Explore relevant terms to support you and your learners. 

  • Akha | noun

    Pronunciation: Ack-ha

    An ethnic subgroup of the Hani people with populations in China, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia.

  • Allah | noun

    Pronunciation: Ah-lah

    The Arabic word for “God” in Abrahamic religions (ie. Christianity and Judaism).

  • AMEMSA | noun

    A related identity group of distinct communities (Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim, South Asian) who have experienced Islamophobia, racial profiling as potential terrorists and other forms of targeted surveillance in the post-9/11 era.

    Source: Dr. Dawn Lee Tu, professional development and diversity and inclusion strategist at De Anza College, NBC News, Asian American and Pacific Islanders – a FAQ

  • Amitabha (Sanskrit); A-mi-t’o-p’o (Chinese); Amida (Japanese) | noun

    Pronunciation: Sanskrit (ah-mee-TAH-bah); Chinese: (ah-mee-TOH-poh); Japanese: (ah-MEE-dah)

    The Buddha of Infinite Light. Creator of the Pure Land or Western Paradise, a place where beings can strive toward enlightenment free from the pain and suffering associated with life on earth.

  • Arhat (Sanskrit); Louhan (Chinese) | noun

    Pronunciation: Sanskrit (aar-huht); Chinese (low-han)

    A disciple of the historical Buddha who attained a perfected state through meditation and studying, and, as a result, was deified.

  • Asia | noun

    the continent that is to the east of Europe, the west of the Pacific Ocean, and the north of the Indian Ocean

  • Asian American | noun

    A unifying political identity for Asian ethnic groups in the United States. The term was coined in 1968 by student activists Yuji Ichioka and Emma Gee to strategically resist U.S. Imperialism in Southeast Asia and the use of the derogatory term “Oriental” by white Americans.

  • asylum seeker | noun

    A person who flees their home country, enters another country, and applies for asylum in this other country. Once the asylum seeker’s claim has been approved, they’re recognized as a refugee.

  • Avalokiteshvara (Sanskrit); Guanyin (Chinese); Kannon (Japanese)  | noun

    Pronunciation: ava-loki-tesh-vah-ra

    The bodhisattva of compassion in Buddhism associated with the Buddha Amitabha.

  • Batik | noun

    A wax-resist dye technique where the parts of cloth covered in wax resist the dye. 

  • Bisque firing | verb

    When an object is low-fired in order to remove the water bonded to the clay particles. A clay body with high firing thresholds can be bisque fired at a high temperature and then fired once glazed at the glaze’s firing temperature.

  • Black-White binary paradigm | noun

    A simplistic paradigm of race relations with only two categories, black and white. This dualism shapes the U.S. value system, omitting communities of color who do not fit this binary (Asian, Latino, Native American, Multiracial).

  • Bodhisattva (Sanskrit); Bosatsu (Japanese)  | noun

    Pronunciation: Sanskrit (boh-dee-SAHT-vah); Japanese (boh-sat-su)

    A being who has the wisdom and power sufficient to become a Buddha, forestalls attaining Buddha-hood to help others find salvation.

  • Brahma (Sanskrit); Fantian (Chinese: pinyin); Bonten (Japanese)  | noun

    Pronunciation: Braa-muh (Sanskrit); Fa-tien (Chinese); Bon-ten (Japanese)

    The creator god in Hinduism. He is generally depicted with four heads each facing a cardinal direction and four arms holding an alms bowl, bow, book, and prayer beads.

  • Buddha | noun

    Pronunciation: BOO-dah

    A being who has attained complete enlightenment (nirvana), the highest level of perfection within the Buddhist spectrum of existence.

  • Byobu | noun

    Pronunciation: BYOH-boo

    Literally “wind barrier,” byobu are folding screens constructed of wood and paper. While they can be used to block the wind outdoors, they are commonly used to divide interior spaces and to provide privacy. The surfaces of byobu are often decorated with paintings.

  • Celadon | noun

    Pronunciation: SELL-ah-dahn

    An iron oxide glaze found on stoneware which produces a range of green-hued colors.

  • Central Asia | noun

    The region in Asia which stretches from the Caspian Sea in the west to China in the east, and Russia in the north to Afghanistan and Iran in the south. The region consists of the former Soviet republics Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.

    Source: Encyclopedia Britannica

  • Chan Buddhism (Japanese: Zen); (Korean: Son) | noun

    While embracing the vast Mahayanist pantheon, Chan Buddhism stresses an individual’s efforts to achieve enlightenment through meditation. Chan Buddhists trace this tradition all the way back to the historic Buddha who first achieved enlightenment while seated in meditation. The Indian sage Bodhidharma transmitted the creed to China by the 6th century CE. Chan Buddhism became popular in Japan during the Kamakura period (1185-1382).

