Eastern Civilization & Chinese Culture

Eastern Civilization & Chinese Culture

Tibetan Culture at Jiuzhaigou National Park, Sichuan Province, China


Course description

Civilization of Persia, India, China, Japan and Korea; Development of political, economic, social, and cultural thinking; The dawn of Eastern philosophy; Epoch of changes through western civilization and its influence on social systems and philosophy of the East, and Eastern civilization’s adaptation towards globalization; The Impact of Islamic, Indian, and Chinese civilizations on other Far East countries.

Teaching Demo | Eastern Civilization | The Silk Road


In 1995, I applied to the University of Hawaii at Hilo (UHH) to study Chinese and philosophy after a UHH professor captured my imagination when he said, "You go to China – you learn many things – maybe change your life."

He was right; it did!

Since that time, I have been fortunate to study with outstanding professors, such as Dr. John H.L. Cheng and Dr. Roger Aimes at UHH, and with Chinese professors, such as Yang Xin, during summer study abroad programs with the Department of Philosophy at Peking University (北京大学).

University of Hawaii Professor John H.L. Cheng | 1995 Chinese Culture Study Tour with Peking University

One lifetime is not long enough to allow for a complete understanding of Chinese culture. Once a student, always a student – As reflected in the Chinese proverb: "Huo dao lao, xue dao lao," that is, "Live arrive old, study arrive old," an age-old Chinese belief in life-long learning.

Combining 20 years of academic experience with 5 University of Hawaii and Peking University Chinese Culture Study Tours, and as many accredited independent study travels in mainland China, I am happy to share my personal and practical knowledge with students through several introductory presentations featured here.

The topics and links provided are intended to guide open discussions and encourage active learning among students.



Develop an academic poster using PowerPoint or other software which can incorporate images, maps, tables, and text boxes.


Choose an archaeologist with deep experience in East Asia and discuss his/her education and personal background leading to their fieldwork. Emphasize the archaeological site or group of sites where s/he conducted fieldwork and research.

Note: Archaeology is the study of the ancient and recent human past, cultures, and civilizations through material remains and may include Cultural Resource Management (CRM) concerning the measures related to handling recovered materials.


Set slide dimensions for international A3, portrait or landscape (297 x 420 mm) (11.7 x 16.5 in)

Best Eastern Civilization Midterm Poster | By Pupae 2018


Chinese Culture | Typical art featuring the guardian-philosopher

Introduction to Chinese Thought in the Eastern Tradition | PDF

Introduction to Chinese Philosophy in the Context of Eastern Civilization | PDF



I first traveled the Chinese Silk Road in 1995 (Xian to Kashgar) and again in 2001 (Beijing, China, to Delhi, India).

The presentations featured here are based on my personal experience, that is, teaching through storytelling. As part of the Learning Adventure series, I have designed two website instruction pages: Part I – The Silk Road, and Part II – Pakistan and the Indus Valley.

On Ancient Tracks | The Silk Road and My Journey to the West | Click to learn more...

2011 scholarly presentation on the archaeology of the Silk Road by Colin Renfrew at the Penn Museum

Unsolved Mysteries of the Silk Road | Colin Renfrew | Penn Museum | 1:00:07

I have been fortunate to visit and explore a number of the sites and topics featured in Renfew's presentation. For our class discussion today, here are a few of Renfew’s "Questions of east-west exchange before Silk Road: one wheel, few horses".

  1. Earliest contacts: the millet question?
  2. First settlements in Xinjiang? : wheat at Xioahe
  3. The first copper metallurgy in China?
  4. How did the chariot reach China?
  5. The first mounted warriors in China?
  6. Indo-European origins seen from the east

National Geographic | Treasure Seekers: China's Frozen Desert

Based on the lives of Sir Aurel Stein and the 7th century Buddhist Monk, Xuanzang: "As commerce flourished along the Silk Road, Central Asia became a melting pot of cultures. Here on the edges of the Taklmakan Desert, an exotic blend of Indian, Mongol, Chinese, and European influences fueled an astonishing cultural Renaissance. In the 7th century, a Chinese monk, Xuanzang, plunged into the desert while on a Buddhist pilgrimage to India...

...His descriptions of the oasis-cities he encountered would prove invaluable to another explorer, more than a thousand years later. 20th century archeologist Sir Aurel Stein took on the deadly Taklamakan to prove his own theories about Western China's lost civilization. Again and again Xuanzang's writings led him to archeological treasure - once thriving cities now buried in the sand. On their monk's trail, Stein made his greatest discovery, a thousand-year-old Buddhist library in near-perfect condition " (National Geographic, 2001).

