East Asia

Columbia University offers a doctoral program in East Asian History to students registered in the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures or in the Department of History. The faculty, requirements, teaching assignments, and degree (History-East Asia) are the same for all students, regardless of their departmental affiliation. The History-East Asia Coordinator who works with the Director of Graduate Studies in both departments oversees the program.

Courses: Students in East Asian History are required to enroll in a total of twelve one-semester courses for credit. Of these, one must be History GR8910 (Introduction to History and Historiography), to be taken in their first year, and one must be a bibliography course or the equivalent. Of the remaining ten courses, eight must be colloquia or seminars or the equivalent selected in consultation with the advisor. The remaining courses may include directed-reading courses. If you take two semesters of second-year Classical Chinese you may count these two courses as one seminar to fulfill your seminar requirement. Additional courses above the required twelve may be taken in consultation with the student’s advisor.

Languages: All entering students must take a diagnostic placement examination in the language of specialization during the registration period of the fall semester. The results will be forwarded to the History-East Asia Coordinator, to the Director of Graduate Studies in EALAC, and to the respective advisors. The Ph.D. language requirement is fulfilled by receiving a B+ or better in the required Asian language courses, or by demonstrating equivalent proficiency in the language placement examination. European language requirements can be fulfilled only by exam in the History Department or the corresponding language department. Students must pass all required languages before the Orals, and are encouraged to do so as early as possible.

The Primary Language:

  • Chinese history. 5th-year modern Chinese, or the equivalent; two years classical Chinese, or the equivalent.
  • Japanese history. 5th-year Japanese (one semester of a translation-intensive course); one year classical Japanese, or the equivalent; one semester of Kanbun, or the equivalent. Students in pre-1900 history are expected to undertake additional training in Classical Japanese, Sōrōbun, Kuzushiji, Kanbun, and/or Classical Chinese, as recommended by the advisor.
  • Korean history. 5th-year Korean, or the equivalent.
  • Tibetan history. Third-year Tibetan or the equivalent; third-year classical Tibetan or the equivalent.
  • Vietnamese history: Fifth-year Vietnamese, or the equivalent. For students of premodern Vietnam, two years classical Chinese, or the equivalent.

Second and Third Languages:

  • Chinese history. Pre-Qing history: three years of Japanese or the equivalent, subject to substitution of another Asian language by consultation with the advisor. A third Asian language may be recommended at the advisor’s discretion. All students are encouraged to take a reading course in French (FRENS UN1204) or German (German UN1115) and pass the reading exam, but the advisor should decide whether this is necessary. Qing and later: advanced proficiency in a relevant language, such as Japanese, Korean, Manchu, Mongolian, Tibetan, etc., chosen in consultation with the advisor. Demonstration of reading knowledge of a relevant European language is strongly advised.
  • Japanese history. For all: one European language, chosen in consultation with the advisor. Students are encouraged to take another Asian language or languages, and a second European language, if required by the advisor
  • Korean history. Pre-20th century: two years of classical Chinese, or the equivalent. 20th-century history: three years of Japanese, or the equivalent.
  • Tibetan history. For all students: reading knowledge of one European language or Japanese, chosen in consultation with the advisor. For all students: three years of modern Chinese or two years of modern Chinese and one year Classical Chinese, chosen in consultation with advisor. In exceptional cases in which Chinese is not necessary for research interests, this requirement may be waived in consultation with advisor.
  • Vietnam history. For students of premodern Vietnam: three years of Chinese, or the equivalent, or another Asian language in consultation with advisor. Reading proficiency in French (in consultation with advisor). For students of modern Vietnam: three years of French or the equivalent. In special cases, depending on topic and in consultation with advisor, two years of Classical Chinese, three years of Japanese, or three years of Chinese, or the equivalent of these, may also be required.

First-year essay and research papers: All students, including those already holding an M.A., will write a first-year essay, to be completed by the end of the second semester. Students who enter the program without an M.A. can apply to their department to receive the M.A. degree upon completion of the first-year essay and other relevant requirements. Two additional research papers, normally written for a seminar, must be completed by the time of the oral examination. At least one of these papers must be based on research in primary sources, and at least one must deal with a topic outside the student’s major field of specialization. On completion of the first-year essay, continuation to the Ph.D. requires approval by the advisor, in consultation with the History-East Asia Coordinator and the Director of Graduate Studies in the relevant department. Students must submit a one-page progress form no later than February 1 of the first year.

Orals: The purpose of the oral examination is to help students develop a general knowledge of several fields of history and scholarship so as to equip them to teach and write in areas beyond those of their specific research interests. The examination committee will consist of four examiners in four fields, one of which will typically be in the major field of specialization (e.g. modern Chinese history), two outside the specialization, and one outside East Asia (e.g. 20th-century France, Theories of Imperialism), the exact composition to be determined in consultation with the advisor.

Teaching Assistantship: After the first year, all students in History and EALAC will have teaching or service assignments in the undergraduate East Asian program, offered mainly by EALAC and the Committee on Asia and the Middle East. These assignments will be determined through consultation among the History East Asia Coordinator and the Directors of Graduate Studies of History and EALAC.

Dissertation Prospectus: Within six months of the oral examination or before leaving for field research (whichever occurs first), the dissertation prospectus will be defended before a committee of four faculty, including one outside the specialization or representing issues of method. The composition of the committee is to be determined in consultation with the advisor. The prospectus is usually a refined version of the grant proposal submitted at the beginning of the third year to outside funders for dissertation research in Asia.