- The Dynamics of Cultural Counterpoint in Asian Studies ed. by David Jones, Michele Marion
The Dynamics of Cultural Counterpoint in Asian Studies, edited by David Jones and Michele Marion, is a rich collection of essays that emerged from the work of participants in the Asian Studies Development Program (ASDP), a joint effort of the East-West Center and the University of Hawai‘i, and this volume is in part a a celebration of more than twenty years of the program. The essays illustrate a number of approaches to education and Asian studies from the perspective of interaction. The book demonstrates the breadth of the work the done by ASDP participants and suggests ways to approach Asia that are relational and dynamic. The editors and contributors are successful in having produced a work that offers a survey of themes and issues for those wishing to incorporate Asian perspectives into their own projects.
Each essay presents a clear window into the approaches of other thinkers and disciplines, and this makes most of the essays good introductions to a wider field of discourse. The final essay, by Leonard and Barbara Andaya, for example, suggests a maritime perspective for looking at familial regional relationships in terms of the surrounding bodies of water. One could not tell the story of the Greeks or Romans, for example, without involving the sea. This is also the case in the Southeast Asian world. Trade and cultural exchange can be understood through the relations formed by maritime proximity, travel, and communication. While their work focuses on the “Sea of Malayu” the importance of seas is clear in the wider Pacific region and beyond.
Lawrence Butler, on the other hand, uses architecture to explore the history of Muslims in China. He stresses the importance of understanding Islam within the Chinese context and examines mosque architecture to tell part of that story. By understanding Islamic structures in China, Butler argues, one can understand the history of Muslims up to today as well as what is unique about Islam in the “Middle Kingdom.”
Mara Miller considers the philosophical problem of representing Japanese gardens in other media such as photography; by merely representing a Japanese garden you take away from the garden’s actual situatedness. Given the value of situatedness to Japanese garden aesthetics, representations present a conundrum.
Ronnie Littlejohn provides the fascinating story of Matteo Ricci’s Journals, the earliest Western account, he holds, of Daoism. Littlejohn’s well-written essay [End Page 1309] summarizes the Journals, in which Ricci (1552–1610) recorded his travels to Beijing in 1600. In his journals he describes the “rites and superstitions” that he observed, which Littlejohn identifies as Daoist.
One of the volume’s essays is meant specifically for educators. Shudong Chen considers the novel pedagogical recommendations of Zhuangzi and suggests Daoist strategies for education involving a “spiritual ecology” along with natural ecology or nature as a way of diversifying pedagogy.
These essays are illustrative of the diversity of topics and approaches represented in this volume. Each essay is well researched and provides an excellent bibliography for those with interest in the topic. The common theme of interaction runs through each essay, and this can be jarring as we move into disciplines unfamiliar to us. Japanese popular culture, the experience of Indian aesthetics, art therapy in South Korea, Hindu-Muslim experiences in South Asia, feminist theory and footbinding, North Korea’s nuclear threat, and the modern history of Bhutan as a contested space are all included as topics. Representing a variety of disciplines and approaches, this book will be helpful to Asia specialists as well as those seeking topical introductions to the region. While readers are sure to find some of the essays of more interest than others, they are equally sure to learn from all of them. [End Page 1310]
University of Hawai‘i