Marc Aurel Stein's Century-old Adventure Diary | Treasure Buried in the Sands

Click on the image below to view or download this 2013 CCTV-9 (China) English Documentary

Treasure Buried in the Sands

Century-old Adventure Diaries

Marc Aurel Stein [CCTV-9 Documentary English] 48 Minutes – Download

Click on the image or button below to view Stein's 1915 survey map of "Innermost Asia" (China's Taklimakan Desert) or his 1933 book "On Ancient Central-Asian Tracks"

Stein's 1933 "Innermost Asia" Map

CCTV Documentary Series Xuan Zang's Pilgrimage

In 2016, China's CCTV produced "Xuanzang's Pilgrimage", a documentary series on Xuan Zang's travels on the Silk Road. Narrated in English, the 12 segments are posted in 6 videos on YouTube. Runtime of each video is approximately 48 minuets.

Xuan Zang (1-2)

Xuan Zang (3-4)

Xuan Zang (5-6)

Xuan Zang (7-8)

Xuan Zang (9-10)

Xuan Zang (11-12)

2016 Biographical Drama Da Tang Xuan Zang

The 2016 Mandarin language historical drama “Da Tang Xuan Zang” is based on the life and travels of Xuan Zang during the Tang Dynasty. The film maps the young monk’s travels to India and quest for Buddhist teachings, featuring some of the challenges and struggles he faced.

Xuan Zang 2016 Historical Drama (Trailer)


A Source Book in Chinese Philosophy

Chan, W. (1969). A sourcebook in Chinese philosophy. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press.

Available online at Archive.org

Click to view or download this book | PDF

Key chapter reviews by Dr Steven A Martin


2010 Biographical Drama | Confucius

Confucius Motion Picture | Full HD | 2:05:00


Tai Shan, China | PDF Presentation

Cultural continuum on the North China Plain

Tai Shan | UNESCO World Heritage

According to UNESCO: "The sacred Mount Tai ('shan' means 'mountain') was the object of an imperial cult for nearly 2,000 years, and the artistic masterpieces found there are in perfect harmony with the natural landscape. It has always been a source of inspiration for Chinese artists and scholars and symbolizes ancient Chinese civilizations and beliefs."

GB Times | Tai Shan 2:41

Pilgrimage to Tai Shan | 1997

Dawenkuo Archaeological Site | 1997


Between 1995 and 2002, I studied abroad during summers at Peking University in Beijing. Hiking on the Great Wall quickly became my favorite activity, outside of attending lectures in Chinese philosophy on campus.

University of Hawaii students at Jin Shan Ling Great Wall

Each time I traveled to the Wall, I learned something new, and the more I visited different areas, the more I wanted to learn about the history and culture behind this amazing symbol of the Chinese people.

Peking University Professor Yang Xin was able to provide me with what I was looking for, namely historical and esthetic perspectives from philosophical viewpoints.

Today, my own Great Wall presentations reflect these expediences.

Great Wall of China Presentation | 57 Slides | 30 MB PDF

Hiking the Huang Hua Great Wall near Beijing

Smithsonian | 5:00

TED-ed | 4:30


TAIWAN STUDIES PLAYLIST | Steven A Martin, PhD | National Chengchi University | University Filmworks

In recent years, the Taiwan (ROC) - China (PRC) relationship plays out on the geopolitical stage. However, Taiwan has its own rich history, which I have generally organized into six sections.

  • Early indigenous Austronesian-speaking peoples inhabited the island for an estimated 5,000 years.
  • Dutch, Spanish, French, British, and other cultures prior to Chinese colonization of the Taiwan.
  • A loosely administered territory of China during the Qing Dynasty.
  • The island's annexation by Japanese after the treaty of Shimonoseki in 1895.
  • Post WWII period, as Taiwan became a stronghold for the Chinese Nationalist regime supported by the USA, and the economic miracle which catapulted the country into the 21st century.
  • Democratic Taiwan, including the indigenous rights movement.

Ethnohistorical Research on the Bunun of Taiwan

The Bunun, an Austronesian-speaking peoples on Taiwan | In Our Hearts and Minds | Steven Martin 6:25

Other research and videos on indigenous Bunun and Paiwan ethnolinguistic groups in Taiwan

The Sage Hunter | Full movie 1:40:00

Eat Drink Man Woman 飲食男女 1994 Taiwanese film directed by Ang Lee

飲食男女 refers to the basic human desires and accepting them as natural as expressed in the Book of Rites, one of the Confucian classics.

Why this film is appropriate for students in Eastern Civilization

In this film, the ancient art of Chinese cuisine connects with the personal lives of a contemporary Taiwanese household. Through watching the film, students realize that the thinking, detail and complexity of cooking mirrors Chinese life and philosophy as intricate and integrated processes. In Eastern civilizations, food is prepared and served in accordance with age old traditions – socially, culturally and politically.

The way we eat is the way we think.

