The political, economic, and cultural importance of the nations of Asia is increasing in today’s world. In light of this growing significance, the Asian Studies Program at Rhodes College seeks to promote the understanding of Asia and its role in world civilization as well as its current political, economic, and cultural importance.
Asian Studies at Rhodes includes within its purview the entirety of the Asian continent with the exception of the region traditionally known as the Middle East (i.e., Persia, the Arab nations, Turkey and Israel). This scope includes several major regions that share important cultural traits:
- the East Asian, or Sinitic, sphere (China, Korea, Japan).
- the South Asian, or Indic, sphere (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan).
- the Southeast Asian sphere, in which both Sinitic and Indian cultures have played an important role (Burma, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, the Philippines).
- the Inner Asian sphere (Mongolia, parts of China and the Soviet Union [such as Tibet, Manchuria, Xinjiang, Soviet Central Asia, Siberia], Afghanistan).
Historical forces have at times created relationships that transcend this division into four cultural spheres; the most obvious of these are the spread of religions, particularly Buddhism, and international trade. Political concerns have also engendered relationships among Asian nations that go beyond the cultural spheres described above.