China Area Graduate Programs

The Department of East Asian Studies offers MA and Ph.D programs in Chinese history, religion and thought, literature, and linguistics. 

Program Requirements and Information:


The Department of East Asian Studies hosts a strong team of scholars with varying research interests in Chinese studies. Faculty interests include Buddhism, film studies, Asian-American literature, syntax and semantics, popular culture, urban studies, and women in Chinese history. In order to find out more about our faculty members' current research and teaching interests please click on the faculty profiles:

The quality of your graduate work will not solely depend on your future faculty advisor and the resources available on campus. While we will always be ready to facilitate your research, offer help and advise, your graduate experience at our department will also depend on what you make of it! As a graduate student, you will therefore be asked to take the initiative and contribute to the running of seminars, classes, and other departmental events. 

Things to note when applying to our program

1. Language Requirement

Regardless of your proposed field of study, a basic knowledge of the Chinese language is vital to your success in the graduate program, as most of the primary and secondary sources you will work with are written in modern and/or Classical Chinese. Therefore, in order to do well in our graduate program, you will need to have gained a proficiency in Chinese before you start your graduate degree course. This applies to both candidates with an interest in contemporary China as well as applicants who wish to focus their research on pre-modern China. Applicants with no prior training in Chinese will not be admitted. While we do offer several language courses to improve your language skills during your graduate training, you need to demonstrate in your application that you have a sufficient language background (3 years of college instruction or equivalent) to start the program. 

Applicants who wish to do research in pre-modern Chinese thought, history, or literature need to be aware that they will have to acquire a proficiency in Classical Chinese during the first semesters of the program. While we do not require you to have any prior experience with Classical Chinese, please note that you will need to study Classical Chinese if you decide to do graduate work on a pre-modern Chinese topic. Since most Chinese sources prior to the 20th century are written in varying styles of Classical Chinese, a solid grasp of the pre-modern language will be a vital tool to ensure successful dissertation work!

2. Your Research Proposal

Graduate studies, especially in the case of doctoral candidates, entails a commitment of several years. It is therefore important that you try to specify your own research interests when applying to the program. If you are clear about your own interests, your future faculty advisor will be able to evaluate your application with much more feedback. Also, do not hesitate to contact the instructor you would like to work with before you proceed with the actual application. A research proposal is not binding and will/may be modified as you progress in the program. However, in order to help us evaluate your application you need to formulate your broad field of interest, identify how you see your own graduate project, and articulate your expectations regarding the program. Together with your application form, you are required to include a research statement (min. 600 words) which should address the following points:

  • What is your broad field of interest? Please specify both field (religion, literature, history, thought, linguistics, anthropology) and time period. 
  • What specific topic(s) would you like to address during your graduate course (e.g. contemporary poetry, cultural history, modern film, second language acquisition, etc). You may include possible dissertation and/or paper proposals. 
  • Specify how your previous undergraduate/graduate career have prepared you for research work in a U.S. university. How do you assess your own language skills (modern/classical)? Do you have previous experience doing independent research? Identify your own strong points and point out which aspects of your training you would like to improve. 
  • A statement on how our program could serve your needs as a research student. 
3. A sample of written work (in English)

In order to help us assess your writing skills, we ask all prospective PhD students to include a substantial sample of writing with their application. This piece should be written in English on a topic related to your proposed field of research. There is no prescribed length for this piece but we expect a sample of at least 10 pages. In addition to your writing sample, please include any other pieces of writing, published or unpublished (English, Chinese, or any other language), which may support your application. Please do not forget to include a writing sample in English. This piece is very important to our evaluation of your application. 

4. Funding

The Department of East Asian Studies offers funding on a competitive basis to incoming students through a combination of tuition waivers, graduate teaching assistantships and a departmental fellowship. 

If you have any further questions regarding your application or wish to discuss your interests with us please contact our Graduate Coordinator, Frank Whitehead ( and/or a faculty member of your choice.