Eat Drink Man Woman | Official Trailer

Download and view Eat Drink Man Woman (Full Movie) here on Google Drive

INDIAN CIVILIZATION | Key Words for Student Presentations

Taj Mahal, Agra, India | Mughal Empire | Photo 2001

Choose a key word from the list below and develop a 15 minute PowerPoint presentation with text, images, maps and one video link.

Key words offered here reflect a variety of concepts, including art, civilization, culture, dynasty, empire, geography, language, literature, people, politics, and religion.

Key words: Indus Valley, Harappa, Dravidian, Aryan, Sanskrit, Vedas, Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, Maurya, Ashoka, Taxila, Kushan, Bactria, Gandhara, Gupta, Islam, Sikhism, Mughal, British Raj, Scheduled Tribes, Pakistan, Bangladesh

Jivita's Story | Dr B R Ambedkar's social transformation through Buddhism | Original footage for "Arising Light" by David Blundell, content selection by Steven A Martin, and editing by Dean Karalekas

Kushan Empire | Connecting East & West

Gupta Dynasty | India's Golden Age

Mughals | Rise and Fall of an Empire




Develop an academic poster using PowerPoint or other software which can incorporate text, maps, tables, and images.


  1. Choose an anthropologist with deep experience in living among, or studying, an ethnolinguistic group in East or South Asia.
  2. Discuss the events or interests which led the anthropologist to study the ethnic group or culture.
  3. Emphasize the language, culture, history, and location of the ethnic group.
  4. Identify the significance of the ethnic group in terms of East Asian civilization.


Set slide dimensions for international A3, landscape (297 x 420 mm) (11.7 x 16.5 in)

Ethnic Uyghurs greeting tourists at the Gaochang ruins near Turpan, Xinjiang Autonomous Region, China, 2001

Examples | Scheduled Tribes of India


Hindu Culture - Agra India - Eastern Civilization - Steven A Martin - Study Abroad Journal

Hindu Culture | Agra, India

Dawenkuo, China | Archaeological Site

Buddhist Culture | Lhasa | Click to Tibet page

Kung Fu School - Shaolin Temple China - Dr Steven A Martin

Kung Fu School | Shaolin Temple, China

Islamic culture | Kashgar, Xinjiang | Click to Silk Road page

Chinese Opera | Taipei, Taiwan | Click to Taiwan page


Thank you for visiting Eastern Civilization Online.

If you feel motivated to know more about my courses or Learning Adventures, or would like to arrange for me to give a public talk, please let me know – I’d love to hear from you.

–Steven A. Martin

Monks in Xian, China, at the start of Silk Road | 1995

Chinese Philosophy

Chinese Philosophy


Course Description

Chinese philosophy and thoughts of pre-eminent philosophers in the past, including Confucianism, Mencianism, Taoism, and the religious thinking from the core of Confucius’ teaching.

 Course Objectives

  • To obtain the fundamental concepts of Chinese Philosophy, especially the extensive topics of Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism.
  • To determine a broad understanding of the life, values, and legacies of Confucian scholars with emphasis on Confucius, Mencius, and Zhu Xi.
  • To gain fundamental insights into classical Chinese philosophy during Spring and Autumn Period (770 BC to 480 BC) and Warring States Period (479 BC to 221 BC), including Confucianism, Taoism, Mohism, and Legalism.
  • To gain a scholarly understanding of the development of Chinese thought and philosophy in a comparative context with Western philosophical development. To investigate and present a selected topic to stimulate ideas and approaches to understanding Chinese philosophical thought and tradition.


A Source Book in Chinese Philosophy

Chan, W. (1969). A Sourcebook in Chinese Philosophy. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press.

Available online at Archive.org

Key chapter reviews by Dr Steven A Martin for discussion in Confucius' Teachings and Chinese Philosophy


CONFUCIUS (KUNG TZE) Biographical Drama (2010)

2010 Biographical Drama | Confucius (Kung Tze)


Introduction to Chinese Thought in the Eastern Tradition | PDF


Introduction to Chinese Philosophy in the Context of Eastern Asia | PDF



Hierarchy and Harmony — Confucius’ Five Cardinal Relationships

Steven A. Martin, PhD

As one of the central pillars in occidental culture, Confucianism has been one of the central philosophies of Eastern Civilization. This paper reviews concepts put forth in Confucius’ Five Cardinal Relationships and discusses the vertical hierarchy and harmony of Confucian doctrine in five short essays: morality in order, nature and order, education and order, power and order and globalization and order. My research aims to discern Confucius’ philosophy of social order in these contexts, offering contemporary criticism and a framework for future discussion.

Please contact me if you are interested in this research or reviewing a draft of my paper.

Thank you for visiting my Chinese Philosophy page.

This course is no longer offered at the university.

Relevant content has been moved to the Eastern Civilization and Silk Road course pages.