Skip to Main
Welcome to East Asian Studies. Princeton’s Ph.D. program in East Asian Studies (EAS) has long been recognized as one of the leading graduate programs of its kind in the Western world. At present, we offer doctoral (Ph.D.) training in Chinese and Japanese history and literature, Korean cultural studies, anthropology of East Asia, and in the transnational social and cultural study of contemporary East Asia.
With its current full-time faculty of 42 professors and language instructors in the EAS department, frequent international visiting professors, and an additional 10 professors specializing on East Asia in the Departments of Art and Archaeology, Comparative Literature, Sociology, Religion, and Politics, Princeton is home to a vibrant community of scholars and students working on the civilizations of East Asia in all their rich historical and contemporary dimensions. All EAS historians have joint appointments in the Department of History, and Professor Erin Huang has a joint appointment in the Department of Comparative Literature.
The department is committed to interdisciplinary research and training, and most of our students take seminars across a range of different disciplines. At the same time, EAS also allows for a clear focus in a particular discipline. At Princeton, historians, literature scholars, and social scientists are full members of our department. Graduate students in the fields of history, literature, and anthropology are eligible to take the core introductory seminars in the Departments of History, Comparative Literature, and Anthropology. Students in EAS have their advisers in the EAS department but in addition have the opportunity—and are strongly encouraged—to take any number of courses in the relevant disciplinary department. Furthermore, faculty from relevant disciplinary departments routinely serve on EAS dissertation committees.
The Graduate School maintains an informative website, and we encourage all prospective students to explore its many sections regarding general academic questions as well as issues such as housing, insurance, and benefits.
This present document lays out the Department’s rules and guidelines to give guidance to prospective and current students pursuing the Ph.D. in East Asian Studies.
Sample of written work. Applicants are required to select a subplan when applying.
Normally, students will take three graduate courses each semester during their first two years of study. The exact course load will be determined by the Director of Graduate Studies in consultation with the student and the student's adviser, and will depend on the state of the student’s preparation for the general examination.
After two years of coursework, students may take the general examination (see below). Students typically take the examination in the first semester of their third year of study. While the years following the examination are devoted to research and the writing of the dissertation, students are encouraged to continue to take courses, albeit at a significantly lighter load.
The department encourages students to do part of their coursework in other departments (such as History, Comparative Literature, Religion, Art and Archaeology, Anthropology, or Sociology) as appropriate and pertinent to their fields of study. In particular, students in Chinese, Japanese, or Korean history are expected to take History 500 (Introduction to the Professional Study of History) in their first semester. Students in literature are strongly encouraged to take Comparative Literature 521 (Introduction to Comparative Literature). Students in the social and cultural study of contemporary East Asia are strongly encouraged to take an introductory course specific to their discipline, for example, Anthropology 501 and/or 502 (Proseminar in Anthropology).
In consultation with the Director of Graduate Studies and the student’s adviser, a language course considered critical to a student’s progress may be substituted for one graduate course; or the student is urged to add such a course to the three graduate seminars normally taken, making it a fourth course for the semester. The demands of language study may affect the timing of the general examination.
While doing graduate coursework, students are expected to write final research papers (or the equivalent thereof, according to course requirements) in each of their courses. These papers must be written in English. Except for courses in other departments, broad reading courses in secondary scholarship, or courses devoted to specific theoretical or disciplinary approaches, students are expected to use primary sources as a standard routine. While doing coursework, students should deposit one sample of their best written work in their departmental file at the end of each academic year.
Graduate seminars come in a variety of different formats. These include general reading courses (especially in preparation for the general examination), courses focused on disciplinary approaches, courses of intense work with original source-texts, dissertation writing colloquia, and others more. In addition, professors in the department regularly offer individual reading courses to students who need specific training at a critical moment of their studies.
The Graduate School requires all students to spend at least one year in residence before taking the general examination; most students are in residence at least through the examination, and usually much longer. The department considers it advantageous for students to be in residence and hence in frequent contact with peers and advisers. At the same time, the department encourages students to take courses at neighboring institutions (such as Columbia University, New York University, Rutgers University, and University of Pennsylvania). Moreover, Princeton is part of the Exchange Scholar Program, a student-exchange consortium of top-level research universities that allows students to study for a semester or a year at another participating institution.
