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Japan

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Asienkunskap

Important: This is no longer my main page about studying Chinese, please visit Hacking Chinese to learn more about how to study Chinese more efficiently!

Introduction

I started studying Asienkunskap in Linköping in 2007, and during that first year of Chinese studies, I accumulated a lot of material that might be of use to other students. If not explicitly stated, everything here is written by me. This is what I currently have available:

Complete lecture notes (Nordostasienkunskap 2)
Take-home exams
(Nordostasienkunskap 2)
Papers (Nordostasienkunskap 2, projektarbete)
Reviews and reflections (course-related books)
Word lists (Short-term Spoken Chinese volume 1-3)
A list of all posts related to Asienkunskap

Lecture notes for Nordostasienkunskap 2

What follows is transcriptions of fourteen lectures relating to East Asia held by Mats Anderson and Göran Lindgren in 2007 and 2008. The files are in Rich Text Format, in Swedish and provided as is, meaning that I take no responsibility whatsoever that the content is accurate, although I believe most of it is. Click on the titles to download the files.

Noa 2-1 – Kina 1
Noa 2-2 – Mentalitet
Noa 2-3 – Japan 1
Noa 2-4 – Japan 2
Noa 2-5 – Sydkorea
Noa 2-6 – Nordkorea
Noa 2-7 – Japan 3
Noa 2-8 – Ekonomi
Noa 2-9 – Kina 2
Noa 2-10 – Taiwan
Noa 2-11 – Kina 3
Noa 2-12 – Kina 4
Noa 2-13 – Kina 5
Noa 2-14 – Japan 4
Noa 2-15 – Japan 5

Take-home exams

Noa 1 take-home exam – Take-home exams for our course in North-East Asian culture and history. They cover (among other things) Western imperialism, Korean history, the Meiji era in Japan, comparisons of different versions of events during the Long March in China, and an attempt to summarise Daoism. I received 91/100 on this course and Per Bäck earned 90/100.
Download my exam in Swedish (.rtf)
Download Per’s exam in Swedish (.pdf): part 1, part 2

Noa 2 take-home exam – Take-home exams for our course in North-East Asian recent history and politics. They cover (among other things) economy in the region as a whole, opposition parties in Japan, negative aspects of Chinese growth, Chinese system of guanxi, and politics in South Korea. I received 95/100 on this course and so did Per!
Download my exam in Swedish (.rtf)
Download Per’s exam in Swedish (.pdf): part 1, part 2

Paper (projektarbete)

Quo vadis, Taiawn?– Since I knew suspected I might be leaving for Taiwan later that year, I decided to write my paper about the election held in March 2008, which in many ways can be said to have been a crossroads in Taiwanese Cross-Strait (i.e. dealing with mainland China) politics. The title is Quo vadis, Taiwan? and the paper was written during and slightly after the elections were held. I received full points for this assignment.
Read more about Quo vadis, Taiwan?

Renminbi: Under värdering – This is a paper written by one of my friends, Per Bäck, who studied Asienkunskap at the same time as I did. It’s about the alleged under-evaluation of the Chinese currency (yuan or renminbi), a topic which was relevant then and is still debated hotly. Per also received full marks for this paper.
Download paper in Swedish (.pdf)

Course-related reviews and reflections

Miljoner sanningar – Per Bäck’s reflections on Linda Jakobsson’s book.
Download document in Swedish (.pdf)

The Journey to the West – My reflections on this classic by Wu Cheng’en. Probably not the pinnacle of reflective writing, but perhaps it might provide inspiration for someone. Note that the review and the document are complete different.
Download document in English (.rtf)
Read my review

Den törstige munken och hans dryckesbröder – Per Bäck’s reflections on this the first part of the Chinese classic 水滸傳. I’ll have to read it myself some day.
Download document in Swedish (.pdf)

China Candid – My reflections on this book by Sang Ye. Probably not the pinnacle of reflective writing, but perhaps it might provide inspiration for someone.
Download document in English (.rtf)

Röd åklagare – Per Bäck’s reflections on this book about crime, justice and corruption in China, written by Xiao Rundcrantz.
Download document in Swedish (.pdf)

One Man’s Bible – My reflections on this novel by Nobel laureate Gao Xingjian, a lovely book which I highly recommend.
Read my review

Vitlöksballaderna – Per Bäck’s reflections on this book by Mo Yan, telling the story of a revolt in a small Chinese village. The farmer have been forced by the government to produce garlic, and when the garlic market collapses, the people decide that enough is enough.
Download document in Swedish (.pdf)

Mei Wenti! – My reflections on this Catharina Lilliehöök’s book about living in China, a book I found somewhat deterring.
Read my review

Word lists

Important: I no longer use ZDT to learn Chinese. The lists for ZDT will still be here, but no longer updated. The vocabulary can and should be accessed from the Anki software, which is far superior to ZDT. If youh aven’t changed already, you should do so now.