  • Chanoyu | noun

    Pronunciation: Cha-no-you

    Literally meaning “hot water for tea,” is a term used for Japanese tea ceremony.

  • Chashitsu | noun

    Pronunciation: Cha-she-tsu

    Teahouse/tea room used for tea ceremonies.

  • Colonialism | noun

    The system or policies in which the colonizer maintains and institutionalizes the colonizer/colonized relationship, resulting in long-term territorial and economic exploitation of the colonized. Ongoing and legacy colonial systems established during the European colonial period from the 15th – 19th centuries impact power relations in most of the world today.

  • colonization | noun

    A form of invasion, dispossession and subjugation of a people by another, initiated or continued by geographical intrusion in the form of agricultural, urban, or industrial encroachments resulting in the large-scale dispossession of land from the original inhabitants. The colonizer/colonized relationship is by nature an unequal one that benefits the colonizer at the expense of the colonized.

    Source: Colonization and Racism. Film, Emma LaRocque, PhD., Aboriginal Perspective

  • contemporary art | noun

    “The art of today”, which more broadly includes artwork produced during the late 20th and early 21st centuries by artists living in the time. It provides opportunities to reflect on society and engage in the cultural dialogue that concerns larger contextual frameworks such as identity, family, community, and nationality.

  • counternarrative | noun

    A narrative that arises from the vantage point of those who have been historically marginalized. A counternarrative resists the notion that those in relative positions of power can tell stories of those in the margins. Instead, these stories must come from the margins to create complex narratives that give agency to those in marginalized communities.

    Source: Center for Intercultural Dialogue

  • Creativity at Mia |

    A dynamic process of fresh thinking that transcends traditional ideas and associations to make meaningful new connections, ideas, and solutions. Engaging with art, materials, and others’ ideas inspires creativity.

  • Critical Thinking at Mia |

    A deliberate and reflective process of analyzing, evaluating and synthesizing information gathered from interactions with artworks and ideas. Critical thinking assists in making connections between art and life.

  • cultural appropriation | noun

    Theft of cultural elements for one’s own use, commodification, or profit — including symbols, art, language, customs, etc. — often without understanding, acknowledgement, or respect for its value in the original culture. This results from the dominant (i.e. white) culture’s assumption that it is right to take others’ cultural elements.

    Source: Colors of Resistance Archive

  • cultural authenticity | noun

    A notion that defines certain aspects of a culture as required criteria, acting as a gatekeeper to imply that others behaviors are “inauthentic” and that individuals can be evaluated on this basis as legitimate or illegitimate members of a culture.

  • cultural misappropriation | noun

    The copying, mimicking, recreation, and commodification of a cultural fixture of a marginalized culture/community by the dominant culture against the will of the original community.

    Source: Resources on What ‘Cultural Appropriation’ Is and Isn’t, Devyn Springer

  • culture | noun

    A social system of meaning and custom that is developed by a group of people to assure its adaptation and survival. These groups are distinguished by a set of unspoken rules that shape values, beliefs, habits, patterns of thinking, behaviors and styles of communication.

    Source: Institute for Democratic Renewal and Project Change Anti-Racism Initiative.

  • Dao | noun

    Pronunciation: daw

    Literally the way. A void from which all things come from.

  • Daoism | noun

    Pronunciation: daw-i-zm

    A religious and philosophical system that originated in China and is attributed to Laozi, a scholar active around 500 BCE.

  • decolonization | noun

    The process of bringing an end to colonization through (among other things) supporting the right of colonized or formerly colonized peoples to economic and territorial self-determination, as expressed through addressing grief, complex narratives, return of thefted cultural objects, and equal inclusion in knowledge and power systems.

  • dehumanization | noun

    Actions or an act thereof, that can be described as denying the full humanness of others, and the cruelty and suffering that accompany it.

  • Desi | noun

    A subjective term to describe people, cultures, and products from India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, the Maldives, Bhutan, Nepal, and Afghanistan and their diaspora. This term can homogenize the diversity of South Asian cultures, and is not universally adopted by those who hail from this region.



    Rohin Guha, executive editor of The Aerogram

    NBC News, Asian American and Pacific Islanders – a FAQ


  • Devas | noun

    Pronunciation: DAY-vahss

    Literally “heavenly beings,” devas comprise a large group of deities from the pantheons of other religions—especially Hinduism—who have been adopted into the service of Buddhism.

