, the conservative aristocracy demanded that the Emperor destroy the image. The Buddha image was cast into a moat and the Soga were forced to burn their shrine.


   A few decades later, Buddhism made its way back to Japan in 584. Again, the Soga clan was instrumental in its arrival.


  1. Category:  History       

Topic: Ancient Japan   

Description:  Ancient Japan does not appear in history until 57 AD when it is first mentioned in Chinese histories, where it is referred to as "Wa." The Chinese historians tell us of a land divided into a hundred or so separate tribal communities without writing or political cohesion. The Japanese do not start writing their histories until around 600 AD; this historical writing culminates in 700 AD in the massive chronicles, The Record of Ancient Matters and the Chronicles of Japan. These chronicles tell a much different and much more legendary history of Japan, deriving the people of Japan from the gods themselves.


   The Japanese are latecomers in Asian history. Preceding their unification and their concern with their own history in the latter half of the first millennium AD is a long period of migration and settlement.


 In order to get a handle on ancient Japanese history, it helps to consider that it is driven by outside influences. The first involved the settlement of Japan by a group of peoples from the Korean peninsula in the third century BC. Overnight they transformed the stone-age culture of Japan into an agricultural and metalworking culture. These early immigrants are ultimately the origin of Japanese language and culture.


   The second great push in Japanese history was contact with China from 200 AD onwards. From the Chinese, who demanded that Japan be a tribute state to China, the Japanese adopted forms of government, Buddhism, and writing. While Japanese culture ultimately derives from the immigrants of the third century BC, the bulk of Japanese culture is forged from Chinese materials—a fact that will drive an entire cultural revolution in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries as scholars attempt to reclaim original Japanese culture from its Chinese accretions. 


  1. Category:  Early Japanese Culture        

Topic:  Japanese Language      

Description:      As with other languages, the Japanese language can be understood formally as a set of linguistic characteristics or subjectively as a way of experiencing and ordering the world. However, unlike other languages, Japanese is unique to both linguists and to the people speaking the language. The Japanese by and large believe their language to be a highly unique language—some believe it to be unlike any other language in existence. Western linguists believe that Japanese is a language clearly related to other, Northern Asian languages, but there is a fair amount of disagreement among them. Suffice it to say that Japanese is the only human language where we can't quite decide where it came from or what other languages it's related to.


   From the point of view of the Japanese, the experience of this language is based on two, widely held beliefs about the language. First, the Japanese believe that the language is somehow highly unique—almost a language unto itself. Second, the Japanese believe that their language is extremely difficult for non-Japanese to read or understand. In fact, the Japanese have a name for non-Japanese who can speak and understand the language: hen gaijin , or "crazy foreigners." So the "experience" of Japanese as a language is an exclusive experience, a sense that one is participating in a language that no others can share or penetrate.


Western Perspective: Japanese is not an overly difficult language to learn (Chinese and Old Irish are considerably more difficult) nor is it a unique language. There, however, the agreement ends. For it's uncertain exactly what language family Japanese comes from. There are three main theories about the origin of the Japanese language among both Western and Japanese linguists:


q       Japanese is an Altaic language related to Korean, Mongolian, and Turkish.

q       Japanese is an Austronesian language related to Papuan, Malayan and other Pacific languages.

q       Japanese is a Southeast Asian language related to Vietnamese, Tibetan, Burmese or, in one school of thought, the Tamil languages of southern India and Ceylon.


Almost all linguists believe that Japanese is an Altaic language, which makes a certain amount of sense considering the fact that the Yayoi people seem to have migrated from Korea. A fair number of Japanese linguists, however, believe that Japanese is an Austronesian language. These alternative views have given rise to three theories concerning the origin of Japanese:


  1. In the Western model, Japanese was derived from a language spoken in northern Asia that would split off into several languages, such as Mongolian, Korean, and Turkish. The earliest peoples of Japan probably spoke this language, but eh Yayoi certainly spoke this language. By the end of the Yayoi period (300 A.D., this Altaic language was the dominate language on the islands. This language was in part influenced by the Pacific Island languages (the Austronesian languages) that surrounded the islands of Japan and thus formed an Austronesian substratum in Japanese.