Short-term Spoken Chinese – Threshold, chapter 1-30 (汉语口语速成入门) – My lists of new words for ZDT (see the Tools section), sorted into categories, one per chapter of the book. I have often left out proper names and I take no responsibility whatsoever that the lists are correct (I doubt that there are many errors, though). Please use File >> Restore Data when importing the characters to retain category structure. The file can easily be opened in any text editor for use with other software or independently.
Download list (.zdt)

Short-term Spoken Chinese – Elementary, chapter 1-25 (汉语口语速成基础)– Same as above, use at your own risk, but please report any errors you might find. Please note that proper names go in a separate category. Use File >> Restore Data when importing the characters to retain category structure. The file can easily be opened in any text editor for use with other software or independently.
Download list (.zdt)

Technical Chinese – New words from our course in technical Chinese for ZDT – Includes basic vocabulary for math, chemistry, physics and biology. As for the lists above, use at your own risk, but please report any errors you might find. Please note that proper names go in a separate category. Use File >> Restore Data when importing the characters to retain category structure. The file can easily be opened in any text editor for use with other software or independently.
Download list (.zdt)

Short-term Spoken Chinese (汉语口语速成) – Complete glossary for the first three volumes in .xls format, an outstanding word list compiled and contributed by Henrik Gustavson. Not only does it contain all the words for the first three volumes, but they are also neatly arranged in various useful ways. For the automatic generation of the lists to work, changes should be made in the tab named “kapitel”.
Download list (.xls)

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Rashomon



Title: Rashomon
Directed by:
Akira Kurosawa
Written by:
Akira Kurosawa, Shinobu Hashimoto, Ryūnosuke Akutagawa 
Year:
1950

Rashomon belongs to a group of films which can be reviewed in two distinctly different ways. It was released in 1950 and has had a significant impact on many levels. However, should such a film be reviewed in its place in time, or should it be reviewed exactly the same way as modern movies? Even though it might be interesting to relate a film to the time in which it was produced, I’m more interested in how I perceive that movie today (which might also be helpful for others).

The story is based on two facts: a woman is raped and her husband is found dead. Apart from this, however, little is certain. Throughout Rashomon, four different characters tell their story about what truly happened, all of them mutually contradcitive. The narrative starts from the story of a wood-cutter, who found the body. Subsequently, additional versions are added by the rapist, the dead husband (through a medium) and the woman.

To start with, the basis of this movie is quite interesting and withstands the test of time without any problem whatsoever (although that should probably be accredited to the author of the short stories Rashomon are based on). The four stories have their own characteristics, although they all seem to prove the wickedness of man, a theme which is further highlighted by the three men taking shelter from the rain, discussing the case. Kurosawa’s directing is also good (no surprises there), with the possible exception of some scenes, which feel too drawn out (the fighting between the husband and the rapist for instance). It’s a bit tricky to comment on the acting, considering that the language is Japanese and the film is more than half a century old, but I can find nothing to complain about here.

Conclusively, I think Rashomon is quite good, decidedly better than Seven Samurai, but not so good that I will watch it again any time soon. It’s well worth watching and if its age and its influence on subsequent works are taken into consideration, it should be more quite good. I don’t recommend it in general, but if you find anything I’ve written here to sound even slightly interesting, you should give Rashomon a try.

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Title: 七人の侍
English title: Seven Samurai

Directed by:
Akira Kurosawa
Written by:
Hideo Oguni, Akira Kurosawa, Shinobu Hashimoto
Year: 1954

Before watching it, I knew very little about Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai, only that it was black-and-white, fairly long and was very famous. I prefer to watch films and read books with that kind of sparse knowledge, because it avoids some of the pitfalls of expectations and false hopes. Since I need to write something about the film in order to review it, you should probably see the film first before reading this review if you are like me. Normal people can read on, however, because I do not plan to spoil anything.

Seven samurai is about- well, no surprises here – seven samurai who are hired by a small peasant village to protect them from bandits. The aggressors are overheard as they plan an attack on the village later that year, after the harvest is done. Desperate, the peasants try to find samurai to protect their homes and their lives, even if they can only pay with food and shelter for the samurai. Gradually, a force of seven samurai is gathered, all with different goals, aims and personalities. They will somehow have to fit into the village pattern of life as they prepare for the attack. In my opinion, this film is much about this relationship between samurai and villagers. Of course, the lives of the villagers, their sorrows and griefs, as well as those of the samurai, also play a major part.

Directing makes this film worthwhile. It is skillfully produced, with nice photography and some really gripping scenes. The story itself is not too complicated, but works. It does not bore me, but neither does it engage my imagination or feeling on any deep level. On the negative side, the continuous overplaying of characters irk me. I guess this is something Japanese, since it has been a part of most Japanese films and series I have seen. Still, I do not like it at all. Why do they always have to shout? Nonetheless, this is not enough to make Seven samurai a bad film. It is still worthwhile to watch, even if its roughly three hours long.