Every student in the department is required to demonstrate competence in at least two foreign languages: one in the East Asian language appropriate to the field of specialization (Chinese, Japanese, or Korean), the other in a European language. Students specializing in the pre-modern or early modern periods must be proficient in both the classical and the modern language of their field of specialization. In addition, students in Chinese studies are required to take at least two years of modern Japanese and are strongly advised to take EAS 563 (Readings in Japanese Academic Style).
Students are normally required to take at least one European language (usually French or German) to the level of reading proficiency. Depending on the student’s field of specialization, the faculty may impose additional language requirements.
The European and (for students in Chinese studies) Japanese language requirements must be fulfilled prior to the general examination, that is, typically within the first two years of study. These and any other language requirements may be fulfilled through regular courses during the academic year and/or by participation in intensive summer programs that typically provide the equivalent of a full year of language study. Students may also take examinations to place out of their additional language requirements. These examinations must be passed satisfactorily before the general examination.
Students are strongly encouraged to take summer language courses and may apply for additional Princeton (or outside) funding dedicated to this purpose. Princeton maintains its own summer language programs in Beijing, China, and Kanazawa (Ishikawa prefecture), Japan. The Director of Graduate Studies assists students in finding appropriate and approved summer programs and in securing financial aid.
Upon arrival at Princeton, new students are evaluated in the language of their field of specialization and, if necessary, placed into appropriate language courses. Students in pre-modern fields will be evaluated in both the modern and the pre-modern language.
Foreign students are, upon arrival in Princeton, required to take an examination to demonstrate adequate mastery of the English language. In case the student does not pass the examination satisfactorily, the student will be required to take a dedicated English language course.
The department has arranged with the Department of Comparative Literature for a minor in comparative literature. This involves choosing comparative literature as the third field in addition to other requirements that can be explained by the Director of Graduate Studies in this department or in the Department of Comparative Literature.
The general examination takes place in May of the second year or in October or January of the third year of study, depending on the student’s preparation and coursework. In no case may a student take the examination without having first completed the University’s one-year residency requirement.
The general examination consists of both written and oral sections and covers three distinct fields of study, one major and two minor. The examination is designed to test the breadth and depth of the student’s knowledge in the student's major field—the field of the dissertation—and the ability to teach on the undergraduate level in each of the minor fields. As such, the minor fields must be defined in sufficiently broad terms.
Together, the three fields of the examination must include more than one discipline or linguistic area. For example, for a student in Japanese history, one of the minor fields could be in Chinese or Korean history, or it could be in a different discipline of Japanese studies such as literature, art, or religion. Minor fields may also be taken in cultures unrelated to the major field, or to East Asian Studies in general.
In preparation for the examination, students need to decide on their three fields and identify three appropriate faculty members to serve on the examination committee. Typically, this is done in consultation with the student’s adviser and the Director of Graduate Studies.
Students should notify the Director of Graduate Studies about the planned date of the examination and about the members of the committee. Students should be in regular contact with the supervisor of their exams during the semester before the examination, and ideally, before that. Examiners expect students to keep in contact with them, but the onus is on the student to set up appointments and keep on schedule. These meetings are necessary for the student in order to obtain a clear idea about the scope of the individual fields and to agree on a reading list. Depending on the field, students are either given reading lists or are asked to develop such lists in conversation with the respective member of the faculty. Communication with the faculty examiner is crucial to succeeding in the general exam.
According to University regulations, all three fields must be examined during one period of a specied number of consecutive days set by the Graduate School three times per year (in October, January, and May). The individual examiner determines whether the written exam is in the sit-down or take-home format. The three separate written exams are then followed by a joint two-hour-long oral exam with all three examiners present.
There are four possible outcomes of the general examination: 1) pass and advance to doctoral candidacy; 2) fail a first time and retake the examination once; 3) pass, but at a low level and be advised to accept the terminal M.A.; 4) fail a second time and receive the terminal M.A. The requirement for a terminal M.A. degree shall include the successful completion of at least 12 research seminars and advanced language reading courses. Advancement to candidacy will be conveyed to the student by the Director of Graduate Studies. In some cases, the Director of Graduate Studies may seek the approval of the entire department before a student may advance to candidacy. In case where a student has sustained the general examination but has not demonstrated to the examiners’ satisfaction the ability to continue, the student may be asked to accept a terminal M.A. degree and to withdraw from the University.