2.      The Jomon spoke an Austronesian language and the Yayoi introduced an Altaic language. This Altaic language combined with the Austronesian languages spoken on the islands to form a unique hybrid, Japanese, which became the dominant language in Japan. In this model, there are two possibilities: Japanese is an Altaic language with an Austronesian substratum or Japanese is an Austronesian language with an Altaic substratum. Take your pick.


  1. Japanese was originally a language related to Tibetan or a language related to Tamil that was introduced into Japan during the great migrations of Southeast Asian peoples four or five thousand years ago. This language combined with, you guessed it, an Altaic and an Austronesian language to form the contemporary language.


Chanoyu, The Way of Tea:  This web site contains information concerning the history, principles, rules, and comments on various tea ceremonies.  Tea ceremonies traditionally have been an important part of history, culture, and social propriety.



Click on “English” and then on “Yin Yang & Five Elements.”  List the five elements.  Then locate the term “Uransenke School” and provide a summary of “Daisu shelf,” Gogyo dana,” or “ Furo (brazier).” 


Ying Yang Philosophy:  In ancient China, they created an astrological system, a calendar, geomancy and fortune telling based on the philosophy of "Yin Yang" . This philosophy states that first there was one force in the Universe. Then it was separated into two energies; yin and yang. Yin means moon or earth and yang means sun or heaven. Yin and yang energies influenced and mixed with each other and created the other planets. On the earth they became five elements that are Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water.


The five elements:

q       Wood creates fire. (Fire)

q       Fire creates ashes (earth).

q       Earth creates metal in it. (Metal)

q       Metal forms dew (water).

q       Water nourishes trees (wood).


Eight Trigrams were created from the yin yang philosophy too. As shown below, these eight trigrams have symbols,

hakke tree

and compass headings associated with them.

eight trigrams


History of China:  This site provides an extensive collection of resources on the history of China.




Click on the heading “The Ancient Dynasties” and summarize the section “The Dawn of History.”  Return to the table of contents, click on, and summarize “The First Imperial Period.”

The Dawn of History: Thousands of archaeological finds in the Huang He ( ), Henan Valley ( ) --the apparent cradle of Chinese civilization--provide evidence about the Shang () dynasty, which endured roughly from 1700 to 1027 B.C. The Shang dynasty (also called the Yin () dynasty in its later stages) is believed to have been founded by a rebel leader who overthrew the last Xia ruler. Its civilization was based on agriculture, augmented by hunting and animal husbandry.  Two important events of the period were the development of a writing system, as revealed in archaic Chinese inscriptions found on  tortoise shells and flat cattle bones (commonly called oracle bones or ), and the use of bronze metallurgy.  A number of ceremonial bronze vessels with inscriptions date from the Shang period; the workmanship on the bronzes attests to a high level of civilization. 


A line of hereditary Shang kings ruled over much of northern China, and Shang troops fought frequent wars with neighboring settlements and nomadic herdsmen from the inner Asian steppes.  The capitals, one of which was at the site of the modern city of Anyang, were centers of glittering court life.  Court rituals to propitiate spirits and to honor sacred ancestors were highly developed. In addition to his secular position, the king was the head of the ancestor- and spirit-worship cult.  Evidence from the royal tombs indicates that royal personages were buried with articles of value, presumably for use in the afterlife.  Perhaps for the same reason, hundreds of commoners, who may have been slaves, were buried alive with the royal corpse.


The First Imperial Period: Much of what came to constitute China Proper was unified for the first time in 221 B.C. In that year the western frontier state of Qin, the most aggressive of the Warring States, subjugated the last of its rival states. (Qin in Wade-Giles romanization is Ch'in, from which the English China probably derived.) Once the king of Qin consolidated his power, he took the title Shi Huangdi ( First Emperor), a formulation previously reserved for deities and the mythological sage-emperors, and imposed Qin's centralized, nonhereditary bureaucratic system on his new empire. In subjugating the six other major states of Eastern Zhou, the Qin kings had relied heavily on Legalist scholar-advisers. Centralization, achieved by ruthless methods, was focused on standardizing legal codes and bureaucratic procedures, the forms of writing and coinage, and the pattern of thought and scholarship.


