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Zen Meditation

Zen Buddhism. A study of how to practice Zen Buddhism, including a history of the various Buddhist schools, with 10 detailed lessons in Zen meditation, as taught by the Tiantai Monk Zhi Yi, 560-580; the book is still a best seller in Japan. It teaches the method called “Taza Shikan”, Zen sitting as Samatha-Vipassyana meditation. Contact us on line to take this course. The text itself is given without cost for those who take the course at IUBeijing, or “on line;” (it sells for $10 (wholesale) in the US).


1. Lecture/reading one covers chapters 1-5. Getting ready for meditation. Write a brief summary of what is taught in each chapter, with your comment on whether it helps you or not, is useful or not, for the first week assignment.


2. Read Chapters 6a, and 6 b, (which will be practiced in class, or directions given on-line); explain how to practice “Zhr,” the cessation of all thoughts and judgments, and “Guan” looking with compassion to others, as explained in the text. Essay is due in the 2nd week of study.


3. Read Chapters 7-9 in the text.   Explain the Buddhist notions of compassion, demons, and healing. Summarize each chapter in brief, easy to understand wording. Submit by the end of the 3rd week of class.


4. Read Chapter 10 of the text. The monk Zhi Yi explains how Zen can be used in each of the major schools of Buddhism, and other faith practices. Summarize each of the Buddhist schools, and then comment why Zen has become so popular in the “western” world outside of Japan and China. The noted modern teacher of Zen, D.T. Suzuki, believed that only Japanese were able to do Zen meditation. After reading the text, comment on this statement, do you agree or disagree. Submit at end of 4th week.


All four courses may be taken on line, before going to the IUBeijing/BSU course in Beijing, or elsewhere. The textbook and teaching materials can be mailed to your home address, after acceptance into the program, and paying the tuition, or receiving the SAIA scholarship. E-mail or enroll on line,  for more details.



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Chinese Religion and Philosophy

Chinese Religion, a course on the structure, rites of passage, annual festivals, Buddhist & Daoist practices, using the textbook Blue Dragon White Tiger, by Michael Saso, Univ of Hawaii Press, 2000. (Contact us on line for the textbook, and directions for the 4 papers). Team taught at IUBeijing.

1. Read pages 1-64. Chinese religion is based on Yin Yang 5 element philosophy, illustrated by simple charts. Choose 3 of these charts, and re-draw them on a piece of paper, so you can tell your parents and family all about Chinese religion. Make them as artistic as possible. The charts and explanations are due before the 2nd lecture.

2. Read pages (selected)  27 to 98, on Daoism and Buddhism. Choose on or the other system, and write a brief, easy to read explanation of its meaning, and how it is used in Chinese religion. Due in 3rd week.

3. Read pages 99 to 160, on the Chinese rites of passage, (marriage, birth, puberty, burial, and ancestor memorial). Choose one topic, and write a paper on it, explained in simple, easy to understand terms. Due before class 4 begins.

4. Read pages 161 to 192, Chinese Festivals, before the last class. Prepare a description of how the Chinese New Year Festival is celebrated. The last class will give you time to present your ideas on Chinese religion, what you think of religion as a celebration of cultural life in the family ( discuss on-line, and in class).

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Social Anthropology of China

II. Social Anthropology of China. “Velvet Bonds, the Chinese Family.” (VBCF) This textbook, by Michael Saso, PhD, sells for $20, ($10 wholesale), but comes without cost to IUBeijing students who enroll for the course. Written outlines (of the four themes) and 4 papers are due, one each week). Inquire on-line for guidance in home work, lecture-readings, correction of papers before final submission. Team taught in IUBeijing.

i. A structural analysis of the Chinese Family.  Terminology: three generations living at home is the ideal norm of the traditional Confucian family model, called the “Grand family.” Extended family (two generations, siblings in residence with children), and elementary family, (mother, father, children) are more common in modern urban China. Read pages 1-30; assignment, summarize the contents, explain the terminology, and understand the technical terms.

2. Case studies of Chinese families in north China (p 31 to 48), and minority or “non-Han Chinese” families in ethnically diverse areas (pg 49-72).  show the wide variations, when compared with the southern Han Chinese families seen in week one. Assignment: summarize these stories, point out differences, & compare /contrast with your own family experiences. Note that we visit these areas in our IUB field trips. Which of these areas would you find most interesting to visit and study, after these readings?

