Road to East Asia
A journal on contemporary East Asian literature in English
Welcome to the World Wide Web Home page of Road to East Asia
Written by students of FC1750.06
at Founders College, York UniversityVol.1, no. 1 January, 1996
Editors and Writers: Maria Nadeau, Han Ki-Dongt, Sarah Tan, Kevin Perkins,
Michael Kociuba, Jennifer Henry, Sekou Russell, Lee Sengsiry, May Yuen, and Daniel Jacobs
Instructor and founding editor: Isabella Wai
Liu Binyan and Dai Houying: "The best place for kite-flying is Tiananmen Square."(Illustrations: courtesy of Billy Lo, Eastern Image Canada)
I. Profiles of a dreamer
Dissident writer Liu Binyan has been through the persecution that most Chinese
intelligentsia have suffered for many years. With this painful experience behind him, Liu eventually ends up lecturing in North America. The night after reading his memoir A Higher Kind of Loyalty, each of the following authors dreamed of Liu Binyan addressing a large audience in Lecture Hall C at York University. He answered questions from students and faculty of differing cultural backgrounds and political persuasions.
- Dissident delivers message of hope, by Han Ki-Dongt
- A day of recognition, by Maria Nadeau
- Dream warrior takes on 'sleeping giant,' by Michael Kociuba
- Voice of a visionary, by Kevin Perkins
- Prophecies of a dreamer, by Jennifer Henry
- Waking China from a nightmare, by Daniel Jacobs
II. Who's who in Dai Houying's novel Stones of the Wall
- Major players in the "Hundred Flowers" drama, by Sekou Russell
Little Xie was asked to sever his bond with his "capitalist mother" in America during the Anti-Rightist Campaign of 1957. The events following the persecution are the main incidents around which the major characters revolve -- a brave woman scholar, an academic dreamer, a spineless bureaucrat, a hypocrite, and a headstrong revolutionary.
III. Reports based on interviews with Dai Houying's characters
- Tribute to humanism: 1957 revisited, by Michael Kociuba
The year 1957 was eventful. In the U.S. the Milwaukee Braves won the World Series. It was a time to celebrate and rejoice. But for the people of China, it ushered in a dark period of tension. A victim of the purges has now become a legend, a symbol of the human side of the movement, and a perpetual challenge to a dehumanizing political system.
- Chinese student suffers slings of Maoism, by Kevin Perkins
The Chinese Communist party has ignored the Confucian ideals of benevolent leadership when one of its member asks a son to sever ties with his "capitalist mother."
Chinese history is a record of revolutions and counter-revolutions. Perhaps the negative
force will give rise to a positive reaction.
IV. Fate or free will
- Two of a Kind, by Sarah Tan
If the narrator in Xi Xi's "A Girl Like Me" and Sun Yue in Dai Houying's Stones of the Wall ever meet, they can be good friends and console each other. The bond may even stimulate them to take bolder moves in life.
- Day and night, by May Yuen
Xi Xi's narrator believes everything in her life is predestined, but Sun Yue takes control of her life.
- Laments of a make-up artist and a dreamer, by Maria Nadeau
Xi Xi's narrator and Liu Binyan both seem to overlook the obvious fact that they themselves alone are in charge of their own destiny. They attribute everything that is going wrong in their lives to fate--a force they are powerless to control. After all, did they not choose their job, or did fate dictate it to them?
- Wrestling with fate, by May Yuen
Liu Binyan has chosen the right path and takes advantage of whatever is bestowed upon him. He is pleased with what he has achieved in life. The narrator in Xi Xi's "A Girl Like Me," on the other hand, admits that she has abandoned herself to fate in the choice of profession and spends her life in regrets.
Personally, I have never been a very strong student when it comes to writing essays for my
English classes. I feel now is a great time and this will be a great opportunity for me to
improve my writing skills as well as learn a little more about the history of Korea and the
two powers that surround it. Since I was born in Korea, with both parents being Koreans,
I feel that it is my responsibility to learn and understand the hard times that my
grandparents and other family members experienced during the Japanese Occupation and
the Korean War. I will learn to sympathize those who lived through the hardships and
respect them for what they have endured.
While I could have easily chosen a more popular college course, or perhaps a "joke" course,
I selected "East Asian Literature in English" because of its subject matter. I have always
wanted to learn about Mao and the Cultural Revolution, especially since I read about the
atrocities committed at Tiananmen Square in 1989. I also have strong convictions with
regard to Japan. Should the bombs have been dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki? This
question has haunted me since I read the story "Thousand Cranes" in grade six. I hope this
course will allow me to become well versed in topics to which I have not been fully
- Initially I chose a writing course, but it was full. My advisor recommended East Asian
Literature in English since World War II instead. I read the course description and I found it
quite interesting. The two words "Cultural Revolution" attracted my attention. I hope
through reading and class discussion, I will know more about this decade-long civil war,
which has fascinated me for some years. As well, the partitioning of Korea and the
country's attempts at unification are of interest to me.
In this course I expect to learn many things. The first is what life has been like for other countries and the people who live in them. It is interesting to learn what people went through and how they felt about major events in their lives. I would also like to be taught to think critically, organize my thoughts, and express myself effectively in writing.
I expect to learn and appreciate the various modes of expressions adopted by East Asian authors. I cannot read a novel written in Chinese because my vocabulary is limited. The translators, however, have rendered notable works from the Chinese, Japanese, and Korean into English. I am interested in doing my research paper on North American-born Chinese because I am one myself. I would like to share with my class the problems that we have and will encounter.
The impetus for me taking this course is primarily to enrich my knowledge of modern Asian writers. I have studied classical Chinese and Japanese poetry and prose, the content of which seemed to be largely Buddhist or philosophical thought. It will be interesting to see how modern post-industrialization writers express themselves. I am looking forward to a change in subject matter and am hopeful the modern writers explore more of the human condition rather than social philosophy. Don't get me wrong. I have found such classics as Tao te ching historically captivating, but I need to expand my knowledge into twentieth-century art.
- I hope to broaden my horizons. I want to learn more about East Asian cultures, and I expect his course to do that. In high school, I was taught only English literature, and it would be nice to study something else. As well, many of my friends have come from an Asian background. It would be interesting to read authors of that background.
[Vol. no. 1]
[Vol. no. 2]
[Reader responses to Vol. 1 no. 1]
[Reader responses to Vol. no. 1-3]
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Jan. 24, 1996