Spring 2021 Course Descriptions

Chinese Language and Literature Courses

The course is designed for students who are of non-Chinese origin and were not raised in a Chinese-speaking environment; or who are of Chinese origin but do not speak Chinese and whose parents do not speak Chinese. The course develops beginning learners’ functional language ability—the ability to use Mandarin Chinese in linguistically and culturally appropriate ways at the beginning level. It helps students acquire communicative competence in Chinese while sensitizing them to the links between language and culture.


The course is designed for students who are of non-Chinese origin and were not raised in a Chinese-speaking environment, or who are of Chinese origin but do not speak Chinese and whose parents do not speak Chinese. The course continues to focus on training students in the four language skills--speaking, listening, reading, and writing with a gradually increasing emphasis on basic cultural readings and developing intercultural competence. Prerequisites: Chinese 1A.


This course is designed specifically for Mandarin heritage students who possess speaking skill but little or no reading and writing skills in Chinese. The course utilizes students’ prior knowledge of listening and speaking skills to advance them to the intermediate Chinese proficiency level in one semester. Close attention is paid to meeting Mandarin heritage students’ literacy needs inmeaningful contexts while introducing a functional vocabulary and a systematic review of structures through culturally related topics. The Hanyu Pinyin (a Chinese Romanization system) and traditional/simplified characters are introduced. Prerequisites: Consent of instructor.

In this course we will explore with a fresh approach the most important texts of Chinese literature from the Yuan dynasty to the present day.  Many of the books we will read are formerly banned; still others are works of scathing social critique. Throughout, we will focus on the relation between literature and history, asking how writers have responded to the dramatic challenges, from foreign invasion to westernization, that China has faced.  All readings are in English translation. We will pay special attention in this course to developing skills in writing and composition. 




The course is designed for students who are of non-Chinese origin and were not raised in a Chinese-speaking environment, or who are of Chinese origin but do not speak Chinese and whose parents do not speak Chinese. The course deals with lengthy conversations as well as narrative and descriptive texts in both simplified and traditional characters. It helps students to express themselves in speaking and writing on a range of topics and raises their awareness of the connection between language and culture to foster the development of communicative competence. Prerequisites: Chinese 1 or Chinese 1B; or consent of instructor.

The course continues to develop students’ literacy and communicative competence through vocabulary and structure expansion dealing with topics related to Chinese heritage students’ personal experiences. Students are guided to express themselves on complex issues and to connect their language knowledge with real world experiences. Prerequisites: Chinese 1X; or consent of instructor.


The course helps students further develop their linguistic and cultural competence in Mandarin Chinese. It trains students to use Mandarin more appropriately and confidently in speaking, reading, and writing. With the expanded repertoire of Chinese language use and the increased awareness of the differences between cultures and subcultures, students are equipped to negotiate their way in an intercultural environment. Prerequisites: Chinese 1Y; or consent of instructor.


Going beyond satisfying basic communicative needs, students would learn to use Cantonese to complete more complicated tasks such as elaborating, comparing, analyzing, defending, debating, etc. Students would be frequently exposed to discussions regarding broader societal issues such as housing, food culture, fashion, safety, recreation, education, etc. Assuming basic competence of Cantonese, the course attempts to relate the learners to Chinese subculture through analyzing the link between Cantonese expressions and societal phenomenon in the Cantonese speaking society. Difference between Cantonese and Mandarin expressions and its cultural implications, as well as the social position of Cantonese globally and regionally. Prerequisites: Chinese 3x; or consent of instructor.



This course continues the development of critical awareness by emphasizing the link between socio-cultural literacy and a higher level of language competence. While continuing to expand their critical literacy skills, students interpret texts related to Chinese popular culture, social change, cultural traditions, politics and history. Through linguistic and cultural comparisons, students understand more about people in the target society and themselves as well as about the power of language in language use to enhance their competence in operating between languages and associated cultures. Prerequisite: Chinese 100A.