The student must pass each of the three field examinations. Should a student fail the examination, examiners will provide the student with feedback and clear guidelines for improvement before the student re-takes the exam. A student who fails one or more of the examinations must retake those fields within one year. By Graduate School rule, failure a second time automatically results in termination from the University.
The Master of Arts (M.A.) degree is normally an incidental degree on the way to full Ph.D. candidacy. It may be earned after a student has successfully completed all pre-general examination coursework (normally, at least twelve seminars); produced research papers using original sources in Chinese, Japanese, or Korean; and fulfilled departmental language requirements. It may also be awarded to students who, for various reasons, leave the Ph.D. program, provided that these requirements have been met.
The University offers graduate students the opportunity to gather valuable teaching experience by leading discussion sections (“preceptorials”) in undergraduate lecture courses. Students are eligible to precept after having successfully completed the general examination. Preceptors are remunerated in accordance with University policy.
Students are encouraged to actively seek out precepting opportunities both within and beyond the department. Students can also petition to create and team teach an undergraduate course. This must be done with the consent and active participation of a member of Princeton's permanent faculty. In a case where a student by the fifth year of enrollment has not yet precepted, or signed up for precepting, the Director of Graduate Studies in consultation with the Department faculty can assign an appropriate course. This course may be within or outside the student’s disciplinary or linguistic field of specialization.
Before being able to precept, students must complete a two-day training session at the University’s McGraw Center for Teaching and Learning. Furthermore, the McGraw Center offers a series of workshops related to teaching, instructional consultation and classroom observation, advice on professional development, and a wealth of other information. In its Teaching Transcript Program, the McGraw Center further provides the opportunity to earn a pedagogy certificate testifying to the student’s precept experience, participation in a series of pedagogy workshops, class observation and feedback, composition of a statement of teaching philosophy, and creation of an original syllabus. All Ph.D. students are urged to fully explore the opportunities announced on the Center’s website.
The first stage of dissertation research is the presentation of a prospectus to department faculty and graduate students. Its purpose is to guide the student to develop a clear research focus from the outset and have the project discussed in front of the department. Furthermore, the prospectus leads students to present their dissertation project in clear, succinct, and methodic terms—a skill that will significantly strengthen their applications for outside fellowships and, later, employment.
While there is no set format for the prospectus, it should be a substantial statement of the research proposed. As such, it should include the clearly defined topic of research, an account of the state of field and how the proposed research relates to it, an outline of the methodology employed, an account of the sources to be explored, a specific research plan and timeline, a chapter outline, and a substantial bibliography of primary and secondary sources pertinent to the project.
The dissertation prospectus should be submitted to the department in writing at least one week before the actual prospectus presentation and will be distributed to the Department faculty and graduate students. At the two-hour-long prospectus presentation, the student is given about twenty minutes to introduce the prospectus; this is followed by faculty comments and an open-floor discussion.
The timing of the presentation depends on the date of the general examination according to the following schedule:
General Examination Date Prospectus Presentation
October of 3rd year No later than January of 3rd year
January of 3rd year No later than May of 3rd year
It is the responsibility of the student to observe this schedule. Any scheduling beyond the respective deadline must be proposed to the Director of Graduate Studies well in advance of the deadline. Failure to meet the May deadlines for the prospectus presentation will result in reenrollment deferral until a successful prospectus presentation.
Students are expected to develop their prospectus in close consultation with their primary dissertation adviser. The adviser will review one or more drafts of the prospectus and will decide when the prospectus is ready for public presentation. At the presentation, a committee of three faculty members will decide on the acceptance of the prospectus. The committee includes the primary adviser and two other faculty from within or outside the Department who may or may not have served on the student’s general examination committee.
The possible outcomes of the prospectus presentation are: accepted; accepted with revisions; rejected. If the prospectus is accepted with revisions, the student has four weeks to present a revised version to the committee, which will decide on its acceptance without a second public presentation. If the initial prospectus is rejected, a new date for another public presentation must be scheduled in consultation with the Director of Graduate Studies. Rejection of the prospectus, especially at the May deadline will result in deferred readmission.