To silence criticism of imperial rule, the kings banished or put to death many dissenting Confucian scholars and confiscated and burned their books.  An aggrandizement was aided by frequent military expeditions pushing forward the frontiers in the north and south.  To fend off barbarian intrusion, the fortification walls built by the various warring states were connected to make a 5,000-kilometer-long great wall.  What is commonly referred to as the Great Wall  is actually four great walls rebuilt or extended during the Western Han, Sui, Jin, and Ming periods, rather than a single, continuous wall.  A number of public works projects were also undertaken to consolidate and strengthen imperial rule.  These activities required enormous levies of manpower and resources, not to mention repressive measures.  Revolts broke out as soon as the first emperor died in 210 B.C.  His dynasty was extinguished less than twenty years after its triumph.  The imperial system initiated during this dynasty, however, set a pattern that was developed over the next two millennia.


The Hmong:  The term Hmong refers to a group of people who live, or originated, in the area of Laos, Vietnam, and Thailand.  Their story is fascinating.


From the left column menu click on “View the Hmong 101 Presentation.”  This is a PowerPoint presentation that summarizes who the Hmong people are, their relationship with Americans, and their culture.  Go through the program and list one item from the sections on marriage, pregnancy, health and medicine, and cultural etiquette.

Marriage: Hmong Marriages and the Hmong Marriage Ceremony:


q       Hmong may not marry a member of their own clan, no matter how distantly related. Marriage partners are chosen from among the other 17 clans.

q       Hmong perceive a marriage as a relationship not only between two households but also between two clans

q       Divorce is a taboo in traditional Hmong culture but is becoming more common among younger Hmong in the United States

q       Hmong MejKoob (May Kong) are marriage negotiators who work to resolve past problems between the families involved while also setting the Dowry. One MejKoob represents the bride’s family and the other represents the interests of the groom’s family

q       Hmong MejKoobalso performs marriage songs and rituals that have importance in traditional Hmong religion. For this reason, the continued and unrestricted use of MejKoobsis seen as a religious freedom issue by many non-Christian Hmong in the U.S.

q       Efforts to license or impose restrictions on the practice of MejKoobsare seen as an offensive imposition on religious freedom by many non-Christian Hmong

q       The Dowry paid by the husband’s family to the wife’s family varies, the 18 Clan Council in Minnesota has attempted to set a standardized Dowry of $5,000


Pregnancy:  Hmong Cultural Practices associated with Pregnancy:


q       Hmongs believe a person is connected to the placenta (birth shirtin Hmong beliefs) for life.

q       Following birth, Hmongs traditionally bury the placenta.

q       Traditionally, the placenta of a boy is buried beneath the main post of the house since it is considered the connecting link to the ancestral spirits, and a son is responsible for the spiritual obligations of the lineage. The placenta of a girl is traditionally buried under the parent’s bed.

q       Hmongs believe that at the time of death, the deceased collects the birth shirt (placenta) at the birthplace, and with the proper performance of rituals the soul can find its way back to the land of darkness and eventual rebirth back on Earth.

q       On the third day after birth, a soul-calling and naming ceremony is held, Hmongs do not believe the child is truly a person with a full complement of souls until this ceremony is held


Health & Medicine:  Traditional Hmong Beliefs about Health and Medicine:


Hmong Beliefs about the Causes of Illnesses

Non-Christian Hmongs believe that illness is caused a wide variety of factors.  Hmong beliefs about the causes of illness fall into 3 basic categories:

q       Natural or Non-Spiritual Causes of Illness. The Hmong, like most other cultures, understand that many illnesses are caused naturally, either by the environment around them or by the natural processes of life and aging

q       Spiritual or Religious Causes of Illness.  Ancestor, nature, and evil spirits are all thought to be able to cause illness to people in certain cases. Unlike evil spirits, ancestor and nature spirits are perceived as being non-harmful in general and to only cause illness in people when they are offended

q       Other Causes of Illness.  This category includes a broad range of other types of perceived causes of illnesses. One example from this category involves Curses. It is a common traditional Hmongs believe that persons who have been wronged by another person have the power to curse the wrongdoer and bring about illness.

q       Non-Christian Hmongs use Shamans to diagnose and treat the causes of illness


Traditional Hmong Beliefs about Health and Medicine and Western Medical Practices that May Conflict with the Traditional Hmong Belief Systems:


q       Surgery. –Many Hmongs believe that surgery may interfere with reincarnation after they die and/or surgery may open access to the body for evil spirits to enter

q       Drawing Blood. Many Hmongs feel that blood maintains balance in the body and that withdrawing blood will weaken the body

q       Autopsies.  Traditional Hmons believe that an autopsy on a deceased person may hinder reincarnation. For this reason, many Hmongs believe they will have betrayed a family member if they allow an autopsy to be performed. More broadly, Hmongs also believe it is disrespectful to allow the body of their relative to be dissected


Source: Dia Cha (2000). Hmong American Concepts of Health, Healing and Illness and their Experience with Conventional Medicine. PhD Dissertation, University of Colorado, Boulder.