This course is designed for Chinese heritage language learners who have taken Chinese 100XA or an equivalent course. It guides learners to use their Chinese language knowledge and skills to survey portions of Chinese history and society and to comprehend Chinese cultural heritage in economic and socio-political contexts. Students read and analyze texts discussing cross-strait relations, Chinese people’s basic living necessities, and their changing lifestyles and mindsets since the economic reforms in mainland China. They are also introduced to several important historical figures in modern Chinese history and to modern literary works. In addition to the continuous development of reading techniques for communicative purposes, critical reading skills in the heritage language are also developed in order to interpret subtle meanings in texts. Different styles and genres of Chinese discourses in speaking and writing are further explored along with an increasingly sophisticated vocabulary, phrases, and structures. Moreover, students are required to be able to read both simplified and traditional versions of Chinese characters. The development of critical reading and writing skills enables students to understand more about people in the target culture and themselves, about what determines values and actions, and about the power of language. Prerequisite: Chinese 100XA. If you have not taken Chinese 100XA, to enroll in this class you must first take the online Chinese Language Placement Exam and be interviewed. Students are responsible for following the instructions at ealc.berkeley.edu to complete the placement process. They must also accurately inform instructors about their language proficiency level. Any student who enrolls in a class below his/her level will be dropped from the class.


This course is designed to assist students to reach the advanced-mid level on language skills and to enhance their intercultural competence. Students read the works of famous Chinese writers. Movie adaptations of these writings are also used. In addition to reading and seeking out information, students experience readings by interpreting and constructing meanings and evaluate the effect of the language form choice. Prerequisites: Chinese 100B, 100XB, or 100YB. If you have not taken Chinese 100B, 100XB, or 100YB, to enroll in this class you must first take the online Chinese Language Placement Exam and be interviewed. Students are responsible for following the instructions at ealc.berkeley.edu to complete the placement process. They must also accurately inform instructors about their language proficiency level. Any student who enrolls in a class below his/her level will be dropped from the class.


The second half of a one-year introductory course in literary Chinese, continuing the topics from the first semester, and giving basic coverage of relevant issues in the history of the language and writing system. This course examines the canonical texts of the late-imperial period, placing them in the context of literary culture of the Ming-Qing. The course focuses on a different set of texts each time it is taught; the aim is to introduce students to the primary issues in scholarship of late-imperial fiction and drama over a period of several years. Prerequisite: Chinese 110A.


This seminar is an intensive introduction to various genres of Buddhist literature in classical Chinese, including translations of Sanskrit and Central Asian scriptures. Chinese commentaries, philosophical treatises, hagiographies, and sectarian works. It is intended for graduate students who already have some facility in classical Chinese. It will also serve as a tools and methods course, covering the basic reference works and secondary scholarship in the field of East Asian Buddhism. The content of the course will be adjusted from semester to semester to best accommodate the needs and interests of students.

The Bronze-age traditions that would eventually take their definitive textual form as the Shi jing 詩經 were a core dimension of a trans-regional Traditionalist cultural repertoire that filiated itself to the founding sage-kings of the Western Zhou, and thus part of a “pan-Zhou” legacy whose legitimacy was recognized as normative for central regions/states, and thus expressive of the highest degree of human potential. From this formative period through the late imperial era, educational practice, scholarly debate, commentarial practice, and manifold modes of imitation surrounding this core repertoire were always venues for promulgating and reflecting on foundational questions relating to the formation and constitution of human personality, human expression (especially linguistic and musical), as well as the nature and mechanisms of historical and political change. This seminar, organized as a broadly chronological survey of some of these traditions, aims to introduce participants to the evolution of these conversations from the Warring States to late imperial period, while also providing a structure for gaining conversancy in the relevant scholarly, philological, and bibliographical skills needed to build conversancy with these sources and issues.

