Traditional China MSt

Wang Xizhi by Qian Xuan. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The MSt in Traditional China provides students with an opportunity to develop the skills needed for research on pre-modern and early modern China. Teaching will be individual or in small groups and you will work closely with members of Oxford’s internationally renowned team of specialist researchers.

The course involves a number of different elements.

The first is an option in an area of pre-modern and early modern Chinese philosophy, culture and history which will give you the opportunity to read original texts and write about them.

The second is a basic course in Japanese or another specialist language relevant to the research topic, if taught at Oxford. Time is obviously too short to do real justice to this most difficult language, profoundly different from Chinese. So, teaching focuses on the essential need – to bring you to the point at which you can begin to tackle publications by Japanese specialists in your field. Once basic script and grammar have been covered, instruction moves straight on to readings with a Chinese focus. (There is no time to spare for the skills of speaking and listening.) The teacher for the Japanese course will be a native Japanese instructor.

The third element is Bibliography and techniques of Sinology, which delves into the procedures of chronology, geography, bureaucracy, biography and bibliography within the context of traditional Chinese studies. The aim is not simply to convey information, but rather to foster a questioning and free-standing research style.

The final element is a dissertation. This part of the course aims to develop your skills in exposition and analysis. You will be required to document your work in accordance with professional academic standards.


Evaluation of the course takes place throughout the year and is through a combination examinations, essays as well as a dissertation on an approved topic of your choice, based on primary sources. An oral examination (viva voce) may also be required.

Further information on the course, and the examination process, can be found in the course handbook here (information is current for the academic year of publication).


Most of the lectures and classes for the MSt in Traditional China are organised and conducted at the Dickson Poon University of Oxford China Centre Building. The China Centre brings together academics drawn from across a range of disciplines, who have in common research and teaching interests related to China. The building has a 100-seat lecture theatre, a 200-seat dining area and a range of conference and seminar facilities. It also has a dedicated library with study carrels and a reading room, which holds books from the KB Chen China Centre Library.

The facilities at the China Centre provide opportunities for interaction with students on a range of China-related degrees as well as lectures and other academic activities. A Classical Chinese reading group meets every week in Full Term. The China Centre also organises its own weekly seminar, at which speakers include visiting international scholars, members of the Oxford academic staff, and graduate students. The talks are given in English or Chinese, and discussions are always critical and lively. Other graduate seminar groups with more specialised focus, for instance modern history or art and archaeology, also meet regularly.

In addition to this, there are a number of other specialist library collections in Oxford that focus on Asian and Middle Eastern studies, such as:

The Art, Archaeology and Ancient World Library includes the principal library for Egyptology and ancient Near Eastern Studies. The Khalili Research Centre is the University of Oxford's centre for research and teaching in the art and material culture of the Islamic societies of the Middle East and of non-Muslim members and neighbours. Adjacent to the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies is the Ashmolean Museum, which houses superb collections.

You will also have access to the University's centrally provided electronic resources, the department's IT Officer and other bibliographic, archive or material sources as appropriate to the research topic. There is a computing room for the use of graduate students in the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, as well as a common room where tea and coffee are available and staff and students can meet.

Sources of funding

Applications received for this course by the January deadline will also be considered for funding if applications meet the eligibility criteria. Please use the University's fees, funding and scholarship search tool to find what funding you may be eligible for.

The Faculty has a number of scholarships and funding opportunities across a wide range of subjects. Please see here for a list of these opportunities.