  • Devi | noun

    Pronunciation: dev-vi

    The term used to refer to Hindu goddesses.

  • diaspora | noun

    A scattered population living outside of their natal (or imagined natal) territories as a result of a voluntary or involuntary mass dispersion that reflects the original homeland in languages spoken, religions adopted, and cultures produced.

    Source: “The Culture of Diasporas in the Postcolonial Web”, Leong Yew

  • displaced person | noun

    A person who is forced to leave their home because of war, persecution, or natural disaster. Not all displaced people are refugees, some are internally displaced within their home country.

  • diversity | noun

    A broad term for the variety of ways in which a group differs. Regarding human beings, it encompasses (but is not limited to) characteristics of race, ethnicity, gender, age, national origin, religion, disability, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, education, marital status, language, and physical appearance

    Source: UC Berkeley Center for Equity, Inclusion and Diversity, Glossary of Terms
    Baltimore Racial Justice Action

  • dominant narrative | noun

    An explanation or story told in service of the dominant social group’s interests and ideologies that exempts alternative accounts. Dominant narratives rely on repetition and authority to appear normal, objective and factual.

    Source: Inclusive Teaching, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

  • dougong | noun

    A structural element of interlocking wooden brackets and blocks which does not use glue or nails. As an architectural construction, dǒugǒng connects the building’s pillars and columns to the roof and forms a structural network that distributes the weight, and binds the roof and the pillars together. The element’s design makes structures that implement earthquake-resistant.

  • Dragon kiln | noun

    A type of kiln that originated in China, which features a long firing chamber that climbs up a slope.

  • East Asia | noun

    The eastern subregion of Asia, which is defined in both geographical and ethno-cultural terms. The region consists of China, Hong Kong, Macao, Mongolia, North Korea, South Korea, Japan, and Taiwan.

  • Eight Trigrams | noun

    Symbols which serve as the basis for “the sixty-four hexagrams of the Changes of Zhou,” a divination text from the Western Zhou dynasty (c. 1050-771 BCE). The Eight Trigrams configuration of broken and solid lines represent yin and yang.In addition the trigrams were critical for Taoist Alchemy because they helped Taoist alchemists’ ability to manipulate yin and yang towards understanding, to attain immortality, and  to explain “the cosmological principles of transformation.”

  • empathy | noun

    The ability to understand and share feelings of another, including “affective empathy” which refers to the sensations and feelings people get in response to others’ emotions, and “cognitive empathy” which refers to our ability to identify and comprehend others’ emotions.


  • Empathy at Mia | noun

    Utilizing art, interpretation, and dialogue as catalysts for emotional and cognitive connection and perspective-taking, and using this understanding to guide our actions. Works of art express the human experience, across time, media, and cultures. Mia’s expansive collection offers a rich and complex range of material that can be used to accrue a greater understanding of humanity and the self.

  • equity | noun

    A strategy to create conditions or processes of fairness that accounts for existing inequalities, oppressions, and identities intersecting multiple inequalities and oppressions. Commonly mistaken with equality, which refers to all sharing the same access, resources, and benefits, etc. regardless of each individual’s starting position.


  • erasure | noun

    The practice of collective indifference and lack of recognition and representation to a people’s history, pain, and achievements that renders certain people and groups invisible in broader society.

  • Esoteric Buddhism | noun

    Developed by the 6th century CE in India, Esoteric Buddhism incorporated many different practices, including some sexual rites, to induce the state of enlightenment. A large number of folk gods as well as Hindu deities entered the Buddhist pantheon. This form of Buddhism is known as esoteric because stress was placed on transmission of secret formulas (mantra), gestures (mudra), and diagrams (mandala) from master to pupil. Tibetan Buddhism, known as Vajrayana, is the most prevalent form of Esoteric Buddhism, but other sects also incorporate esoteric practices, notably the Shingon (True Word) sect of Japan.

  • Essentialism | noun

    The idea that people and things have natural characteristics that are inherent and unchanging. When applied to a culture, this categorizing of characteristics prohibits self-determination, evolution, and a plurality of characteristics within a culture.

  • ethnicity | noun

    A social construct that divides people into smaller social groups based on characteristics such as shared sense of group membership, values, behavioral patterns, language, political and economic interests, history and ancestral geographical base.

    Examples of different ethnic groups are: Cape Verdean, Haitian, African American (Black); Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese (Asian); Cherokee, Mohawk, Navaho (Native American); Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican (Latino); Polish, Irish, and Swedish (White).