East Asian Languages and Cultures Courses

From court officials to monks, from lovers to warriors, poets in the Chinese and Japanese traditions have sung of flowers. Blossoms in poetry are ephemeral, yet faithfully returning—both that which briefly flourishes and rapidly fades, and that which comes year after year to mark the season. References to flowers accompany poetic laments on grief and impermanence, and decorate poems exchanged between lovers and friends in the Tale of Genji and the Story of the Stone. Spring’s flowering cherries may be the poetic occasion, but does the sight of the blossoming branches also draw forth feelings already stirring within the poet’s breast? This is a course in carefully reading literature created in times and places very different from our own. As we spend time with our primary texts, we will consider what a poem was to premodern readers and writers, many of whom lived over a millennia ago: Why might this poem have been written? What purposes could it have served? How well can we guess what meanings the poet may have had in mind, or what meanings contemporary readers may have understood? What assumptions could we, as modern readers, have about poetic meaning that might not always apply to the words in front of us?

What happens when our dreams and nightmares become real? After the past year of upheaval and distress, this suggestion may no longer seem very far-fetched. Concerns about social, ecological, and technological crises, when thematized, however, are often relegated to genres of fiction suggesting a certain departure from reality. If our circumstances have become similar to a “work of science fiction,” then we must also take a closer look at how works of not just science fiction, but also horror and fantasy, rely on the boundaries between familiar and unfamiliar—enabling us to imagine and cognitively process difficult questions that at first, seem uncanny and estranged from our lives. In this course, we will examine film and literature primarily fromEast Asia that are concerned with the gap between the familiar and the unfamiliar. Through different genres of media, we examine how bodies, spaces, and even the Earth itself—that we take for granted as familiar entities—can become uncanny, strange, and alien. Our class discussion will take us from questions of environmental crisis and neo-imperialism in Bong Joon Ho’s spin on the monster film genre in The Host, through the politics of the self and the boundaries between human and machine in Mamoru Oshii’s Ghost in the Shell, and Huang Jianxin’s Dislocation, to concerns about the end of the Anthropocene and human dominance over Earth in Chi Hui’s The Rainforest and Hayao Miyazaki’s Nausicaa, Valley of the Wind. This course will introduce students to a wide range of East Asian language materials in translation. No previous knowledge of the region is required. This course aims to help you develop your critical thinking, writing, oral expression, and research skills through the analysis of media. Through this course, we will practice analytical writing and research through synchronous and asynchronous assignments building up to a final humanities research paper. Prerequisites: This class fulfills the second half of the College of Letters and Science’s Reading and Composition requirement. A passing grade from Reading and Composition R1A course or equivalent fulfillment of requirements for Part A of R&C is required to take this course (Please see: http://guide.berkeley.edu/undergraduate/colleges-schools/letters-science/reading-composition-requirement/.)

In this course we compare the cultural traditions of tea in China and Japan. In addition, using tea as the case study, we analyze the mechanics of the flow of culture across both national boundaries and social practices (such as between poetry and the tea ceremony). Understanding the tea culture of these countries informs students of important and enduring aspects of both cultures, provides an opportunity to discuss the role of religion and art in social practice, provides a forum for cultural comparison, and provides as well an example of the relationship between the two countries and Japanese methods of importing and naturalizing another country's social practice. Korean tea traditions are also briefly considered. 


The course will introduce students to narratives about illness, disease and healing written by patients, physicians, caretakers, and others.  These narratives report an experience.  They reveal the interactions between the unfolding life of the patient and the shifting social meanings attached to illness. We will study the relationships between illness and society through readings of fiction, memoir, films, essays and graphic novels in order to understand how these varied forms of storytelling organize and give meaning to crucial questions about embodiment, disability and forms of sociality enabled by our bodily vulnerabilities. Prerequisites: None.


