The Dynamics of Cultural Counterpoint in Asian Studies (SUNY series in Asian Studies Development) represents a rich collection of essays edited by David Jones and Michele Marion. The essays emerged from the work of participants in the Asians Study Development Program (ASDP), a joint program of the East-West Center and the University of Hawai'i and the volume is in part a celebration of more than 20 years of that program. The essays illustrate a number of approaches and perspectives on education and Asian studies but from perspectives of interaction. The volume illustrates the breadth of the work the done by ASDP participants and suggests ways to approach Asia that are relational.
Each essay represents a clear window into other thinkers' and disciplines' approaches making most of the essays good introductions to a wider field of discourse. Each essay is highly researched and provides an excellent bibliography for those with more interest in the area. The final essay by Leonard and Barbara Andaya, for example, suggests that a familiar way of looking at regional relationships in is terms of the surrounding bodies of water, the maritime perspective. One could not tell a story of the Phoneticians, Greeks, Persians, or Romans without the Mediterranean or the Aegean Sea. The New World's east coast certainly had a relationship with the west coast of Europe and Africa. This is also the case in the Southeast Asian world. Relationships such as trade and cultural exchange can be understood through the relations formed by maritime proximity, travel and communication. While their work focuses on the “Sea of Malayu” the importance of seas is clear in the Pacific.
Lawrence Butler uses architecture, not the sea, to explore the history of Muslims in China. The essay stresses the importance of understanding Islam within the Chinese context and examines mosque architecture to tell part of that story. By understanding Islamic architecture in China one can understand Muslims' history up to today. Mara Miller considers the philosophical problem of representing Japanese gardens in other mediums; by representing a Japanese garden you take away from the garden's actual situatedness. Given the value of situatedness to the Japanese aesthetics of gardens, representations seem a conundrum. Ronnie Littlejohn provides the fascinating story of Matteo Ricci's Journals, the earliest Western account, he holds, of Daoism. Littlejohn's well-written essay summarizes the Journals in which Ricci (b. 1552, d. 1610) recording travels to Beijing in 1600. In his journals, he described the “rites and superstitions” that he observed which Littlejohn identifies as Doaist. One of the volume's essays is meant specifically for educators. Shudong Chen considers the novel pedagogical recommendations of Zhuangzi and suggests Daoist strategies for education involving a “spiritual ecology” along with natural ecology or nature.
These essays above are illustrative of the diversity of topics and approaches represented in the volume. It can be jarring as we move into disciplines unfamiliar to us, but the common theme of interaction runs through each essay. Japanese popular culture, aesthetics and experience in Indian aesthetics, art therapy in South Korea, Hindu-Muslim experiences in South Asia, feminist theory and footbinding, North Korea's nuclear threat, and the modern history of Bhutan as a contested space are all included as topics and many. While readers are sure to find some of the essays of more interest than others, they are equally sure to learn from all of them.