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Religion and Philosophy in Ancient India and China

Religion and Philosophy in Ancient India and China

This second essay assignment asks you to think about the ancient Indian and Chinese works that we have read, the Ramayana, the Sakuntala, and the Confucian works, including The Doctrine of the Mean and The Great Learning. For this essay, you may only reference these specific works, though some minor citation and use of secondary sources is allowed. Since this is a close-reading essay, however, please use secondary sources only sparingly. Be sure to focus your essay on a strong thesis, organize it around a few specific main points, and support your response with evidence from the text or texts you are discussing, especially quotations, as you respond to one (1) of the following prompts:

    • Religion or Philosophy? Choose either the Ramayana, The Doctrine of the Mean, or The Great Learning. Is the way of life advocated by the text you have chosen more of a religion or a philosophy? Be sure to explain your understanding of the difference between religion and philosophy, and explain how the work fits into one category or the other (or somewhere in between if you don’t see it as being fully one or the other).


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    • Life Lessons: Consider one of the readings from this section of the course, and think about that work in terms of the sorts of lessons it teaches about everyday life. Create a short, 3-5 rule philosophy from this work, using examples from the work to illustrate and explain each rule you devise.


    • Different Kinds of Stories: Both the Ramayana and the Sakuntala are narrative stories. Are they, however, the same kind of story? Leaving aside the fact that the Sakuntala is a play, think about the narratives of the two works, and explain whether you see them as more similar or more different. Think in terms of scale, characters, themes, tone, and so forth.


    • Confucian Works and Form: What makes them different from other works that we have read so far, and how does that affect your experience of them? Do works like these belong in a literature class? Why or why not?


  • Make your own topic: come up with your own critical question about the assigned works from this unit, and write an essay arguing for your answer to that question. If you choose to do this prompt, please note that you are required to post your critical question and working thesis to the Week 7 Essay forum so that you can receive feedback from your instructor and classmates.

Please be sure your essay also meets the following guidelines:

  • Has a word count of 600-900 words (check with your instructor before submitting anything longer)
  • Includes the student-teacher cover letter
  • Format the essay using MLA essay format (see the attached sample essay) and MLA-style citations, including a works cited list at the end; for help with MLA format, please visit Diana Hacker’sResearch and Documentation Online
  • Spell check, and watch out for homonyms!

Seethis document for the grading rubric that will be used to evaluate the essay. The cover letter questions and final draft checklist can be found here.

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