MIT Visualizing Cultures

Throwing Off Asia – Lesson 07

American Newspaper Narratives of the Sino-Japanese War

In this lesson, students use the Japanese woodblock prints of the Sino-Japanese War much as they were used at the time: to present media coverage of the war for Japanese people on the homefront. They will take the roles of third-party interests, specifically U.S. news correspondents reporting the Sino-Japanese War through the lenses of American perspectives, interests, and government policies. Working with an assigned perspective and using the Japanese woodblock prints as the illustrations to appear with their stories, students create a newspaper or magazine story on this war.

National History Standards (Word doc)

At the conclusion of this lesson, students will be better able to:
1. Discuss differing perspectives on the Sino-Japanese War that would be identified with a range of American interests in this war.

2. Consider how the Sino-Japanese War affected American interests and policies at the end of the 19th century.

3. Select and organize primary sources to support a particular point of view.

4. Recognize the role of perspective and subjectivity in developing a historical argument.

Time Required
One class period

Materials and preparation
Handout 07-A for all students

PowerPoint and Internet access for all students

1. Other countries followed the Sino-Japanese War with great interest, particularly the United States and European countries. This lesson asks students to consider how the Sino-Japanese War was perceived outside of the two countries directly involved.  Review with students the world context in which the Sino-Japanese War took place. Some possible questions follow.
   • What international policies were American and European countries pursuing in the late-19th century? (From previous study, students should know that Western countries were engaged in expansion and empire building.)

   • What foreign interests were already established in China by the time of the Sino-Japanese War? (Western nations had already staked economic claims in China and had strong economic interests. The Opium Wars and subsequent treaties by the major Western nations had divided China into concessions and spheres of influence and established most-favored nation agreements. Western groups—particularly Christian missionary groups—also had investments and interests in China.)
   • How might these interests have been affected if China won this war? If China lost to Japan?
   • What were the foreign interests in Japan? (Western nations had been unable to make the incursions into Japan that they had in China, but had established most-favored nation agreements and had economic interests in trade. They also followed Japan’s rapid modernization with interest.)
   • How might these interests have been affected if Japan won this war? If Japan lost?
2. Students may work individually, in pairs, or in groups to conduct this activity, depending on teacher preference and access to computers. Students will consider how the Sino-Japanese War may have been reported on in the United States, given various American interests and policies. They will be using the Japanese woodblock prints both as sources of information for their reports and as illustrations for their newspaper or magazine articles.
Distribute Handout 07-A, which contains student directions for the assignment, and review directions. Assign students or groups to one of the four roles described in Handout 07-A.
Students should create their newspaper reports in print form, being sure to address the “five w's” of newspaper reporting: who, what, when, where, why. Students should select five woodblock prints from Throwing Off Asia that support the position of their article, and use them as illustrations.
3. Provide time for students to conduct the project, followed by time in class for students to share their newspaper or magazine reports.
This lesson is based on a workshop lesson presented by Russell Irving, Pequannock Township High School, Pompton Plains, NJ, for the Program for Teaching East Asia at the University of Colorado.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology © 2008 Visualizing Cultures