The humanities may be defined broadly as the study of the various artistic ways in which people from all times and places process and document their experiences.
Since the beginning, humans have used philosophy, literature, myth, art, architecture, music, history and language to understand and account for their world. These modes of creative, devotional and analytical expression, and the works they produced, have become the objects of humanistic study. Knowledge and appreciation of these records of human experience allow us to feel a sense of kinship to the numerous civilizations of the past and present, as well as to refine and enrich our own capacity for expression and understanding of the world.
Historically speaking, “humanities” is a term of western derivation. It was used during the Renaissance to refer to a particular course of study (studia humanitatis) designed to cultivate students’ habits and knowledge, preparing them for public service. It was an ennobling curriculum based on the knowledge of classical languages and sciences for the nurturing of citizens-leaders of a new social order.
Since that time, the approach and content, students and contexts in which the humanities have been taught have undergone dramatic changes. Asianhumanities.org continues to encourage the evolution of the studia humanitatis by inviting visitors to expand their understanding of the term to embrace the richness of non-western traditions, ancient and modern.
Challenging ourselves to examine seriously the philosophy, visual and dramatic arts, architecture, religion, music, languages, cinema, and literature of Asia is an ambitious undertaking. It requires us to extend boldly efforts to comprehend intellectually, aesthetically, and emotionally the traditions, practices and works sometimes far removed from western tastes and commonplaces. At the same time, that effort must be tempered by the humble recognition that the western humanities aloneare inadequate to prepare us for lives of global citizenship. We must strive to know Confucius as well as we do Plato, the Shwedagon Pagoda as well as St. Peter’s, Du Fu as well as Shakespeare, the Ramayana as well as the Lives of Saints, and so forth.
We welcome you to the site and hope your journey is an enriching one.
Please feel free to use our resources. We only ask that due citation be granted when any of our media or materials are quoted and taken elsewhere.
The launch of asianhumanities.org was made possible by a generous grant from the Andrew Mellon Foundation and is currently maintained by Asian Studies faculty and students at Centre College.
Kyle David Anderson, PhD