    Source: Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice: A Sourcebook. Maurianne Adams, Lee Anne Bell, and Pat Griffin, editors. Routledge, 1997.

  • exile | noun

    The condition of being sent or kept away from one’s native country, village, etc. especially for political reasons.

    Source: Cambridge Dictionary

  • exodus | noun

    The movement of a lot of people from a place.

    Source: Cambridge Dictionary

  • exoticize | verb

    To portray (someone or something unfamiliar) as exotic (of foreign origin, introduced from abroad) or unusual; romanticize or glamorize.

  • first-generation immigrant |

    A person born in one country that has become a citizen or resident in another country after relocation.

  • Five Pillars of Islam | noun

    (1) Profession of Faith (shahada) – this is the belief that “There is no god but God, and Muhammad is the Messenger of God.” (2) Prayer (salat) – occurs five times a day either alone or amongst a congregation in a mosque. (3) Alms (zakat)- according to Islamic law, Muslims are required to donate a portion of their income to people in need.(4) Fasting (sawm) – pertains to observing the fast of Ramadan. (5) Pilgrimage (haji) – Muslims travel to Mecca to visit sacred sites to enact rituals.

  • forced migration | noun

    A general term that refers to the movements of refugees and internally displaced people (those displaced by conflicts within their country of origin) as well as people displaced by natural or environmental disasters, chemical or nuclear disasters, famine, or development projects.

    Source: Forced Migration Learning Module

  • forever foreigner stereotype |

    Also known as the “perpetual foreigner stereotype”, a racialized form of nativist xenophobia in which naturalized and even native-born citizens (including families which have lived in the country for generations) are perceived as foreign because they belong to minority groups.

  • Ganesha | noun

    Pronunciation: (guh-ney-shuh)

    The son of Shiva and Parvati. Known as the Lord of Beginnings and the Lord of Obstacles, Ganesha is able to defeat any obstacle and Hindus enlist Ganesha’s help before beginning any major event. One defining attribute is his elephant head. In Hinduism, Ganesha must be offered a coconut or a prayer when a new endeavor is commenced.

  • glaze | noun

    A vitreous substance that applied to ceramic ware that fuses and hardens to its applied surface when fired. The substance waterproofs ceramic ware, adds durability, makes it food safe, and adds luster.

  • Global Understanding at Mia | noun

    Exploring, engaging with, and connecting with diverse people and cultures through the lens of art. Artwork from around the world and through history invites learners to consider multiple worldviews, and provides an opportunity for Mia to create relevant, timely connections to current events and trends.

  • Gopi | noun

    Pronunciation: (goh-pee)

    The female cowherds who are enamored of Krishna.

  • high-fired | verb

    A ceramic that is fired (baked) at a very high temperature, generally producing a very durable material.

  • Hinayana | noun

    Pronunciation: He-na-ya-na

    Meaning the “Lesser Vehicle”, it is also called Theraveda (Doctrine of the Elders). It is the earliest form of Buddhism, and is probably the closest to the original doctrine of Shakyamuni. Hinayana Buddhists stress moral discipline and believe that enlightenment can only be attained by closely following the Buddha’s path. Consequently, enlightenment is only possible to a devoted few—usually members of the monastic community. Hinayana imagery is almost exclusively concerned with depictions of Shakyamuni, his past lives, and his life on earth.

  • Hmong | noun

    Pronunciation: muhng

    An ethnic group in East Asia and Southeast Asia.

  • Hmong Shamanism | noun

    The belief system of the Hmong where a shaman functions as the intermediary between the spirit world and the world of the living. The shaman performs rituals for divination, healing of ailments, and power over natural events.

  • Ichiboku-zukuri | noun

    Pronunciation: ii-chi-bow-ku-zoo-ku-ri

    A wood sculpture construction technique where the main part of a statue (the head and torso) are made from a single block of wood.

  • Ikat | noun

    Pronunciation: Ee-cat

    An Indonesian dye resist technique in which the threads are dyed before weaving.

  • immigrant | noun

    A person who leaves a country of residence or birth to settle in another, or whose ancestry includes recent generations moving from one country to another.

  • Imperialism | noun

    A policy, system, and (or) ideology in which a country rules other countries by using military force, or gaining economic or political control to maintain power.

  • implicit bias | noun

    Also known as unconscious or hidden bias, an implicit bias is a negative association that people unknowingly hold. Implicit biases affect individuals’ attitudes and actions despite an individual’s stated commitments to equality and fairness, thus having unintended but significant real-world implications.

