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Asian Studies

Sisheng Yilu: "The Dead and the Living Go Different Ways"

Christopher Randall Creech ('10),

Chinese ghost stories as a literary form began to show up in historical records at the same time that Buddhism crossed the Himalayas into China. As Buddhism introduced a more complex understanding of the afterlife, Chinese ghost stories not only helped to describe the world of the dead and its relations with the living, but also helped to shape that world and those relations. In the last century, however, Maoist and Japanese religious repression, the Cultural Revolution, famine, and murder have divorced these narratives from their original religious associations. Individuals still know the classic ghost legends, but they know them as frightening tales told at night instead of the didactic stories of old. Interestingly, rather than cause a descent into obscurity, the death of its religious tones has allowed individuals to attach new sensational and political associations to this age-old tradition. This project was an inquiry into not only the history that gave rise to Chinese notions of the afterlife, but also into modern Chinese faith and the new ghost stories thathave sprung from it. The study was carried out in various interviews with government officials, professors, curators, monks, and, perhaps most importantly, every common person I met on trains and buses as I traveled between sites central to Chinese notions of the afterlife.
Funding provided by: Freeman Foundation

The Politics of Patriotism and Education in Japan

Matthew Tranquada ('08), David Arase

The Fundamental Law of Education has served as the basis of the Japanese postwar education system since its promulgation in 1947. Much like the “Peace Constitution” passed during the American occupation, it has served as a focal point for conservative attempts at reform, and the Liberal Democratic Party has made constitutional and structural revision a primary goal in the 21st Century. As part of this effort, in December 2006 the Japanese Diet passed a revised version of the Fundamental Law of Education, despite serious resistance from teachers’ groups and opposition parties who see this as an attempt to bring patriotism into the classroom. This study attempts to understand the true scope of the reform through interviews with scholars and secondary school teachers, as well as an in-depth analysis of legal texts, academic articles, and media coverage. Despite the simplicity with which the reform is often presented in both the Japanese and the foreign press, the revision of the Fundamental Law of Education reveals the complexity of the relationship between conservative politics and social legislation, and is far less dangerous than is generally reported. Nonetheless, the reform has added the potential for more government influence in education, leaving liberal teachers’ groups and political parties worried about the future.
Funding provided by: Freeman Foundation, Oldenborg International Center

Research at Pomona