Cultural Etiquette for Interacting with Traditional Hmong


q       The handshake may be a new concept to the traditional Hmong person, this is especially the case among women. Traditional Hmongs usually do not shake hands with women. Many Hmong women feel embarrassed shaking the hands of a male.  Traditionally, handshakes do not occur. Persons greet one another verbally.  Holding hands too tightly during a handshake will embarrass Hmong women.

q       Most traditional Hmong families do not enjoy hearing direct comments about their children, especially infants and babies. A comment such as "your child is cute" is not looked upon favorably.  Many Hmongs believe that if a bad spirit hears such comments, it might come and take the child's soul away

q       When talking to a Hmong person, he or she may not look directly at you or give eye contact. The person you are speaking to may look down or away from you. Traditionally looking directly into the face of a Hmong person or making direct eye contact is considered to be rude and inappropriate


Cultural Etiquette for Interacting with Traditional Hmong



q       Hmong people tend to be humble. They usually do not want to show or express their true emotions in front of others. Often, they will say: "maybe" or "I will try" instead of giving a definite positive or negative reply. Sometimes they might say "okay" or "yes" which actually means "no", when they feel pressured

q       Most traditional Hmong elders, especially men, do not want strangers to touch their heads, or those of their children, due to their religious beliefs and personal values.

q       Most traditional Hmong men take on an adult name after they have married and had their first child. The adult name is added to the first name. Most Hmong men prefer to be called by their adult name


Taiwan’s History

The history of Taiwan from its origins to the present day is housed by this web site.



Summarize the section “From the 1680s to the 1880s.”

Summary: The new Manchu emperors were not eager to extend their rule over the island. They were "inland" people with little knowledge of the offshore islands and even less skill at naval warfare. The immigrants to the island from coastal provinces of China, but the people came to flee the wars and famines on the mainland. They did not come to on behalf of the Peking rulers.


Taiwan thus remained a loose-lying area for the next 200 years. The Manchu attempted to extend their control over the unruly inhabitants, but time and again the islanders fought back. There were numerous clashes between the local population and officials sent from China, leading to the well-known saying in those days: "Every three years an uprising, every five years a rebellion."


Hong Kong’s History

This web site houses historical information about Hong Kong.




In the right column menu click on “The Story” and click on “A Violent Birth.”  Provide the titles, date, and a summary of the four articles on this page.

1.  Opium Trade-April 26, 1853

Summary:  Alarmed by the spread of opium addiction, China tried to clamp down on the trade, but met with resistance from the British, sparking the First Anglo-Chinese War in 1840. The treaty ending the war gave Hong Kong Island to the British in perpetuity for use as a commercial and military base. Before the British arrived, the island contained little more than a small fishing village.


The Times, then known as "The New-York Daily Times" and in its second year of publication, ran this editorial condemning the opium trade and expressing hope for China's future.


2.  Very Interesting Details of the China News- British Attack on Canton: Jan. 23, 1857

Summary:  This lively account of the British attack on Canton appeared on the front page of the Times three months after the fact. In the 1850s, Britain continued to resist China's attempts to control the opium trade and restrict foreigners' access to Chinese territory and markets. China's execution of three alleged pirates from a ship flying the British flag prompted the attack on Canton, which escalated into the Second Anglo-Chinese War.


3.  From Hong Kong -- Lord Elgin's Treaty with China -- Military Affairs -- Loot from Peking March 6, 1861

Summary:  Some of the atmosphere of the wars with China is captured in this dispatch, which describes looting sprees by Britain's ally France on multiple levels. The Treaty of Tientsin, which ended the second war, required China to turn over additional land around Hong Kong, including the Kowloon Peninsula, to the British. It also legalized opium, allowed the British to establish diplomatic representation in China and opened more ports for trade.


