Tag Archives: asian-pacific history

Iran Hostage Crisis

Here is a reading on the Iran hostage crisis in 1979 and 1980 along with its vocabulary-building and comprehension worksheet. I remember these years vividly–I saw the first headlines about the crisis as I was passing a newsstand in the Miami airport en route to Jamaica. It was a fraught time. I have a minor quibble with this reading in that it minimizes the brutality of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the Shah of Iran, who was a genuinely nasty piece of work. And even though it is perhaps beyond the ken of this reading, it would have required little more than a sentence to mention that the Shah came to power subsequent to the 1953 coup d’etat in Iran, which deposed the democratically elected prime minister, Mohammad Mosaddegh.

The 1953 coup was engineered by both the United States Central Intelligence and the British MI6. In other words, as Dee Dee Ramone once put it, “Commando, involved again.”

If you find typos in these documents, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

6 Dynasties

Wu * Jin * Liu Song * Qi * Liang * Chen

The Six Dynasties Period can be compared to Europe’s Dark Ages as it stands between the two great cultural blocks of the Han (contemporary to the Roman Empire) and the Tang (about the time the Islamic Empire emerged). The first half of this period is sometimes known as the Three Kingdoms Period and the date can vary according to eastern and western divisions between the states, but, give or take a year or two, the Wu ruled from 22-285, the Jin from 265 to 420, Liu Song from 420 to 479, the Qi from 479 to 502, Liang 502 to 557 and the Chen from 557 to 589.”

Excerpted from: Rogerson, Barnaby. Rogerson’s Book of Numbers: The Culture of Numbers–from 1,001 Nights to the Seven Wonders of the World. New York: Picador, 2013.

Third World

Here is a reading on the Third World along with its vocabulary-building and comprehension worksheet.

For the record, I disdain this term, which smacks of colonialism and in fact, as far as I am concerned, is a legacy of colonialism. The colonial powers expropriated wealth and labor from their colonies, then saddled them with a moniker that makes it sound like poverty and underdevelopment is somehow their own fault. If this reading didn’t point out this term’s problems, however blandly (“In addition, some artists and intellectuals adopted the term Third World to describe the common history of imperialism and decolonization shared by many countries in the group” and “Though some now regard the term as insensitive, it remains in use to describe impoverished parts of the globe….”), I probably wouldn’t publish it at all. That said, the reading does open a door to a critical discussion of colonialism and its atrocious legacy.

If you find typos in these documents, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.


Uighurs or Uygurs /we-gurs/: Turkic-speaking of Central Asia who live largely in northwest China. More than 7.7 million Uighurs live in China today, and some 300,000 in Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan. They are among the oldest Turkic-speaking peoples of Central Asia, first mentioned in Chinese records from the 3rd century AD. They established a kingdom in the 8th century, which was overrun in 840. A Uighur confederacy (745-1209), established around the Tian Mountains, was overthrown by the Mongols. This confederacy came to the aid of China’s Tang dynasty during the An Lushan Rebellion. The Uighurs of that time professed a Manichean faith.”

Excerpted from: Stevens, Mark A., Ed. Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Encyclopedia. Springfield, Massachusetts: Merriam-Webster, 2000.


“Hinduism: Oldest of the world’s major religions. It evolved from the Vedic religion of ancient India. Though the various Hindu sects rely on their own set of scriptures, they all revere the ancient Vedas, which were brought to India by Aryan invaders after 1200 B.C. The philosophical Vedic texts called the Upanishads explored the search for knowledge that would allow mankind to escape the cycle of reincarnation. Fundamental to Hinduism is the belief in a cosmic principle of ultimate reality called Brahman, and its identity with the individual soul, or Atman. All creatures go through a cycle of rebirth, or samsara, which can only be broken by spiritual self-realization, after which liberation, or moksha, is attained. The principle of karma determines a being’s status within the cycle of rebirth, The greatest Hindu deities are Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. The numerous other Hindu gods are mostly viewed as incarnations or epiphanies of the main deities, though some are survivors of the pre-Aryan era. The major source ofs of classical mythology are the Mahabharata (which included the Bhagavad Gita, the most important religious text of Hinduism), the Ramayana and the Puranas. The hierarchical social structure of the caste system is important to Hinduism; it is supported by the principle of dharma. The major branches of Hinduism are Vaishnavism and Shaivism, each of which includes many different sects. In the 20th century, Hinduism has blended with Indian nationalism to become a potent political force.”

Excerpted from: Stevens, Mark A., Ed. Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Encyclopedia. Springfield, Massachusetts: Merriam-Webster, 2000.

The Weekly Text, May 28, 2021, Asian Pacific American Heritage Month Week IV: A Reading and Comprehension Worksheet on Chandragupta Maurya

This week’s Text, the final for this year in observance of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month 2021 is a reading on Chandragupta Maurya and its accompanying vocabulary-building and comprehension worksheet.

