Volume 22, Issue 3, September 1999
Teaching Chinese Philosophy On-Site
Despite consistent student interest in Chinese philosophy, the author reports that American students tend to demonstrate a sense of distance from Chinese authors and texts, often exoticizing or romanticizing them. This paper describes one pedagogical strategy that proved highly effective for overcoming this cultural distance which can hinder students’ ability to engage critically or deeply with the material. The author recounts her experience of teaching a six week Chinese philosophy course to illustrate how becoming acquainted with the place and culture that gave rise to a philosophy help to render that philosophy more concrete. By being able to speak and interact with people in China (e.g. a Buddhist monk, a doctor practicing traditional Chinese medicine, etc.), the study of Chinese philosophical texts was brought to life, nuanced, and inflected by familiarization with the cultural, geographical, and political contexts of the philosophy being studied. Included in this paper are the course syllabus and one course assignment.