    Source: State of the Science Implicit Bias Review 2013, Cheryl Staats, Kirwan Institute, The Ohio State University.

  • Islam | noun

    Pronunciation: Iz-laam

    A major world religion dated to the 600s CE, when the prophet Muhammad received a revelation that there is one true God, as opposed to many gods. Muslims consider Muhammad to be the Messenger of God.

  • Islamophobia | noun

    The fear, hatred of, or prejudice against the Islamic religion or Muslims generally. Islamophobic beliefs include: that Islam is a monolothic religion with no common values with other faiths; is inferior to Judaism and Christianity, is exceptionally archaic, barbaric, and irrational; is a religion of violence that supports terrorism; and is a violent political ideology.

    Source: [Haas Institute, UC Berkeley]

  • Jainism | noun

    Pronunciation: Jain-ism

    An Indian religion which teaches the path to salvation and enlightenment is through a path of non-violence towards all life.

  • jali | noun

    Pronunciation: ja-lee

    A perforated stone screen found in Indian architecture which served secular and non-secular purposes. Its perforated screens cools the space by circulating air and offering shade. It also diffuses the image of those behind it.

  • Kano School | noun

    Pronunciation: ka-no

    A hereditary school of painting founded during the Muromachi period (1336-1573) which continued for more than 300 years into modern Japan. It features realistic depictions of subjects in the foreground like the cranes above, were “juxtaposed with “negative space implying mist, clouds, sea or sky in the background to indicate distance.”

  • Karen | noun

    Pronunciation: k’REN

    An ethnic minority in Myanmar with significant populations in Thailand and the United States.

  • Kayagum (gayageum) | noun

    Pronunciation: guy-ya-goon

    A traditional Korean zither, a stringed instrument.

  • Kesi | noun

    Pronunciation: Keh-suh

    A type of silk tapestry weaving used to describe when colored weft threads create the pattern and form the outline. The design was sketched on paper and then placed beneath the warp threads. An artisan would then use a brush to trace the image onto the warp by looking through the warp threads. Once traced, the color for each section was selected and executed in its appropriate section.

  • Kheng (Qeej) | noun

    Pronunciation: ghleng

    An L-shaped woodwind instrument constructed from bamboo. It is primarily played for Hmong funerals.

  • Krishna | noun

    Pronunciation: krish-nuh

    A Hindu deity and the eighth avatar of Vishnu.

  • Lacquer | noun

    A varnish derived from the sap of lacquer trees that can be applied to various surfaces such as metal and wood. Lacquer could be used for utilitarian or non-functional products.

  • Lakshmi | noun

    Pronunciation: luhksh-mee

    The Hindu goddess of fortune and consort of Vishnu. She is typically portrayed with four arms and standing on a lotus flower. She is associated with two vehicles–a white owl and an elephant.

  • Laozi | noun

    Pronunciation: lou-dzuh

    A Chinese philosopher credited with founding the philosophical system of Daoism. He is best known as the author of the Daodejing, the work which exemplifies his thought.

  • lintel | noun

    A horizontal structural member, such as a beam or stone, that spans the opening as between the uprights of a door, window, or similar architectural element.

  • literati | noun

    A social class of Chinese men, trained in Confucian classics, who cultivated the arts—painting, calligraphy, poetry, and music. Some served the state as scholar officials—and all played the reclusive role of retired gentlemen.

  • lost-wax technique | noun

    An image is first constructed of wax and overlaid with clay. During the firing stage, the wax melts away and hardened clay mold is left. Afterwards bronze is poured inside and the clay mold is broken once the bronze hardens, leaving a casted bronze image.

  • low-fired | verb

    Ceramics that are fired at low temperatures. Low fired ceramics are usually porous until gazed.

  • lute | noun

    (in ceramics) A technique for joining pieces of unfired ceramic sections together using a wet clay slip.

  • Mandala | noun

    A sacred diagram of circles and squares representing the cosmos, with amantra) or deity at the center.

  • Mara | noun

    Pronunciation: Mah-ra

    A demonic king in Buddhism who challenged Shakyamuni, the historic Buddha, with various forms of temptation on his path to enlightenment.

  • Miao | noun

    Pronunciation: Mi-ao

    A term used to describe four ethnic minorities from southern China.

  • microaggression | noun

     The everyday, subtle, intentional — and oftentimes unintentional — interactions or behaviors that communicate some sort of bias toward historically marginalized groups. For example, someone commenting on how well an Asian American person speaks English, presuming they were not born here, is one example of a microaggression.