We concentrate on three interconnected issues: women’s status, homoeroticism, and the human body. Our discussion will be informed by cross-cultural comparisons with ancient Greece, Renaissance England, and Contemporary America. In contrast to our modern regime of sexuality, which collapses all the three aforementioned issues into the issues of desire and identity intrinsicto the body, we will see how the early Chinese regime of sexual act evolved into the early modern regime of emotion that concerned less inherent identities than a media culture of life-style performance.


Higher Learning begins with the study of heaven. As the source of orientation in space and time, heaven provides humanity the foundation for its knowledge and political order. To understand what knowledge is or how politics function, we need a basic understanding of the ways of heaven. This course examines the function heaven serves in the founding of order against the void in nature through the formation of conventional systems of time and space and the role heaven has played in the promulgation of governments. From a cross-cultural, interdisciplinary perspective that covers the course of Eurasian history and using primary sources in translation, we will see heaven unfold through the developments that leave us with the world we know today.



A study of the Buddhist tradition as it is found today in Asia. The course will focus on specific living traditions of East, South, and/or Southeast Asia. Themes to be addressed may include contemporary Buddhist ritual practices; funerary and mortuary customs; the relationship between Buddhism and other local religious traditions; the relationship between Buddhist institutions and the state; Buddhist monasticism and its relationship to the laity; Buddhist ethics; Buddhist "modernism," and so on.


This course studies the purview of astral science under Buddhist dominion. Here it is at once promoted for promulgating Buddhist world order and repudiated for begetting the suffering-inducing physical universe, a warped vessel of ceaselessly turning stars that the Buddhist dharma must transcend. The course begins with the part astral science plays in genesis, the creation of Buddhist world order. It then covers the science’s central aspects, celestial systems, spatial orientation, time reckoning, the making of a calendar, and publication of an almanac. Thereafter, it treats the science’s outgrowth into interrelated forms of Buddhist propaganda manifest as divination, magic, medicine, ritual, scripture, and iconography.

"Japanese and S. Korean Horror Cinema" 

In this course, we will engage with a range of works in East Asian horror cinema (Japan and South Korea) and explore their power to provoke and disturb, in light of issues such as spectatorship, the uncanny, and the staging of gender and sexuality as modes of critique. We will also discuss the ways in which these films theorize cultural memory and the transmission of traumatic knowledge in the context of their adaptation into other Asian sites (Hong Kong, Singapore and Thailand). The aim of the course is to generate a critical understanding of horror cinema, its stock figures and conventions, as well as its inventive potential.


Japanese Language and Literature Courses

Japanese 1A is designed to develop basic Japanese language skills: listening, speaking, reading and writing. Students will learn the Japanese writing system: hiragana, katakana and approximately 150 kanji. At the end of the course, students should be able to greet, invite, compare, and describe persons and things, activities, intensions, ability, experience, purposes, reasons, and wishes. Grades will be determined on the basis of attendance, quiz scores, homework and class participation.


An introduction to Japanese literature in translation in a two-semester sequence. 7B provides a survey of important works of 19th- and 20th-century Japanese fiction, poetry, and cultural criticism. The course will explore the manner in which writers responded to the challenges of industrialization, internationalization, and war. Topics include the shifting notions of tradition and modernity, the impact of Westernization on the constructions of the self and gender, writers and the wartime state, literature of the atomic bomb, and postmodern fantasies and aesthetics. All readings are in English translation. Techniques of critical reading and writing will be introduced as an integral part of the course.



The goal of this course is for the students to understand the language and culture required to communicate effectively in Japanese. Some of the cultural aspects covered are; geography, speech style, technology, sports, food, and religion. Through the final project, students will learn how to discuss social issues and their potential solutions. In order to achieve these goals, students will learn how to integrate the basic linguistics knowledge they acquired in J1, as well as study new structures and vocabulary. An increasing amount of reading and writing, including approximately 200 new kanji, will also be required.





