Group 2 Finale

These past three weeks have flown by. Now we are at the end with this being the final blog post. We have all worked hard these past three weeks, accomplishing pretty much everything that we had to do. The first day was definetly a little intimidating, with the workload seeming to be ridiculous. But once we got down to it, making the podcast, and doing all that research turned out to be fun. I had an enjoyable time with my group,  and we were able to get a lot down while having fun. Overall I enjoyed this class immensly and wanted to thank all of my group members and Dr. Harney. This is group 2( we decided to stick with since it was too late to change it) signing off.

Final Touches

The final touches have just been put on Group 2’s podcast. It was a great process and we had a lot of fun recording, splicing, editing, researching, etc. We gave our final presentation today as a group and now we are just waiting until tomorrow to officially submit it. We hope you give it a listen and enjoy.

“Princess Lotus”: A Closer Look at Class

Our study of East Asian folklore is coming to an official close soon. Monday and Tuesday will conclude with group presentations (and mostly likely blog posts about them), and the submission of the final podcast for your viewing pleasure. The podcast series, titled Gods, Ghosts, and Spirits of East Asia, should be available to the public within two weeks!

As for Group 2’s individual podcast, after submitting two drafts and hearing feedback, we believe the podcast to be very thorough in its look into Buddhism in Chinese and Japanese folklore. Despite a few organizational concerns and production improvements to work out, the podcast is interesting even to us who have worked on it for over a week now.

Nonetheless, to avoid further ranting on the state of the podcast, I will now discuss another tale from the Tang dynasty, “Princess Lotus.”

Lotus Princess (courtesy of google images)

This tale is very similar to “The Dragon King’s Daughter” (in that it had no Buddhism influence for what we could tell and) since it is a love story of two very different individuals. Tou, the main character in the story, is said to be very poor, and the princess Lotus-flower is obviously of a wealthy, prestigious family. In a way Tou is victim to a Cinderella story that turns out to have all been a dream. However his moment of heroic, manliness did not end there, his dream was an analogy. The villagers in the royal family’s kingdom were bees and the giant serpent was a snake that had took over their hive. Tou made a new hive for them which goes on to prosper more and more every year thereafter.

This tale is found in Chinese Ghost and Love Stories; one can say this sounds like a fairy tale similar to the ones we heard growing up. Despite realizing it was all a vision-like dream, the story ends on a happy note with the monster dead and a community thriving. Although one could say the love story between Lotus-flower and Tou was a subplot to the real story of metaphoric significance, the fantastical elements of a princess and villain solidify one interpretation I reached.

The fantastical elements are meant to captivate, but also remind the listener of the impossibility of a beautiful, rich women marrying a poor man. The story is meant to allow the listener to dream alongside Tou, but their aspirations shouldn’t change at the end of the story. At the end of the story, Tou’s life doesn’t really improve at all, if anything he provides shelter for the bees to ensure their survival. Based on the historical context of the Tang Dynasty, this relates to Tou’s assumed occupation of farmer since he is explicitly poor. Tou can only dream of love; his life is dedicated to his work. He gives the bees–which remember are the people in the dream–the means to thrive. In reality, that is as far as he can go.

Well, that’s my last blog post. Thank you to those who have followed along, it has been fun.

This is Adam Riekert, signing off.


Finishing Up Draft 2

Our group has been hard at work recording and re-recording audio. This has been a productive week for us. Everyone has been involved in the decision-making in everything from dialogue to segues. Because of this group effort, our podcast is coming together and sounding pretty good. With this being my last ‘real’ blog post of the class, I just want to take the time to thank my fellow Group 2 members for making this a genuinely fun and enjoyable process. That being said, we are not quite done yet. On our agenda for tonight is to finish up the last bit of editing and submit the second draft for the podcast. We have made some structural changes and adjustments. The flow of the audio should be improved this time around along with the quality of some recordings. We added new questions and dialogue and adjusted some positions for old audio.

In the near future, we will be discussing our content for our group presentations, constructing a landing page, adding/adjusting audio, adding music and segues if needed, and more. As stated before, this podcast is coming together nicely and we are all excited to get the final draft out there. We are working hard and looking to finish Centre Term strong.


Sun Wukong

So today I am going to be writing on a figure that is incredibly prevalent throughout Chinese mythology, but is also big in modern culture as well. Sun Wukong is one of the four spiritual primates that basically are the only beings not categorized in the universe. He is the monkey of stone and is said to be born out of a magic stone. Being pure stone he is incredibly durable and is capable of fantastic feats of strength. If that was not enough he also acquired legendary items throughout his journey such as cloud walking boots and a golden chain mail shirt. His most well-known item is a staff that he has that supposedly weighs around 8 tons. However, that is not the craziest thing about it, as he usually has it shrunk down so that he can carry it behind his ear. Using these items, his natural strength, and other fantastic abilities, he causes chaos throughout the heavenly kingdom. He is not evil, but rather a trickster who enjoys chaos. After causing chaos, and essentially cheating death, the Jade Emperor, who is the emperor of the gods to put it simply, invites him to heaven so he can give him a post in order to better control him. Wukong is given the post of stable master, and for a time this keeps him satisfied. However, he eventually realizes it is the lowest post in the Kingdom Of Heaven, causing him to release the horses and cause chaos once again. He then fights and defeats all the celestial figures in Chinese mythology, and is eventually defeated and imprisoned by the Buddha. We saw one version of how he is released with Journey To The West, though again he is not as evil as the film made him out to be. The headband that we see him wearing at the end is also important, as it allows Xuanzang to control him on their journey to obtain the sutras. Throughout the journey, he learns what it is like to do good, and at the end of it is granted Buddhahood. That is the end of the main story about him, which is Journey To The West, but there are many more stories about his other adventures.

