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History of Science Science in Asia - The Great Wall

History of Science Online

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LibraryThing: Science in Asia Week 12: Science in Asia

Starting Assumptions


# Due Date Pts Activity Time
1 Tuesday
11:59 p.m.
10 Starting Assumptions
Think about what you know already about the culture and period, share your knowledge and experience with other students in the class
30 min.


Get your backpack ready: it’s time to brainstorm another trip! This week, in our whirlwind tour of the history of science, let’s travel to Asia. I hope you’ll make some meaningful and unexpected discoveries this week as we explore the strange new world of science in China, India and Japan.
Though we have just a limited time to visit, we'll not be like tourists in Beijing who seek fast food at McDonald's. Our aim will be to get to know pre-modern Asian scientists in terms of their own place and time, not just in terms of modern science.

  1. Did you watch much of the 2008 Beijing Olympics? Did you enjoy how the opening ceremony reflected the history and culture of China?
  2. A few weeks ago we mentioned the Great Wall of China. Have you ever seen it? What do you know about the Great Wall?Silk Road
  3. A few weeks ago we mentioned the Silk Road. What do you know about the Silk Road which extends over 5,000 miles and connected the major civilizations from China to Asia Minor?
  4. What do you find most interesting about pre-modern interactions between the cultures of Asia and Europe?
  5. What most interests you about the historical context for Asian, Indian, Japanese, Korean, Indonesian and/or Chinese science?
  6. CordobaDo you read or speak Chinese, Sanskrit, Japanese or any other Asian language? How did you learn? What do you like to read in these languages?
  7. What are your favorite works of Asian, Indian or Chinese literature? Have you read...
  8. What most interests you about Asian culture, perhaps in India or China? Does Asian, Indian or Chinese history have any special meaning for you? What is your favorite movie or book or TV documentary related to Asia, India or China?
  9. What do you enjoy about Indian, Chinese, or Asian food? Do you recommend any restaurants in the area that offer authentic dishes from these countries?
  10. Have you visited China or India or any other country in Asia? Do you or your friends have family ties there?
  11. India was the birthplace of Buddhism, the world's first great missionary religion, which spread to China in the first century AD and remains the largest organized religion among many Chinese religions. Key concepts in Buddhism are karma and Nirvana: when the former ends and the latter is achieved there is cessation of physical change and being. Have you read any Buddhist writings, such as the Sanskrit Tripitaka, or modern Buddhist adaptations such as Herman Hesse's Siddhartha?
  12. Have you studied Confucius or read his Analects?
  13. India is also the home of Hinduism, another of the five great world religions (along with Judaism, Christianity and Islam). Karma is also a key concept in Hinduism, along with the guidance of a guru. Hinduism is largely pantheist and teaches that the physical universe and the self are illusions. Have you read any of the sacred Hindu writings, such as the Vedas, Upanishad, or Bhagavad Gita?
  14. What have you experienced of, or do you know about, these philosophies and religions? How might they have shaped the science of Indian and Chinese cultures?
  15. As always when we’re planning a trip, we want to better understand what people in this place and time were up to. **What are some similarities between ancient/medieval/early modern Chinese, Indian and Asian cultures and culture today? How might these similarities help us to understand these cultures? What are some differences between these cultures and culture today? How might these differences pose an obstacle to our understanding of these cultures? What do you think is the chief barrier or prejudice that obstructs modern appreciation of science in Asia?
    Who is your favorite Asian scientist? What do you know about science in India and China, and what do you think obstructs western appreciation of science in these cultures? Can you name an Indian or Chinese scientist who lived in the time period of this course? If you are unfamiliar with Chinese, Indian and Asian scientists, why do you think this might be so?
    What would you most like to discover about them this coming week?
    Please share your thoughts on these things. What are your starting assumptions?

Instructions for Starting Assumptions assignment:

  1. Look over the questions and links below; then watch the Starting Assumptions video prompt for this unit at Janux.
  2. PART ONE:
    1. Write a paragraph, 150 words minimum, in response to any questions that interest you.
    2. Post your completed paragraph in the Starting Assumptions discussion stream for this week at Janux.
  3. PART TWO:
    • Read the Starting Assumptions posts of at least two other students at Janux. Make another post in the discussion stream at Janux replying to their posts. (If you are the first or second person to post, you will have to check back later to complete this part of the assignment.)
    • IMPORTANT: When you respond, please begin by greeting the persons by name you are replying to, so that they will be more likely to notice that you are replying to them. And over the next several hours, check back and see if anyone comments on your post as well. If you provide interesting comments in response to others, they will be more likely to look for your posts both now and in the future.
  4. As you post your paragraph and respond to two other students, complete the Gradebook Declaration in Desire2Learn. Your Gradebook Declaration is subject to the Honor Code. Check all that apply: if you have completed the assignment, you will check all five statements. If you work on the assignment at different times, you may make the Gradebook Declaration incrementally as you complete each part. You may redo the Gradebook Declaration as often as you like up until the due date, if any part is incomplete the first time.

Here is the text of the Desire2Learn Gradebook Declaration:

(2 points) I have posted my Starting Assumptions (at least 50 words) at Confluence, including a response to the required question(s).
(2 points) I have posted my Starting Assumptions (at least 100 words) at Confluence, including a response to the required question(s).
(2 points) I have posted my Starting Assumptions (at least 150 words) at Confluence, including a response to the required question(s).
(2 points) I have replied to the post of at least one other student.
(2 points) I have replied to the post of at least two other students.


"A Book of Verses underneath the Bough,
A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread--and Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness--
Oh, Wilderness were Paradise enow!"
       Omar Khayyam (12th century), The Rubaiyat, XII

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HSCI 3013. History of Science to 17th centuryCreative Commons license
Kerry Magruder, Instructor, 2004
Brent Purkaple, TA

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Many thanks to the pedagogical model developed in Mythology and Folklore and other online courses by Laura Gibbs, which have been an inspiration for this course.

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This course is currently undergoing major reconstruction to bring it into alignment with the new version of the course at Janux