The goal of this course is for the students to understand the more advanced language and culture required to communicate effectively in Japanese. Some of the cultural aspects covered are; pop-culture, traditional arts, education, convenient stores, haiku, and history. Through the final project, students will learn how to introduce their own cultures and their influences. In order to achieve these goals, students will learn how to integrate the basic structures and vocabulary they acquired in the previous semesters, as well as study new linguistic expressions. An increasing amount of more advanced reading and writing, including approximately 200 new kanji, will also be required. Prerequisites: Japan 10A; or consent of instructor.


This course is intended to train students who wish to acquire reading fluency in the Japanese language in a short time period and therefore dispenses with all components not germane to that goal. Prior knowledge of fundamental first-year grammar and vocabulary is required as this course will start at the second-year level and run parallel with our full-language second-year courses, covering the same reading materials as used in J10A-B. The course will be conducted in English and students’ comprehension will be examined and analyzed in terms of Japanese-to-English translation. By completion of J10RB, students will be functional readers of Japanese for general purposes. Prerequisite: J10RA or consent of instructor.

Introduction to Japanese culture from its origins to the present: premodern historical, literary, artistic, and religious developments, modern economic growth, and the nature of contemporary society, education, and business. Class conducted in English.


This course aims to develop further context-specific skills in speaking, listening, reading and writing. It concentrates on students using acquired grammar and vocabulary with more confidence in order to express functional meanings, while increasing overall linguistic competence. Students will learn approximately 200 new Kanji. There will be a group or individual project. Course materials include the textbook supplemented by newspapers, magazine articles, short stories, essays, and video clips which will provide insight into Japanese culture and society. Prerequisites: Japan 100A; or consent of instructor.


This exploratory graduate seminar, co-taught by Mark Blum (East Asian Languages and Cultures/Buddhist Studies) and Greg Levine (History of Art), focuses on the study of race, class, and gender within the Buddhist tradition, its doctrinal, ritual, and institutional histories as well as visual and material cultures. Possible topics include: race and gender/racism and mysogyny in medieval Buddhist textual genre; gender prohibitions at sacred sites; the visual-material cultures of Japan’s imperial convents; British colonial archaeology of Indian Buddhist sites; Buddhist pan-Asianism and anti-imperial/colonial efforts by modern Buddhist teachers and lay writers; inherent racism at the World’s Parliament of Religions; orientalist/white supremacist formations of “Buddhist Studies”; anti-caste prejudice actions taken by Buddhist institutions, such as Higashi Honganji; debates about gender and lineage; race and gender in twentieth-century diaspora and convert Buddhisms; Buddhism in the Japanese WWII internment camps; racialized and sexualized representations of Buddhism in popular culture; anti-racism, anti-sexism teachings in/actions by contemporary Buddhist communities; and so on. Participants may take the seminar for two or four units. Assignments will include weekly readings and written commentary, turns leading discussion, and for four units, a focused research-based essay. Knowledge of Asian languages is not required, but students with such knowledge will be asked to contribute from their readings and work with primary and secondary sources in these languages. The seminar is also open to students outside Buddhist Studies and art history with interests in race, class, gender, and decolonization in the study of religions and the humanities.


Beauty: a topic both ubiquitous and perplexing. This Townsend Center Collaborative Research Seminar approaches beauty from multiple disciplines and through a wide variety of materials: literature the visual and performative arts aesthetic theory philosophy and religion. Our aim is to investigate the value and function that has been assigned to beauty in different humanist contexts to explore possible bases of commonality and influence and to consider whether beauty has or should be a key critical term for contemporary scholarship.

Korean Language and Literature Courses

This course is designed for non-heritage students who have absolutely no prior knowledge of the Korean language. Students will learn written and spoken Korean on self-related and day-to-day topics, and present information both in oral and written forms using formulaic and memorized expressions. They will also engage in simple conversational exchanges on a variety of daily topics.