In modern culture, there are various representations of him in video games and movies. We already saw one of the more modern versions of him in the film we watched, but there are many more. There are also representations of him in plays and other forms of theater. Even video games are starting to have representations of him, especially internet ones. Overall I think the actual story behind him is really cool, and I’m glad I got to read about him. Taking into account how the legend has grown, and how he is represented has changed over time is also just incredibly interesting.


The Crazy Bookworm

One week left, I can’t believe it!  Today I am writing about the new Chinese tale that we (Group 2) have chosen to replace our previous Chinese tale of “The Dragon King’s Daughter.”  The new tale is “The Crazy Bookworm.”  This tale is about a man who loves his books and he loves to study.  He is too preoccupied with studying to worry about marriage or a life.  The man knows he will find a wife in his books.  Eventually, he does and she ends up being a beautiful “jade-like face” girl.  She convinces him to become a more well-rounded person by having him learn to play the lute and make friends with high officials.  The District Magistrate hears of his beautiful wife and decides that he wants the “jade-like face” girl for himself, so he throws the man in jail and raids his house only to find books.  The Magistrate gives orders to burn the books without the knowledge that the “jade-like face” girl was hiding in the Book of Han.  When the man gets out of jail, he is able to pass his examinations and earn the highest degree to become an official in the town of the Magistrate.  The man gets his revenge on the Magistrate by taking his estate and his mistress and eventually gives up his good job to go back home.  The story ends there but we decided that this tale would be a better choice for our Chinese tale because it gave us more of a chance to explore Buddhist themes.  The details of the tale support the Buddhist themes and also introduce a Buddhist monk and a shrine.  The tale also allows us to talk about the ideology of Confucianism and how the Chinese adopted Buddhism into their already rooted Confucian beliefs.  “The Dragon King’s Daughter” did not give us (what we felt like was) enough room to explore these ideas.  It did not explicitly state Buddhist themes and we wanted to use a tale that was more comparable to what we originally had in mind.  We are very excited to debute our podcast comparing and contrasting Buddhist ideas within Chinese and Japanese culture  to the class (and the public?!?!) very soon, but for now, a simple project update will have to do! 🙂 Happy Founders Day tomorrow!


Podcast Update

Good evening!

Group 2 has been working hard over the weekend on our podcast. Saturday we met to record our individual parts and work on our scripts. Learning to work with the snowball took some practice and a few trial runs but we have made progress! Trace also volunteered to introduce our podcast and set the framework for us to build on. Then today we met to start building up our discussion. It is a little bit rough, but there was a lot of good material. However, editing it is a daunting process. It is absolutely crazy how much time is lost just from editing out ‘umm’s’ and ‘like’ and awkward pauses. The recording went from 10 minutes 50 seconds to 7 minutes 40 seconds. But it is good to have some of the grunt work mostly done.

So far our discussion focuses a lot on comparing how Buddhism is entertwined with Shintoism in the Japanese tale versus how it is entertwined with Confucianism in the Chinese tale. There have been a lot of good parallels that we have been able to make and I’m excited about where it is going. We have also established a few things that need to be researched better to give more body and support for discussion topics.

I’m really interested to listen to other group’s podcast drafts since we are all pretty new to production of audio pieces. I think there is some really great potential and these drafts will give everyone some good tips and ideas.


Group 2: A Look at Ennin

I recently picked up a book in the library, titled Ennin’s Travels in T’ang China. This book combines a primary source, Ennin’s Diary, with the thoughts of the author, Edwin O. Reischauer who is a professor of far eastern languages at Harvard University. Not only does Reischauer add vital information, but the often summarized writings of Ennin contribute more detailed information than the typical monograph.

Ennin, known as Jikaku Daishi in Japan (sounds familiar as it might been from Japanese Tales), was a Buddhist monk. He traveled from Japan in 838 A.D. in order to later introduce to the world a place absolutely foreign to outsiders–after all, his diary is the first account of life in China by any foreign visitor.

Similar to Ennin, Reischauer, after translating Ennin’s massive work and attaching footnotes, is also one of the first to bring this work to a new (Western) audience.