    Source: NPR: LifeKit

  • migrant | noun

    A person who moves from one place to another. Not all migrants are asylum seekers; economic migrants move from one place to another in order to find work or better living conditions.

  • model minority myth | noun

    The model minority is a term created by sociologist William Petersen in 1966 to describe Asian American communities, whom he saw as being able to overcome oppression in the United States because of their cultural values. Since Petersen, the model minority stereotype has been described as a myth rooted in colorism, anti-Blackness, and white supremacy culture that ignores the marginalization Asian American communities experience.

    Source: Asian American Activism: The Continuing Struggle

  • Moksha | noun

    Pronunciation: mohk-shuh

    The release from rebirths in Hinduism.

  • monoprint | noun

    A form of printmaking where the image can only be made once, unlike most printmaking which allows for multiple originals

  • Mudra | noun

    Pronunciation: muh-druh

    Hand gestures found in Hinduism and Buddhism which relay characteristics or ideas.

  • Nashiji | noun

    Pronunciation: nah-she-gee

    Gold or silver flakes called nashiji-ko are sprinkled onto the surface of the object (excluding the design), on which lacquer has been applied.

  • Nijiriguchi | noun

    Pronunciation: ni-gee-ri-goo-chi

    Literally meaning “crawl door,” 72cm (28in) tall. It forces participants to bend down in order to enter the space. Sen no Rikyu designed the nijiriguchi as a tool for guests to express their humility and discard their social status upon entering the teahouse.

  • nirvana | noun

    Pronunciation: neer-VAH-nah

    Enlightenment that is achieved when desires to the earthly realm are extinguished, thus ending samsara, the cycle of life and death.

  • Nivkh | noun

    Pronunciation: neef-kee, -khee

    An indigenous ethnic group with populations in Russia (ex. Sakhalin Island), Japan, and the Ukraine.

  • Orientalism | noun

    The imitation or depiction of aspects in the Eastern world by writers, artists, and designers from the West. Orientalism was first termed by the cultural critic and theorist Edward Saïd, arguing that the dominant 19th century European political ideology essentialized the Orient (see: Essentialism) in order to subjugate and control it.

    Source: Khan Academy, “Orientalism”

  • orthogonal grid | noun

    A grid in which lines intersect at a right angle.

  • othering | verb

    treating people from another group as essentially different from and generally inferior to the group you belong to.

    Source: Othering and Belonging; The Problem of Othering: Towards Inclusiveness and Belonging

  • overglaze | noun

    Color that is applied after an object has been fired once in the kiln.

  • oxidation | noun

    A firing process in which extra oxygen is present in the kiln to change the chemical composition of the glazes on clay objects while they are being fired, producing a range of special effects.

  • Pacific Islander | noun

    An ethnic/racial term to describe people of the Pacific Islands, including inhabitants and those of diasporas from Oceania. In the US, the Census Bureau grouped persons of Asian Ancestry with Pacific Islanders from 1980 until the 2000 Census in which the groups became two separate racial categories. There are significant differences between the two groups’ experiences in relation to struggles of sovereignty, decolonization, assimilation into the American mainstream, and ascribing the model minority stereotype.


    Dr. Dawn Lee Tu, professional development and diversity and inclusion strategist at De Anza College

    NBC News, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders – a FAQ

  • Paj ntaub | noun

    Pronunciation: pan dau

    Meaning “flower cloth,” is a textile art produced by the Hmong. The designs can be found on garments for babies, weddings, and funerals. According to the Hmong paj ntaub was devised as a means to preserve their written script after the Chinese invasion.

  • parinirvana | noun

    Pronunciation: pah-ree-neer-VAH-nah

    Meaning Beyond nirvana, it is the state an enlightened being such as a Buddha passes upon physical death.

  • porcelain | noun

    A high-fired white ceramic ware that is made of kaolin or China clay.

  • post-and-lintel system | noun

    An architectural system involving three elements. A horizontal element known as a lintel is placed atop two vertical elements (posts). This system supports the gable roof, rafters and brackets.

  • power | noun

    The ability to influence others and impose one’s beliefs, in a relational manner that can be both intentional or unintentional. In contemporary society, wealth, whiteness, citizenship, patriarchy, heterosexism, and education are a few key social mechanisms through which power operates, often invisibly, as individuals within a culture may benefit from power of which they are unaware.

    Source: Intergroup Resources, 2012, Alberta Civil Liberties Research Center.

  • prejudice | noun

    An unfair and unreasonable opinion or feeling that is formed without experience or knowledge.