Chandragupta Maurya founded the Maurya Empire, which enjoyed a long run–from 322 to 180 BCE. We know about Chandragupta Maurya and his eponymous empire from a variety of sources. India was known to the ancients in the West, including Pliny the Elder and Plutarch (and don’t forget that Alexander the Great fought briefly in northwest India); the Roman historian Justin also left biographical details about Chandragupta. He is also mentioned in the Arthashastra, a Sanskrit book on statecraft. Since the Mauryas oversaw the rise of Buddhism in India under King Ashoka, Chandragupta’s grandson and the third of the Mauryan emperors,. Buddhist texts also supply facts about Chandragupta and the Mauryas. Finally, a wealth of archaeological evidence underwrites both Chandragupta’s reign as well as the broader history of the Maurya Empire.

If you find typos in these documents, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

Chinese Poetic Forms

“Chinese Poetic Forms: The two most important forms of Chinese are the shih (poem) and the tz’u (lyric). The shih form was first used in the Book of Songs. These songs are of varied length; the lines are usually four characters long, and are marked by the use of end rhyme, most often at the end of the even-number lines.

Around the first century AD, the four-character line was replaced by the five- and seven-character line. The T’ang dynasty (618-907) saw the development of regulated verse or lu-shih, which were shih poems that used lines of five or seven characters, were eight lines in length, made use of a single rhyme throughout, and required strict verbal and tonal parallelism. The great T’ang poet Tu Fu was a master of this particular style.

The t’zu or lyric form also began to gain popularity in the T’ang dynasty, although its heyday was during the Five Dynasties (907-960) and Sung (960-1289). Originally written to musical tunes from Central Asia, the tz’u is essentially a song form with prescribed rhyme and and tonal sequences (“tunes”) and lines of differing length. Although, by the Sung Dynasty most tz’u were not written to be sung, poets retained the tune title to indicate the metrical pattern they were using. One of the most famous tz’u writers was the woman poet Li Ch’ing-chao.

Other poetic forms include the ballad (yueh-fu) and the prose form (fu). The ballads tend to use the five- or seven-character line, but are much more flexible about total length of the poem and prosody and meter. Traditionally, this form has been used to describe the hardships and sufferings of ordinary people, or to express direct or indirect criticism of the government. A common subject of the yueh fu is the abandoned woman who languishes away while her husband is away fighting on the frontier. These can be read as love poems, as criticism of a government policy that sends men away from the fields to fight a distant enemy, or the complaint of a neglected official who feels “abandoned” by his ruler.

Fu is translated variously as ‘prose-poetry,’ ‘rhyme-prose,’ ‘verse-essay,’ or ‘rhapsody’; however, because of its strong rhythmic and metrical qualities, it is generally considered to be closer to poetry than prose. The golden age of the fu was the Han dynasty (206 BC-AD 220). Writers of fu, such as Ssu-Mar Hsiang-ju (179-117 BC), were usually officials patronized and favored by the court. They were in many cases lexicographers, a fact reflected in their long (the longest is 10,000 lines), elaborate, almost encyclopedic rhymed descriptions of the splendor of the cities, gardens, and palaces of the Han dynasty. Fu continued to be written even after the Han, many of them taking on a more philosophical tone.”

Excerpted from: Murphy, Bruce, ed. Benet’s Reader’s Encyclopedia, Fourth Edition. New York: Harper Collins, 1996.

Cultural Literacy: Asia

Here is a Cultural Literacy worksheet on Asia. This is a half-page document with three questions–in other words a general introduction to the topic as a continent.

Like so many places in the world, the Romans named this continent, lifting the word Asia (as with so many other things) from the ancient Greeks. In fact, Herodotus was evidently the first person to use the word, though in reference to Asia Minor–or Anatolia, if you prefer–rather than the entire landmass we moderns envision when we think of Asia.

If you find typos in this document, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

Rabindranath Tagore on Bigotry

“Bigotry tries to keep truth safe in its hand

With a grip that kills it.”

Rabindranath Tagore, Fireflies (1928)

Excerpted from: Schapiro, Fred, ed. The Yale Book of Quotations. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006.

Cultural Literacy: Ho Chi Minh

Here is a Cultural Literacy worksheet on Ho Chi Minh. This is a full-page document with five questions, and room, with supplemental material, for quite a few more.

Ho’s importance as a world historical figure is well established, even if his biography suffers from lacunae. He is known to have used pseudonyms freely. If you’re interested in taking your students for a slightly deeper dive in Ho Chi Minh’s life and struggle for Vietnamese independence, you’ll find a reading and comprehension worksheet under that hyperlink.

If you find typos in this document, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.