Traditional East Asia MPhil

Portrait of Admiral Kang Mincheom in the early Goryeo dynasty. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The MPhil in Traditional East Asia examines the Sinitic tradition and its development and adaptations in China, Korea and Japan. It will appeal to students wishing to develop an intimate knowledge of the region for academic purposes or as preparation for careers in museology, libraries, journalism, diplomacy, international banking, business, law, government service, secondary education, or non-governmental organisations.

On arrival, students are required to have proficiency in at least one East Asian language (Chinese, Korea, or Japanese).

First year
Your first-year work has three parts.
Modern Language. You should have some proficiency in an East Asian language (Chinese, Korean, or Japanese). A three-hour qualifying examination in a modern language is held at the end of the third term. If your proficiency in your main language is not up to academic standards you will prepare for an examination in that language. If, on arrival, your proficiency is up to academic standards, you will choose a different modern East Asian language for research purposes and prepare for the examination in the selected language.

Classical Language. You will be required to follow a general course in Classical Chinese, Classical Japanese, or Middle Korean. A three-hour qualifying examination in a classical language is held at the end of the third term. Instruction may take the form of lectures or text classes or some combination of the two. You will prepare and present English translations in text classes. Depending on your ability, you may be permitted to follow more than one classical language, but must choose only one classical language for assessment in your qualifying examination.
Colloquium. You will attend throughout the year the East Asia Colloquium, for which you receive a reading list and write four 2,000-word essays per term. Students meet together every two weeks in a 90-minute seminar to present the gist of their essays and discuss the topic at hand. The qualifying examination for the colloquium consists of an assessment of your three best essays from the twelve prepared over the year. No marks are given on each essay during term time, but you will receive comments and feedback, and you must choose and submit one essay to Examination Schools at the end of each term that you feel presents the best of your work.

Second year
Your second-year work has three parts.
Thesis. In the second year, you will spend a good portion of your time researching and writing your thesis.
There are no modern language requirements, but you may opt to monitor or audit classes in a modern or classical language that you were unable to study or for which you would like further study.

Prescribed Texts. You will continue your study of a classical language by reading Prescribed Texts in Classical Chinese or Classical Japanese or Middle Korean. Texts are chosen in consultation with one of the Course Coordinators and drawn from canonical literature in the areas of history, literature, and philosophy. The final examination is a three-hour written examination at the end of the second year. You have eight, one-hour classes spread over three terms.

Bibliography and Methodology. For the Bibliography and Methodology requirement, you will choose a country specialisation (Korea, China, or Japan) and prepare answers to a series of exercises requiring you to find specific and general information in the classical bibliography and references of one of the three countries. You have eight, one-hour classes spread over three terms.

In the first year, you will take two, three-hour, written examinations at the end of the third term (Trinity Term). One will be in a modern language. The second will be in a classical language. You will also be assessed on the three, submitted essays from the first, second, and third terms.

In the second year, you will prepare a thesis of up between 20,000 and 30,000 words, using information gathered through at least one East Asian language. You will present your interim research results at one public colloquium held at the end of the fifth term. The thesis is due in the sixth week of the sixth term. The last time you are able to consult your supervisor for the thesis is one month before the due date.

At the end of the sixth term, you will sit one three-hour examination on the Prescribed Texts you have prepared in your chosen classical language, and you will be given a take-home examination to be completed in the library to assess your knowledge of classical Bibliography and Methodology in our chosen field (Korea, Japan, or China).examinations in your chosen classical language and in bibliography and methodology on your chosen specialism.


The allocation of graduate supervision for this course is the responsibility of the Faculty of Oriental Studies and it is not always possible to accommodate the preferences of incoming graduate students to work with a particular member of staff. Under exceptional circumstances a supervisor may be found outside the Faculty of Oriental Studies.

Oriental Studies graduates have found employment in many and diverse fields including museology, libraries, journalism, diplomacy, but also international banking, business, law, government service, secondary education and non-governmental organisations.

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