    Source: Cambridge Dictionary

  • provenance | noun

    The place of origin or earliest known history of something; a record of ownership of a work of art or an antique, used as a guide to authenticity or quality

  • Pure Land Buddhism | noun

    Centers around the belief in Amitabha, the Buddha of Western Paradise, developed in India as early as the 2nd century and was transmitted to China in the 3rd century. Through faith in the mercy and saving grace of Amitabha, followers believed they would be reborn in a kind of heaven (Pure Land or Western Paradise) where they could continue to strive toward enlightenment free from the difficulties of life on earth. Pure Land teaching became popular in China in the 7th century and in Japan in the 12th century.

  • race | noun

    A grouping of humans based on shared physical or social qualities into categories, first used to refer to speakers of a common language, then to denote national affiliations. By the 17th century, race was adapted by scientists to refer to physical traits that often supported European world-views of superiority and inferiority. Race is a social construct not rooted in biological fact but instead is partly based on physical similarities within groups such as skin color. Racial designations have changed over time, including in the US where groups considered white today were considered “non-white” in previous eras (Irish, Italian, Jewish peoples).

    Source: PBS, Race: Power of an Illusion
    Paul Kivel, Uprooting Racism: How White People Can Work for Racial Justice (Gabriola Island, British Columbia: New Society Publishers, 2002), p.141.

  • racialization | noun

    The very complex and contradictory process through which groups come to be designated as being of a particular “race” and on that basis subjected to differential and/or unequal treatment. While white people are also racialized, this process is often rendered invisible or normative to those designated as white.

    Source: Calgary Anti-Racism Resources

  • racism | noun

    A political system (which affects a society’s cultural beliefs, values, policies, institutions, distribution of resources) that is founded on the belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities, and that a particular race is superior or inferior to another.

    Source: Dismantling Racism Works web workbook

  • refugee | noun

    An asylum seeker who has been given legal refugee status by the immigration authorities of the country where asylum is sought. Refugee status is determined according to the 1951 Refugee Convention (aka the Geneva Convention).

  • roji | noun

    Pronunciation: ROH-jee

    Literally meaning “dewy path,” it is a garden featuring a stone path for visitors to take for entry into the teahouse. In order to provide guests with a new experience, the path is unique to each ceremony.

  • Sanjusangen-do | noun

    Pronunciation: San-juu-san-gen-dou

    A Buddhist temple in the Higashiyama district of Kyoto, Japan. It is known for housing 1,000 life-sized 1,000 Armed Kannon.

  • second-generation immigrant | noun

    A native-born child of foreign-born (first-generation) parents.

  • Shinto | noun

    Pronunciation: Shin-tou

    A polytheistic religion in Japan which is also referred to as “kami no michi,” “path of the gods.” People worship deities known as kami.

  • Shiva | noun

    Pronunciation: Shiv-va

    The creator and destroyer of the universe, he is a major god within the pantheon of Hindu deities.

  • Shoin | noun

    Pronunciation: SHOH-een

    Literally means “book room” or a “study,” is a style of Japanese architecture that developed during the Muromachi Period—roughly between the 14th and the 16th century. The style is characterized by the use of tatami mats, square columns, sliding doors, coffered ceilings, and the integration of spaces in which to display art

  • Soan | noun

    Pronunciation: SOH-ahn

    Literally meaning “grass hut,” a tea ceremony architecture style distinguished by its small and rustic style.

  • South Asia | noun

    A region of southern Asia consisting of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka.

  • Southeast Asia | noun

    A region of Asia consisting of Brunei, Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia, Timor-Leste, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

  • stereotype | noun

    a widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing

    Source: Diversity and Social Justice: A Glossary of Terms; Office of Multicultural Affairs

  • structural racism | noun

    Also known as institutional racism, the normalization and legitimization of an array of dynamics — historical, cultural, institutional, and interpersonal — that routinely advantage whites while producing cumulative and chronic adverse outcomes for people of color. The result is an underlying system of power relationships based in white supremacy values that leads to widespread inequality across a society’s institutions.

  • taiko | noun

    Pronunciation: Tie-co

    Refers to any kind of drum in Japanese. Outside of Japan, the term refers to Japanese drums and ensemble taiko performances.

  • Taotie | noun

    Pronunciation: tao-ti-aye

    An animal mask motif found in Chinese Bronze Age art (2000 BCE-221 BCE).

  • tatami | noun

    Pronunciation: tah-TAH-mee

    Thickly woven mats of rice straw and rushes used to cover the floor in traditional Japanese houses.