Lord Elgin's recent treaty has been officially posted at Canton and the other open ports, and is not unfavorably received by the English here, though what may be the feeling of the Mandarins at Canton, or whether the result will be beneficial to foreign trade, remains for a little more time to develop. The English, however, are by no means pleased with the treaty of Baron Gros [of France], as it contains an article which guarantees the restitution of property sequestered by the Chinese from French missionaries, with no limit as to time, thus giving a margin of some 300 years for a claim, the period when there is any tradition record of a Frenchman having set foot in China.


The French Bishop of Canton, without going into minute researches to discover the value of property destroyed belonging to the Church in the past and present ages, has lumped them all for the region of Canton, and taken possession of the site of the Chinese Nero, the Commissioner Yeh's palace, which will make a magnificent and noble domain for a Catholic Cathedral.           

4.  Anglo-Chinese Convention -- Hong Kong Now Secure

June 11 and 14, 1898

Summary:  The Times printed these brief mentions of the treaty that allowed the British to lease the New Territories for 99 years beginning July 1, 1898, providing a large buffer zone for the colony. It was the looming expiration of this lease that prompted Britain to negotiate the colony's future with China in the 1980s.


Asian Arts and Culture


This organization has an extensive collection of information on Asia including food, shopping, view, news, profiles, etc.  One very interesting section deals with the arts.


Scroll all the way down this page review each of the topics.  Click on two different ones.  Each will take you to a different site.  Explore each.  Provide the title and a description of each.  

a..  The Safavid Dynasty


In the late 13th century, Shaykh Safi al-Din Ishaq founded a Sufi order at Ardabil in Azerbaijan, where he attracted followers among the nomads of Eastern Anatolia and Azerbaijan.


From the 14th to the mid-15th century, the Ardabil Shrine continued to attract Sufis and increase in wealth and fame. The shaykhs of Ardabil were Sunni Muslims until the mid-15th century, when they espoused Shi‘ism. By that time, the Shaykh Safi’s successors had become increasingly militant and their armies had come to wield significant power in the region. The Safavid family intermarried with the Aq Qoyunlu Turkmen dynasty of Tabriz, which controlled most of western Iran during the last quarter of the 15th century. Eastern Iran and nearby sections of Central Asia were ruled by the rival Timurid dynasty.


b.  The Arts of the Silk Road

June 06, 2002


As the center of the vast trade network known as the Silk Road, the region flourished at the intersection of the cultures, technologies, religions, and traditions of both Asia and Europe. The Silk Road's most important periods were during the Chinese Han dynasty (206 BC to AD 220), the Chinese Tang dynasty (AD 618 to 907), and the Mongol Khanate (13th and 14th centuries).


Then Central Asia's global relevance diminished until the early 20th century, when the British Empire in India and an expanding Russia vied for influence and power over the region during the so-called Great Game. Global attention again turned away from Central Asia during the isolation of the Soviet years, and the inconspicuous birth of nations in 1991 following the Soviet Union's collapse.  Now once again, compelled by the terrorist attacks of September 11 and the subsequent war in Afghanistan, the region has regained its strategic significance and captured widespread interest worldwide.


The world's desire to learn more about Central Asia has extended beyond politics to the cultural and artistic traditions of the countries along the historic Silk Road. Yo-Yo Ma's Silk Road Project and its related festivals and performances have garnered tremendous attention and sold out shows worldwide. The mission of the Silk Road Project extends beyond performances to providing educational outreach, exploring musical traditions, and fostering cultural exchange. In addition, for the first time ever, the annual Smithsonian Folk life Festival will be devoted to a single theme in 2002--the Silk Road. This festival will bring together an unprecedented number of musicians, artists, and performers from Central Asia, along with related educational programming and events. Although the arts in Central Asia have gone through a long period of difficulty--with funding, materials, and education often disrupted by political events, and traditions diluted by a strong Russian influence--they are now ready to emerge on the world stage.


Kid’s World on Asian Culture

This popular site for children will appeal to the K-6 age group.  The site is designed for kids and has a variety of activities and information items.  There is a section on Asian Culture and Traditions.



Type “Asian Culture” in the search window near the top right corner of the page and then click on “Asian Culture.”  Review this page and provide the title and a summary of three items related to Asian culture on this page.

a.  Asian Culture and Traditions: Asian Culture and Traditions "Heritage" is defined as the customs and traditions that are handed down from generation to generation of families and society. A person with Asian heritage is someone whose family originates from Asia. Let's check out some Asian traditions.