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Princess Mononoke


Title: Princess Mononoke
Directed by:
Hayao Miyazaki
Written by:
Hayao Miyazaki
Year: 1997

Det här är den andra filmen av Hayao Miyazaki som jag har sett. Den första var Sen to chihiro no kamikakushi (Spirited Away) och den finns recenserad här på sidan och är en av de få filmer som har kammat hem fler än fyra sniglar. Mononoke hime har många likheter med Spirited Away, men är helt klart en annan film.

Genom handlingen får vi följa prinsen Ashitaka i hans strävan att lyfta en förbannelse som vilar över honom. Den ger honom omänsklig styrka, men kommer i slutänden att förtära honom. Han måste resa långt hemifrån för att finna lösningen och det är inte alltid uppenbart vem som är att lita på. Ashitaka hamnar mitt i kampen mellan människa och natur och verkar vara den ende som är ute efter att rädda båda.

Mononoke hime är en mycket vacker saga. Animeringen är tillräckligt bra för att man inte ska störa sig på det och många element som presenteras i filmen är mycket intressanta. Framförallt gillade jag bergsgeten som Ashitaka rider på. Det kanske låter fånigt, men det är det absolut inte.

Mononoke hime är enligt mig klart sämre än Spirited Away, men det säger egentligen väldigt lite om filmen, eftersom Spirited Away var så bra. Jag rekommenderar den till de flesta som vill leva sig in i en sagovärld och uppleva ett riktigt härligt äventyr!

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Titel: Go rin no sho (Book of five rings)
Författare: Miyamoto Musashi
Översättare: Victor Harris
Utgivningsår: ~1630
Recenserad: 2004-05-17
Status: N/A

Det första jag vill säga är att det är med yttersta tvekan jag alls sätter ett betyg på den här boken. Jag är väldigt medveten att jag missat stora delar av poängen, men jag sätter betyget efter det jag fick ut ur boken när jag läste den. Musashi är känd av många och är i alla fall för oss i väst en av de mest kända figurerna från japansk historia. Han föddes 1584 och redan som trettonåring dödade han sin första motståndare och vid 30 års ålder hade han utkämpat omkring 60 dueller – och aldrig förlorat.

När han var lite drygt femtio, satte han sig ned för att skriva ned strategin i hans sätt att slåss, Ni Ten Ichi Ryu. Boken består av fem delar; Ground, Water, Fire, Wind och Void. I dessa texter behandlar Musashi olika aspekter av konsten att slåss, på det strategiska planet med härar och arméer, såväl som för strid man mot man. Boken kan ses som en generell guide för alla slags konfrontationer eller tävlingar, må de vara väpnade eller inte.

För att jag ska få ut mer av den här boken måste jag antingen ha den förklarad för mig, eller träna kendo så att jag får testa och se hur det verkligen fungerar och på det sättet förstå mer av innebörden. Eftersom jag tidigare har erfarenhet av tai chi-klassikerna och tao te ching, står dock Fem ringars bok som en ganska blek jämförelse. Inte bara det att jag inte håller med om den lilla del av taktiken som jag begriper, utan det är ingen filosofi jag tror fungerar utanför stridens värld.

En annan sak som jag irriterar mig på (vilket inte är unikt för Musashi, utan gäller t.ex. tai chi-klassikerna också) är att Musashi gång på gång påpekar att alla andra har helt fel och att hans väg är den enda och om man följer den till slutet blir man oövervinerlig. Det är ganska vanligt att olika stilar och skolor hävdar att de är de bästa och att alla andra är underlägsna. Poängen är att alla kan inte ha rätt och Musashi är rätt långt ifrån att övertyga mig om att just han (om någon) skulle ha det.

En annan sak jag inte gillar är att Musashi är extremt låst vid sitt vapen. Jag är helt övertygad om att om man ska försöka beskriva konflikthantering i båda allmänna och specifika termer, så kan man inte använda ett vapen i liknelserna. Speciellt inte när det ska vara exakt det vapnet, inte en lite kortare, lite längre eller lite tyngre variant. Det blir också en aning underligt, eftersom ingen idag bär de båda samuraisvärden till vardags.

Om någon som är insatt i boken mer än jag eller tränar kendo, skulle jag vara väldigt intresserad att få mothugg på det jag skrivit (akta bara, för nu vet jag hur man hanterar dylika attacker:), för jag vet att Go rin no sho förtjänar bättre än två och en halv snigel om man är mer insatt. Som det brukar vara med österländska texter, spelar översättaren stor roll och det är möjligt att det finns bättre versioner än den jag läste. Den var nämligen full av stav- och grammatikfel. I nuläget är jag ganska besviken, ty jag hade förväntat mig något bättre än det jag fick.

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