3. Statistics taken from the Koseki (Huji) family registers of Hsinchu city, north Taiwan. Analyze, and comment on the differences found in major, minor, uxorilocal, and concubine families (pp. 75-122).

4. The final paper. Read pp. 123 to 134. During the week before the last class, conduct your own TAT (Thematic Apperceptive Test) with family and friends. I.e., show family members or friends a picture of a family, boy and girl dating, students in class, and a meal ready to eat. Have each person make up a story about the picture. Count the words most frequently used with each picture. We will tabulate the results in our last class, or on line; see which words and values were most frequently mentioned in your picture-stories, and compare these with Asian family responses.   


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A Cultural History of China

A Cultural history of China.doc


The following course, taught at IUBeijing, is available on-line, to orient International University students before going to China. The course consists of four themes, 15 contact hours each, 60 hours of applied study, 3 credits for enrolled students. To do research for your paper, type each word or phrase in italics into the search engine on your e-mail screen, then read, print out, or save the information. Choose from these topics what you will write in your paper. Begin each paper with a content summary of each period, Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter. There are 4 weeks of reading with an essay due at the end of each week. Contact us by e-mail for more information.


I. History of China.


Lecture 1. Spring: 3000 BCE to 200 BC.  The archeology of China, 3000-1700 BCE;, the Xia dynasty; The Shang Dynasty, 1700 to 1100 BCE; oracle bones, Shang dynasty Burial sites,  Shang dynasty legends;  The Zhou dynasty (Chou Dynasty),1050 BCE to 221 BCE; Spring-Autumn Period, Warring States Period: Confucius, Lao-tzu (Laozi), the Legalists, the 100 schools;  the Qin dynasty, the First Emperor of China 221 BCE to 206 BCE;. The “Spring” of Chinese culture. Things to look for and write about in this segment: Myths and Legends of China, (Fu Xi, Shen Nung, Huangdi, Yao, Shun, Yu the Great), oracle bones, Confucius, Lao-tzu (Laozi), the Legalists, the “100 schools,” how they differ from each other; the despotic first emperor Qin (pronounce “Chin”; in Chinese “emperor is pronounced Huangdi, so he is “Qin Shr (first) Huangdi). He built the “Great Wall,” burned the books of Confucius, died eating Daoist long life medicine.


Lecture 2. Summer, 200 BCE to 900: The Han Dynasty, The Three Kingdoms, the North-South period (divided kingdoms), the Sui Dynasty, the Tang dynasty. Buddhism comes to China. Things to look up and write about: “Three religions, one culture,” the origin of Confucianism, Daoism, Buddhism; how all 3 form the basis of Chinese culture. The famous heroes of the “3 Kingdoms” period, whose story is told in the novel “Romance of the 3 Kingdoms.” (Name these heroes, and describe them). The Great Poets of China, especially Li Po (Li Bai), everybody’s favorite; Emperor Ming Huang and his concubine Yang Gueifei; (her body guards killed her, to “save” the emperor and China). China’s great woman emperor Wu Zetian;  


Lecture 3. Autumn, 900 -1640; The “5 dynasties,” 906 to 960; The Song dynasty (Sung dynasty), 960-1281; the Yuan dynasty, or Mongol Dynasty, 1281-1365; the Ming dynasty, 1365-1640; the Qing dynasty (Manchu dynasty), 1640-1912). Themes to look for and write about: In the Song dynasty and thereafter, China has a fully developed merchant class, as well as clan family estates, and a learning process for children of privilege to be educated in classical Chinese, pass the imperial examinations, and enter the mandarin class of ruling bureaucrats. Banking and checking begin in China between 906-960, long before Europe; wood block printing and moveable type also. The religious reformation of China occurs in the Song dynasty, 500 years before Europe; Mongol rule is cruel and harsh, overthrown at last in 1365; the Ming Emperor Yunglo moves the capital city to Beijing in 1420, and builds the world’s largest Palace and palatial imperial grounds. A legal system is codified during his reign. The Manchu tribes (“banners”) conquer China in 1640, and preside over the gradual demise of China’s power and wealth. European colonial powers and the Japanese occupy all the port cities, humiliate the weak Qing emperors. Take note of the Opium Wars (1838 and after); the Taiping rebellion (1850), and the Boxer rebellion (1901-02). The British burn and steal all the art of the Old Summer Palace; Christianity in China is seen as a tool of foreign colonial occupation.