  • test | noun

    Sed porttitor lectus nibh. Curabitur aliquet quam id dui posuere blandit. Pellentesque in ipsum id orci porta dapibus. Vivamus suscipit tortor eget felis porttitor volutpat. Praesent sapien massa, convallis a pellentesque nec, egestas non nisi. Donec sollicitudin molestie malesuada. Mauris blandit aliquet elit, eget tincidunt nibh pulvinar a. Vivamus suscipit tortor eget felis porttitor volutpat. Curabitur aliquet quam id dui posuere blandit. Vivamus magna justo, lacinia eget consectetur sed, convallis at tellus. Nulla quis lorem ut libero malesuada feugiat.

  • The Three Purities (Chinese: Sanqing) | noun

    The Three Purities are the highest gods of religious Taoism. They are the following: (1) Celestial Worthy of the Primordial Beginning: teacher and patriarch of the highest scriptural tradition, (2) The Celestial Worthy of Numerous Treasure:  the attendant of the Celestial Worthy of the Primordial Beginning, and charged with disseminating Daoist teachings to lesser gods and humans, (3) Laozi the author of the Way of the Dao (Daodejing) is the Celestial Worthy of the Way and Its Power.

  • tokenism | noun

    The practice of making only a perfunctory or symbolic effort to do a particular thing, especially by recruiting a small number of people from underrepresented groups in order to give the appearance of sexual or racial equality within a workforce.

  • tokonoma | noun

    Pronunciation: toh-koh-NOH-mah

    A raised alcove used for displaying art and often seasonal flowers.

  • underglaze painting | noun

    Patterns painted in pigments containing cobalt, iron or copper before covering the body with a transparent glaze and firing. Each pigment develops a blue, brown and red color respectively when fired.

  • urna | noun

    Pronunciation: OOR-nah

    A coil of hair on the forehead (often depicted as a jewel). While it is one of the traditional identifying aspects of a Buddha, it can also be seen on bodhisattvas and other deities.

  • ushnisha | noun

    Pronunciation: oos-NEESH-ah

    A protuberance on the crown of the head indicates great wisdom, one of the traditional identifying aspects of a Buddha.

  • vahana | noun

    Pronunciation: vah-ha-na

    Literally meaning “mount” or “vehicle” refers to an animal a deity travels on. Vehicles are often symbolic of their rider and carry their own significance.

  • Vishnu | noun

    Pronunciation: Vish-new

    A god whose purpose is to eradicate evil from the world and establish dharma. Worshippers believe Vishnu has ten incarnations, some of which appear in Hindu epics such as the Ramayana (seventh incarnation as Rama) and the Bhagavad Gita (as Krishna, incarnation number nine). There is some debate amongst believers on whether his ninth incarnation was the Buddha.

  • wabi | noun

    Pronunciation: WAH-bee

    A Japanese term, adopted from poetry, that suggested poverty or wretchedness. For Japanese tea masters, the wabi aesthetic meant that even simple ceramics and other locally made tea utensils could have their own humble beauty.

  • Wayang-kulit | noun

    Pronunciation: Way-yang coo-lit

    A form of shadow theater found in Indonesia.

  • West Asia | noun

    Also known as the Middle East; the region of Asia that includes Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Cyprus, Georgia, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.

  • White supremacy | noun

    A belief that white people are superior to those of all other races, developed largely to justify European colonial exploitation of the Global South (including enslaving African peoples, extracting resources from much of Asia and Latin America) and enshrining cultural norms of whiteness as desirable both in colonizing and colonizer nations.

  • xenophobia | noun

    Fear or hatred of foreigners, people from different cultures, or strangers; fear or dislike of the customs, dress, etc., of people who are culturally different from oneself.

  • Yamantaka (Chinese: Ta-wei-te (dah-WEH-duh); Japanese: Daiitoku (DIE-toh-koo) | noun

    The Conqueror of Death—believed to be a manifestation of the ultimate wisdom which overcomes evil, suffering and death. In Vajrayana Buddhism, he is frequently depicted as a buffalo-headed demon, but in the Institute’s sand mandala, he is symbolized by a blue vajra, or thunderbolt.

  • yong bell | noun

    Pronunciation: Yan’g

    A Chinese bronze-age bell with an arch-shaped bottom and a columnar shank called a yong.

  • Yosegi-zukuri | noun

    Pronunciation: Yo-say-gi-zoo-ku-ri

    A multiple block construction technique used in Japan that offered sculptors freedom to create dynamic poses on a large scale.