Chinese New Year: Happy Chinese New Year! The 2007 Chinese New Year is the Year of the Boar and is celebrated on February 18th. It celebrates the first day of the Chinese Lunar Calendar and is the most important yearly festival for the Chinese. Each year is named after one of the 12 animals of the Chinese Zodiac. This Chinese New Year, we are transitioning from the Year of the Dog to the Year of the Boar. Peeps born in the Year of the Boar are supposed to be honest, straightforward and patient people.


Chinese New Year, How to Prepare: Days before the New Year, families give their houses a good cleaning. Lots of people even paint their doors and windowpanes - usually red. Red is a popular New Year's color and it symbolizes happiness. People will also decorate their houses, pay debts, say some prayers and, of course, prepare tons of food. Early in the morning, children get cash wrapped in red paper packages. This money is supposed to bring good luck. Then the family goes door-to-door saying greetings before spending time with family and loved ones at home.


Chinese New Year's Eve Traditions:  After the Chinese New Year's Eve dinner, you're not supposed to sweep anything out. In fact, brooms should be put away so you don't sweep out your luck. Knives are also put away, along with scissors, so you don't cut your luck. You can't take the trash out on New Year's Eve either, in case your luck goes out with the garbage. The Chinese New Year wouldn't be the same without firecrackers. Legend has it that by setting off firecrackers, evil energy is driven away and there will be peace and good fortune.


b.  Ching Ming Festival - A Chinese Tradition


Chinese holiday, celebrated on April 5th, is the Ching Ming Festival (AKA Qingming Festival). Ching, in Chinese, means pure or clean and Ming means brightness. Most people call this holiday grave-sweeping day because people head to the cemetery to clean graves.


Ching Ming Festival Ancient Traditions:  There are many Ching Ming rituals which include pulling out weeds around the headstone, cleaning the stone and replacing wilted or dead flowers with fresh ones. People also burn incense and paper money. The paper money is for the deceased to use in the afterlife. You'll even see food arranged on headstones but it's not a picnic. The food is an offering to the spirits.


Ching Ming Festival Ways to Observe: Other rituals include family members pouring wine on the grave or setting off firecrackers to scare away evil spirits. The firecrackers also let deceased loved ones know they're there to pay their respects. Legend has it that unhappy spirits wander the earth on Ching Ming day. It's considered bad luck to do important business or have an operation on April 5th.


Ching Ming Festival:  Ching Ming was declared a national holiday in 732 AD, during the Tang Dynasty, to make the holiday more accessible to everyone. Ching Ming is also known as Spring Remembrance. Qingming happens every 106 days after the winter solstice - so every leap year it falls on April 4th. Three sets of chopsticks and three cups of wine are always placed on the headstone of an ancestor on Ching Ming.


c. History - Chinese Foot Binding


Chinese Bound Foot:  Throughout history women have had to endure horrible things to be deemed beautiful. The ancient tradition of foot binding in China, however, takes the "beauty is pain" concept to a whole new level.


The Origins of Foot Binding, the Golden Lotus: In the early 10th century, emperor Li Yu of the Southern Tang dynasty in China ordered one of his slave girls to bind her feet in silk ribbons and dance on a platform littered with golden lotus flowers. From that day on, foot binding was often associated with the term golden lotus. At first, foot binding was something practiced only by those within the royal court but soon women of all social classes were eager to have dainty, "beautiful" and desirable feet.


How Were Feet Bound?  So exactly what did foot binding do to the feet? Well, young girls would have their feet bound for the first time when they were about five years old. Their mothers would take long lengths of cloth and bind the feet so that the toes would bend under and the bones in the foot would break, forcing the front and back of the foot together, giving the appearance of a high arch and tiny foot. The ultimate foot was to be between three and four inches (about 10 cm) long. Over the course of about three years, a girl's foot would be broken numerous times to get it to the perfect shape.


Foot Binding Facts:  Since foot binding made it virtually impossible for women to get around on their own, many peasant women did not bind their feet. They had to work in the rice fields, and later the tea factories, so they had to be able to use their feet.  Foot binding was seen as a sign of beauty and attractiveness. Once a girl was of marriageable age, prospective mother in laws would come around and pick a wife for her son by the appearance of the girl's feet.


Bound feet were thought to be so alluring because they were always hidden. Bound feet were covered in bindings, socks and shoes and then doused in perfume and scented powder. They were then hidden under layers of leggings and skirts.