He writes this in the Preface: In the present age in which we are experiencing the painful process of amalgamation into one world, a great historical document of this sort, although medieval in time and Far Eastern in place, is a part of our common human heritage, with significance beyond these limits of time and space. It is the report of an important traveler in world history and an extraordinary, firsthand account of one of the way stations on man’s long and tortuous journey from his lowly, savage beginnings of his present lofty but precarious position. (vii-viii)

As long-winded as that might have been. I can understand firsthand even just a small part of that. In the fall of 2015, I studied and traveled for roughly four-and-a-half months in China. I climbed Huangshan (Yellow Mtn.), explored Guilin, celebrated an international ice and snow festival in Harbin, lived in Shanghai, and toured Beijing and Hangzhou. Although my travel didn’t have an importance to the degree of Ennin’s (obviously), it was vital to my understanding of both the world as a whole, and the world as it is lived in modern China.

Even though deadlines are fast approaching, I will spend as much time as possible combing through Ennin’s collection–ranging from Chinese officials, popular festivals, and the persecution of Buddhism. This should be a significant source for my portion of the podcast, at least.

That’s all for now. Stay tuned.

Adam Riekert

Childhood Memories

This class has breathed life into an old love of mine; Miyazaki films. When I was little I watched Spirited Away constantly. Strangely, it was the only film that scared me that I was willing to watch (I wouldn’t even watch Fox & the Hound because of the train scene towards the end). Tonight, a couple friends from class came over and we watched it again and I realized just how much of the movie I didn’t understand as a child.

First off, a high emphasis is placed on manners. Chihiro evolves through the movie from a ‘spoiled brat’ to a well-mannered, hard-working girl. There is a clear hierarchy and everyone knows the proper way to greet, thank and bid farewell to others. I find it interesting because in America, Chihiro at the beginning of the movie acts much better than most 10 year old’s I’ve know.

Another interesting note is the spirits/ demons commentary on society. In one scene an incredibly filthy, muck covered spirit comes into the bathhouse and it turns out that it was a river spirit who was filled with filth. Tons of trash came out and the river spirit was back to his original glory. Then Noface appears and lures in people with gold, eating them. Noface appears to just be a demon at first, but in the end, he is happy to live a simple life with a job– knitting for granny. Noface knitting with Granny.

This movie is filled with themes and representations that I never realized overtly as a child. I am excited to rewatch other Miyazaki films that I loved as a child and notice what I was too young to understand.


Good night!


The Dragon King’s Daughter

Happy Wednesday, over half way through the week! Centre term is flying by! So Group 2 has chosen to analyze and discuss two stories, one from Japan and one from China.  Each story is related to Buddhism and yesterday Trace talked about “The Invisible Man,” which is our story from Japan and today I’d like to talk about “The Dragon King’s Daughter,” which is our story from China.  The following is a summary of the tale in my own words, taken from the original tale found in Classical Chinese Literature by John Minford and Joseph Lau.


A man named Liu Yi was making his way home from the capital after failing his exams.  He came upon a young shepherd girl who was tending to her sheep.  Liu gazed at her striking beauty and noticed that her clothes were worn and old and she had a very sad expression on her face.  He asked the girl why she was sad and she explained that she was the youngest daughter of the Dragon King of Dongting Lake and that she was married off to to the son of the god of the River Jing.  Her husband was lustful and abusive, and when she finally complained about him to his parents, they cast her out and punished her by forcing her to be a shepherd.  The princess then asks Liu to carry a letter to her father at Dongting Lake and if he succeeds she will reward him Liu Yi found the lake and did as he was instructed.  A warrior escorted Liu to the King where Liu relayed the story of finding his daughter with the sheep.  Liu gave the King the letter and the King began to sob when her heard of his daughter’s misfortune.  The King’s younger brother, Lord Qiantang was known to act in excess when angered or upset, and when he heard about his niece and her husband, he lost his temper.  Lord Qiantang killed six hundred thousand people, destroyed over three hundred miles of crops and ate the “heartless husband” while in his dragon state.  The family celebrated the return of the princess and the kindness of Liu for many days and put on many feasts to show their gratitude.  Liu was presented with precious gifts and Lord Qiantang even gave the princess to Liu to marry, but he rejected, saying that he did not feel that is was right for Lord Qiantang to offer such a thing.  The next day, Liu left.  He went to the jeweller and found that a hundredth of what the King gave him was enough to make him very wealthy.  Liu then became lonely and decided he wanted to marry.

Liu then married a woman, who then died.  He married another woman who also died a few months after the marriage.  He then found a third wife, who ended up being the Dragon King’s daughter.  She said that this was how she was going to repay him for saving her so many years before.  She explained that now the Liu was married to a daughter of the dragon race, he would now be able to live a long life and move anywhere he wanted on land or water.  Liu and the princess went to live in Dongting lake and some years later Liu’s cousin Xue Gu found his cousin on a hill in the middle of the lake.  Liu gave Gu fifty pills that would allow Gu to live for one extra year.  No one ever saw the princess or Liu again.  Gu would often tell people of this story, but then when to pills ran out, Gu vanished.  One of Gu’s listeners wrote down this story.

We decided to choose this story because it is popular in Chinese culture and it has important Buddhist characteristics, one being karma.

Update: As a group we have created a good outline and we are almost ready to start recording! We still need to find some more secondary sources, but other than that we have come a long way in a short amount of time.  We are staring to really work well together as a group (I’m not saying we were not working well earlier, we’re just being more productive).  I sure am anxious to see how our podcast will turn out!