University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown
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FA 0621 Art of China (Fall 2011)

FA 0621 Art of China

University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown
248 Biddle Hall
T-TH 11:00 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
Fall 2011

Dr. Valerie S. Grash
Associate Professor of Fine Arts
Office: 230B Biddle Hall
Phone: 269-7164

Office Hours:Tuesdays & Thursdays, 12:30-2:00 p.m., and by appointment.


Notwithstanding the title, the purpose of this course is to introduce you to the rich artistic and cultural traditions of Asia as a whole, but particularly India, China and Japan. In doing so, we will address certain essential issues including:

1. What are the basic religious and cultural beliefs of each society, and how do these contribute to the production of art?
2. How did historical events and societal conditions play a role in forming unique works of art?
3. What degree of interaction occurred between these cultures, and how did that affect their art?
4. Who were the major artists and how did they create their works?
5. How and why does Asian art differ from traditional Western art?

We will approach this task by following a roughly chronological trail, from prehistory through the twentieth century. By necessity, this course takes a broad approach, yet singular monuments of great importance will receive intense study. At the conclusion of this course, you will:

1. Possess a new understanding of, and appreciation for, Asian art.
2. Understand the techniques used in the creation of art in general.
3. Comprehend the major tenets of Eastern religions, including Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam and Shinto.
4. Recognize and understand significant works of Asian art.
5. Appreciate the culturally-based differences between Eastern and Western art.


Required textbooks:

  • John D. LaPlante, Asian Art, Third Edition (McGraw-Hill, 1992) ISBN 0697115917
  • Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha (Bantam Classics, 1981) ISBN 0553208845

Course Web Site:

Additional textual and visual materials for this course (including monuments and terms covered in lecture); original documents and required readings; your grades; and pertinent announcements concerning class meetings and examinations are found at

Cell Phones:

Be certain your cell phone ringer is turned OFF, as it is both annoying and disruptive to the entire class. Anyone sending or receiving text messages will be asked to leave--this course deserves your full attention. If you can't do that, drop the class immediately.

Course Policies

Faculty Statement:
My role is to facilitate learning through lecture and clarification of specific points through questioning and discussion, whether in the classroom, during office hours or via electronic correspondence. It is your responsibility to attend class, take accurate notes and approach me with any questions and issues for clarification in a timely manner.

While there is no attendance policy for this course, be forewarned that most of what you will be tested on is discussed thoroughly in class. Even with the textbook, nothing replaces viewing the images projected on screen. Therefore, regular attendance is necessary to succeed in this course. In addition, as classroom discussion is expected, poor attendance will adversely affect you if it comes down to a borderline decision on your final grade.

Notes and Note Taking:
Under no circumstances do I provide notes for missed classes. It is your responsibility, if you miss a class, to acquire the lecture notes from a classmate. Class assignments and announcements are available on the course website. You may tape-record lectures as long as you inform the instructor in advance, and do not disturb others in the class.

Makeup Exams:
I give make-up exams only in cases with legitimate, documented reasons (death in the family, personal hospitalization, required fieldtrips, etc.). In such cases, inform me in advance and provide written confirmation of your absence. The alternative exam must be taken within one week of the scheduled test; only one makeup exam per student will be permitted. No one can make-up the final exam, which must be taken at the scheduled time.

Late Assignments:
No extensions are granted for class assignments. Due dates are clearly noted on the syllabus at the beginning of the semester. You should begin each assignment in a timely manner and even complete assignments early. Illness or any other excuse has no bearing on the fact that your work was not turned in on time. Any assignment not turned in by the due date will not be graded, thus earning 0 points for the work. No exceptions are permitted so do not ask!

Academic Integrity:
Please read carefully the Academic Integrity Guidelines in your student handbook. They will be followed to the letter in this course. There is ZERO tolerance for cheating or plagiarism. Any time that you use another person's words or thoughts as your own without giving them proper credit is plagiarism. Any instance of cheating or plagiarism will result in an automatic "F" (0 points) for that assignment, and steps may be taken, according to the Academic Integrity Guidelines, to receive an "F" for the course and for action leading to expulsion from the university. I will not permit re-writing any suspected plagiarized assignment.

If you have a disability for which you are or may be requesting an accommodation, you are encouraged to contact both your instructor and the Office of Health & Wellness (OHW), G-10 Student Union Building, (814) 269-7119 to schedule an appointment as early as possible in the term. OHW will verify your disability and determine reasonable accommodations for this course.