Lecture 4. Winter, 1912 to the present. Identify: The Last Emperor, Pu Yi.  Dr. Sun Yatsen, and the 1911 rebellion, Imperial China is overthrown; democracy is aborted by war lords fighting for power. The Kuomintang (pronounce Guo Min Dang) political regime with Chiang Kai-chek (Jiang Jie-shr) as leader attempts to unify China. The Japanese invasion in 1932, then in full force from 1936-1945, destroys, rapes, and brutalizes the Chinese people. In 1949 Mao Tse-dong (“Chairman Mao”) and the Communist army “liberate” China, expel the Kuomintang, all foreigners, and all missionaries. The “People’s Republic of China” is established. 1952-1955 landlords are executed, or flee. 1955, the “Communes” (built on the Russian model) are established. In 1956 Chairman Mao and Russian Premier Kruschev break company; China rejects Russian counsel. 1958, the Great Leap Forward, and the “Communes” (radical communism) are set up. Crops fail, and famines occur 1960-1963. 1967 Mao declares the “Great Cultural Revolution;” teen age “Red Guard” are allowed to attack and kill communist party officials, and anyone accused of once having been “capitalist,” such as teachers, upper social class, or “class enemies.” In 1976, the Cultural Revolution ends, when Mao dies. By 1980 Deng Xiaoping heads the government, declares China open to economic progress, investments, private ownership of land and businesses, education, and limited freedom. China’s progress since that time has been phenomenal.  “Capitalism with a peculiar Chinese socialist flavor” is a success. In 2008, the year of the “Olympics”, Modern China has123 billionaires, and many more millionaires, in spite of the fact that most of the rural and remote areas are still burdened with bitter poverty.


In Beijing, you must write one paper (with charts, bibliography and footnotes) for each of these four periods, choosing to describe in detail the themes that interested you most when reading, studying, and doing research on line.   To learn more about each topic listed above, write in the name (especially those in italics) and do an on-line search, for more information on each topic put in italics. Choose from these topics the theme for your four papers. Contact me, for any help you might need, comments, correction of papers, and so forth. Remember, copying from a book or website is plagiarism, adding a footnote to what you wrote (stating where you read it) is scholarship. Papers may be corrected, and graded by e-mail. Good reading and writing!


Suggested textbooks: (


The Cambridge Illustrated History of China (Cambridge Illustrated Histories) by Patricia Buckley Ebrey and Kwang-ching Liu (Paperback – May 13, 1999)

Buy new: $36.99 $24.41 58 Used & new from $17.57


China: Its History and Culture (4th Edition) by W. Scott Morton, Charlton M. Lewis, and Charlton Lewis (Paperback – Jun 1, 2004)

Buy new: $18.95 $12.89 41 Used & new from $8.53


A History of Chinese Civilization by Jacques Gernet, J. R. Foster, and Charles Hartman (Paperback – May 31, 1996)  new, $37.99 $34.19;  34 Used & new from $17.40 





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Velvet Bonds: The Chinese Family

By Michael Saso, with statistic analysis by Nariko Akimoto
In print
Published for New Life Center (aka Sino-Asia Foundation) by the University of Hawaii Press, 1999
ISBN 1-929431-00-7
Available for purchase.

17 plus 141 pages. An analysis of 4.500 family Registers, called Koseki in Japanese, Huji in Chinese, the study uses the analytical method developed by Arthur Wolf at Stanford. The study shows incredible variations in Chinese family structure.

Personal stories from Mainland, Taiwan, HK, and Ethnic minority families , and Thematic Apperceptive tests showing widely different cultural values.

Copious footnotes, charts, and illustrations.
A practical textbook for Anthropology courses on China.

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Zen is for Everyone: the Xiao Zhi Guan Text by Zhi Yi

Translated and adapted for practical use by Michael Saso.
Published for the Tendai Foundation by the University of Hawaii Press, 2000
ISBN 1-929431-02-3
In print
The original Chinese text of Zhi Yi is also called The Little Samatha-Vipassyana book in 10 lessons, practical steps to Zen sitting.
20 plus 106 pages
available for purchase.

With copious notes and illustrations, it has been used since 560 CE to teach Zen meditation in China, Japan, and Korea. It is a best seller in Japan. as a practical guide to Zen Vipassyana.