Syllabus for Traditional Asia

INSTRUCTOR: David Komito, Ph.D.

MODE OF INSTRUCTION: Entirely online

A survey of the some of the major regions of traditional Asia (India, China, Tibet and Central Asia), accomplished by examining them during the period of 960 AD to 1279 AD (which is the span of the Chinese Song/Sung dynasty). Topics will include major belief systems (i.e., philosophies and religions) and their impact on the political and cultural histories of the regions as well as on the visual, performing and literary arts. Emphasis will also be placed on cultural interaction and mutual development between civilizations


Atlas of the Year 1000, John Man, Harvard University Press (2001), ISBN-10: 067400678X

All other required or optional readings are available online at no charge.


Students will be required to make weekly postings to the course discussion board for 25 % of their grade and complete three essay exams for 75% of their grade. I will accept late essay exam papers, but will reduce the grade a full grade for each 2 days lateness.  If you get my approval in advance for a late paper I will not reduce the grade. I do not grade late postings on the discussion board because discussion proceeds week by week and a missed discussion is simply something missed -- and so will not be assessed.

SPECIFIC DUE DATES AND DETAILS ABOUT THE ESSAY THEMES ARE ON THE COURSE BLACKBOARD SITE. You will be writing 2 - 3 page essays on the history and cultures of each of the three following regions of Asia:

  1. South India - essay due 24 hours after the end of week 4
  2. North India and Tibet - essay due 24 hours after the end of week 6
  3. China -  essay due 24 hours after the end of week 9

Each of the three essays in the course is worth a maximum of 25 points. Essay grades and final grades are on this scale:

A = 90% of possible points
B = 80% of possible points
C = 70% of possible points
D = 60% of possible points
Fail = anything below 60% of possible points
Your discussion participation will be the only thing considered when calculating + or - on your final grade.  Thus, if you score a B+ on your three exams and make insightful postings on the discussion board your final course grade will be raised to A-.  Similarly, lackluster postings on the discussion board will lower your grade.  For example, a B- would become a C+.

Lectures and Reading Assignments

An important note to students: Topics and lectures are organized sequentially over the term. Please be sure to read texts or visit web sites in the sequence of this syllabus.


TOPIC: Preliminary Observations


TOPIC: South India



  • Samkhya Philosophy, audio lecture on the Katha Upanishad and Samkhya Philosophy of Mind
  • Mandukya Upanishad, audio lecture on the Mandukya Upanishad
  • TimeFrame AD 1000-1100: India’s Elephant Kings
  • Daily Life in Ancient India, City Life and Fashionable Existence, p 233 – p 254; Royal existence and Its Environment, p 255 –p 276
  • Monuments of Literature: The Bhagavad Gita. Though this is usually considered a religious text, the selection I have chosen to comment upon is relevant to how the Cholans might have viewed warefare. Recall that the Gita is a portion of the Mahabharata, which is a story full of conflict.
  • I have provided extracts from the Bhagavad Gita in the lecture on the link above, and this is all you are required to read. But if you wish to look more deeply into the Gita here is a copy online. This is not my favorite translation, but it is free and available.



TOPIC: North India, Tibet and the Indian Ocean kingdoms



The following llinks in this week are for reference only. Students are not expected to read this material; it only is here for those with a particularly deep interest in Atisha:


TOPIC: Sung Dynasty China





TOPIC: Central Asia and Islam

  • Audio lecture: Islam; origins and basics, early history
  • Atlas of the Year 1000: 4-1 Baghdad
  • Atlas of the Year 1000: 4-2 Slaves of Islam
  • Atlas of the Year 1000: 4-5 Central Asia
  • Atlas of the Year 1000: 4-6 Mahmud
  • TimeFrame AD 1000-1100: The Advent of the Turks
  • TimeFrame AD 1100-1200, Islam Comes to India
  • Audio lecture: Turko-Mongol Invasion Patterns Affecting Persia, Afganistan and India
  • Islam: The Arts and Sciences
    • Monuments of Science and Literature: OmarKhyaam and his world (1048–1131):
      Astronomer, Mathematician, Poet