Grading and Course Requirements

Overall, you can earn 500 points during the semester. On this scale:

500-490 (A+)                          489-465 (A)                            464-450 (A-)

449-440 (B+)                          439-415 (B)                             414-400 (B-)

399-390 (C+)                          389-365 (C)                            364-350 (C-)

349-300 (D)                            299 and below (F)

Your grade will be determined in the following manner:

Examinations (300 points):

There will be three exams during the semester (September 27, November 1, and December 12), each worth 120 points. The format will comprise of objective and subjective questions drawn from class notes and readings. The final exam will not be comprehensive, but will include information from oral presentations.

Oral Presentation and Group Project (140 points total):

The purpose of the project is for each group to seek out, acquire and interpret information regarding the art and architecture of other Asian countries not covered in course lectures. These countries include: 

  • Afghanistan   
  • Mongolia        
  • Tibet   
  • Thailand         
  • Vietnam         
  • Korea
  • Burma (Myanmar)      
  • Nepal  
  • Bhutan           
  • Cambodia       
  • Pakistan          
  • Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon)
  • Divided into groups of three, students will complete a two-part project covering your assigned country:

PowerPoint Presentation (50 points)

Each group will present a 15-20 minute oral presentation using PowerPoint, with all group members participating. Briefly introduce your country with basic information (location, founding, history, capital, religion, languages, ethnic groups, etc.). Next, outline specific examples of painting and sculpture, as well as major works of architecture. For clarity, it would be best to select 8-10 specific works of art and architecture to highlight your theses. Points are earned individually and for group effort, based on instructor and peer evaluation. You may incorporate music or other interactive demonstrations into your presentation--even food if you so choose.

Scrapbook (90 points)

Each group will compile and creatively present a unique scrapbook about the country they researched during the semester. This creatively designed work will include:  

1.      Visual images, accompanied by informative paragraphs, illustrating your country’s primary examples of art and architecture. All information sources must be clearly notated; plagiarism will not be tolerated.

2.      An annotated list of 15-20 quality web sites dealing with some of aspect of your country's artistic heritage. These can be sites associated with museums, universities, galleries, individuals, groups or governments. A brief explanation (2 or 3 sentences) of the site's main thrust and significance must accompany each link. 

3.      An annotated bibliography of at least 15 books and articles (no online sites) dealing with that country's art. Again, a brief statement as to the work's major contribution must accompany each entry. 

You must clearly note somewhere how group members divided the work for this assignment. You earn points both for your individual work (60 points) and the group overall (30 points). Due: December 8

Course Schedule

August 30 Course Introduction
September 1 Neolithic Cultures in India and China (Chapters 1, 10)
September 6 Shang and Zhou Dynasties: Bronze Age China (Chapter 11)
September 8 Qin (Ch'in) Dynasty: Imperial Power and Monumental Projects (Chapter 12)

September 13 Han Dynasty (Chapter 12 con't)

September 15 Buddhism and In-Class Discussion of Hermann Hesse's Siddhartha

September 20 Early Buddhist Art and Architecture in India (Chapter 3 con't)
September 22 Mahayana Buddhism's Impact in India and China (Chapters 4, 13)

September 27 Exam I
September 29 Hinduism and Sculpted Images of Hindu Deities in India (Chapter 6)

October 4 Hindu Architecture (Chapter 6 con't)
October 6 Islam and Mughal India (Chapter 7)

October 11 No Class (Monday Classes Meet)

October 13 Indian Painting Before and After the Mughals (Chapter 8)

October 18 Advent of Chinese Court Painters (Chapter 14)
October 20 Tang Dynasty, and Chan Buddhism (Chapters 14-15)

October 25 Song and Yuan Dynasties Ceramics (Chapter 16, 17)
October 27 Ming Dynasty (Chapter 18)

November 1 Exam II

Noember 3 Shinto Art and Architecture in Japan (Chapter 21)

November 8 Buddhism Reaches Japan (Chapters 22-24)
November 10 Momoyama and Edo Periods: Styles of Japanese Architecture (Chapter 26)

November 15 Ukiyo-e Prints in the Edo Period, 1603-1867 (Chapter 26 con't)

November 17 Contemporary Asian Architecture

November 22 No Class--Thanksgiving Recess

November 24 No Class--Thanksgiving Recess

November 29 Presentation of Group Projects
December 1 Presentation of Group Projects

December 6 Presentation of Group Projects
December 8 Presentation of Group Projects (all Scrapbooks due)

Final Exam: Monday, December 12, 3:00-5:00 p.m.

Notice Regarding Course Changes:

I reserve the right to modify the timing, order and content of the course schedule. It is your responsibility to attend class and be aware of any changes. Check the course website regarding any class cancellations should they become necessary due to adverse weather conditions or other situations.
Last Reviewed: January 7, 2008