Dissertation Write-up Support
Students who have exhausted their five years of University funding and do not hold other outside fellowships may apply for write-up fellowships from the East Asian Studies Program. The awarding of such fellowships is contingent on the demonstrated progress—typically chapter drafts—toward the completion of the dissertation. Fellowships are given for one semester and are renewable for a maximum of one more semester.
The Final Public Oral Examination
The final public oral (FPOE) is a final examination in the student’s field of study as well as a defense of the dissertation.
For all practical purposes, students are urged to consult with their adviser well in advance to set a tentative date for their FPOE as well as to identify the two principal readers. Ideally, though not mandated, the readers should be involved with the dissertation about six months ahead of the planned FPOE in order to comment on the second-to-last draft of the complete work. This will allow the student enough time to receive valuable feedback that should then be used for preparing the final version of the dissertation.
After the dissertation adviser has agreed that the completed dissertation can be moved forward to the FPOE, the dissertation adviser, in consultation with the student, assigns two principal readers to report to the Graduate School on the quality of the dissertation. (The adviser is not a “principal reader” for purposes of evaluating the dissertation. For the benefit of the department and the student, however, the adviser will submit a similar report.) The two readers are normally members of the Princeton faculty at the rank of assistant professor or higher. Only one principal reader may serve as an examiner. Hence, the FPOE committee must consist of at least four people: two principal readers; and three examiners, only one of whom may be a principal reader. Any external committee members must be of comparable rank in a relevant branch of the scholarly community.
If both readers agree that the dissertation is acceptable, the student may proceed to the FPOE. If one of the readers deems the dissertation unacceptable, the Director of Graduate Studies will appoint a third reader and a final determination will be made in discussions among the adviser, the readers, and the Director of Graduate Studies.
The FPOE is scheduled no earlier than eight weeks after the student has presented the full final draft of the dissertation to the members of the dissertation committee, plus one unbound copy to the Department. The dissertation submitted to the Department must be complete in the sense that it contains the entire text of the dissertation, including footnotes and bibliography, and it must be thoroughly edited.
After submitting the dissertation to the department, only minor changes (e.g., correction of occasional typographical errors) may be permitted. Thereafter, in accordance with Graduate School rules, the dissertation must be submitted to the department in its bound and final form no later than two weeks before the FPOE. Likewise, the two principal readers must submit their reports to the department no later than two weeks before the FPOE.
For the actual defense, the adviser, in consultation with the student, assigns principal examiners. At least three principal examiners at the faculty rank of assistant professor or higher must be present at the FPOE. Typically, the principal adviser serves as the chair of the examining committee. Any external examiner must be of comparable rank in a relevant branch of the scholarly community. At least one examiner must be from the student’s home department, and at least two of the examiners may not have been principal readers of the dissertation. The principal examiners determine whether or not the candidate has passed the examination.
In case the examination is not sustained, the candidate may stand for it a second time after at least one year has passed. If unsuccessful a second time, the candidate is not permitted another opportunity to retake the examination.
In cases where an appearance for the final public oral examination would constitute a substantial hardship for the candidate due to financial, medical, or other extenuating reasons, the director of graduate studies, acting on behalf of the department and with the approval of the adviser(s) and all principal examiners, may recommend to the dean of the Graduate School virtual, video-conferenced examination of the candidate, with the department continuing to uphold in all other respects the open, public nature of the examination. The decision of the dean in such cases is final.
The department ordinarily does not hold Final Public Oral examinations in the months of June, July, and August.
Amy B. Borovoy
Thomas D. Conlan
Sheldon M. Garon
Willard J. Peterson
Anna M. Shields
Janet Y. Chen
Pieter Christian Aize Keulemans
Erin Yu-Tien Huang
Franz K. Prichard
Brian R. Steininger
Ho Jung Choi
Seung Hee Cho
Courses listed below are graduate-level courses that have been approved by the program’s faculty as well as the Curriculum Subcommittee of the Faculty Committee on the Graduate School as permanent course offerings. Permanent courses may be offered by the department or program on an ongoing basis, depending on curricular needs, scheduling requirements, and student interest. Not listed below are undergraduate courses and one-time-only graduate courses, which may be found for a specific term through the Registrar’s website. Also not listed are graduate-level independent reading and research courses, which may be approved by the Graduate School for individual students.