This is a continuing course for Korean-American heritage students who have completed K1AX or demonstrated an equivalent proficiency level. More emphasis will be paid on reading and writing in order to establish their balanced four language skills. Students will enhance their linguistic competence by mastering essential grammatical structures and more elaborated daily expressions, as well as accompanying cultures. Prerequisites: Korean 1AX; or consent of instructor.


A survey of modern Korean literature and culture in the 20th century, focusing on the development of nationalist aesthetics in both North and South Korea. Topics include class and gender, urban culture, colonial modernity, war and trauma, and modernization. Texts to be examined include works of fiction, art, and film. All readings are in English.


With equal attention given to speaking, listening, reading, writing, and cultural aspects of the language, students will further develop their language skills for handling various everyday situations. Prerequisites: Korean 1B; or consent of instructor.


This is an intermediate course for Korean-American heritage students who have completed K10AX or demonstrated an equivalent proficiency level. It will emphasize reading and writing so that students can reach a comparable proficiency with their already high speaking and listening skills. More cultural aspects and social phenomena will be covered and students will be able to convey and write more than a paragraph level on various topics. Prerequisites: Korean 10AX; or consent of instructor.


This course is a continuation of K100A for non-heritage speakers. It will place more emphasis on listening and speaking through various authentic materials. Students will conduct individual projects on aspects where they intend to improve on. Various cultural aspects in addition to four-letter idiomatic expressions will be also covered. Prerequisites: Korean 100A; or consent of instructor.


This course aims to help students acquire strong proficiency in reading and writing in Korean at the advanced level and deepen students’ knowledge of Korean culture and society through readings, film and discussion. The focus will be on understanding the society and history of Korea as well as acquiring advanced-level vocabulary and expressions. Through discussions and writing exercises students will be trained to speak and write clearly in a formal manner. Prerequisites: Korean 100B/BX; or consent of instructor.


This course is uniquely designed for students who are interested in enhancing their proficiency level up to high-advanced or superior level through the lens of Korean popular media. By analyzing various media such as movies, documentary, TV shows, K-Pop songs, and news articles, students will broaden their knowledge and understanding about Korean society and culture in a deeper level, which is vital in advancing proficiency. Class discussions, presentations, article readings, and essay writings will help students learn and practice how to express their own opinion on various topics from aspects of Korean history to current social issues. Additionally, four-letter idioms, advanced grammars, and vocabularies will be introduced. Prerequisites: Korean 100B or Korean 100BX; or consent of instructor.


Mongolian Language and Literature Courses

This course covers the history of Mongolian Buddhism from its inception in the Yuan dynasty to the present. The importance of Mongolian Buddhism to the greater dharma lies not only with the ways of its priests but also with the means of its patrons, the Mongol aristocracy, in forging a distinctive tradition in Inner Asia and disseminating it throughout the world. While maintaining a historical thread throughout, this course will examine in detail some of the tradition’s many facets, including Mongolian-Buddhist politics, the politics of incarnation, the establishment of monasteries, economics, work in the sciences, astral science and medicine, ritual practice, literature, sculpture and painting, music and dance, and more.


Tibetan Language and Literature Courses

A continuation of Tibetan 1A, Tibetan 1B develops further listening, speaking, reading, and writing skills in modern Tibetan (Lhasa dialect), with a gradually increasing emphasis on basic cultural readings and developing intercultural competence.


This seminar provides an introduction to a broad range of Tibetan Buddhist texts, including chronicles and histories, biographical literature, doctrinal treatises, canonical texts, ritual manuals, pilgrimage guides, and liturgical texts. It is intended for graduate students interested in premodern Tibet from any perspective. Students are required to do all of the readings in the original classical Tibetan. It will also serve as a tools and methods for the study of Tibetan Buddhist literature, including standard lexical and bibliographic references, digital resources, and secondary literature in modern languages. The content of the course will vary from semester to semester to account for the needs and interests of particular students.