Traditional East Asia MPhil

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

The MPhil 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.

First year

In the first year, you will prepare a 2,000-word essay every two weeks.

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.

You will be required to follow a general course in Classical Chinese, Classical Japanese or Middle Korean for another three-hour qualifying examination at the end of the third term. Instruction may take the form of lectures or text classes or some mixture. 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 your qualifying examination.

You will attend a general overview graduate seminar, 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 seminar consists of an assessment of your three best essays from the twelve prepared over the year. No marks are given, and you must choose and submit one essay at the end of each term that you feel presents the best of your work.

Second year

In the second year, you will spend a good portion of your time researching and writing your dissertations.

There are no modern language requirements in the second year, 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.

The classical language requirement consists of 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.

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 of one of the three countries. You have eight one-hour classes spread over three terms.

You will also 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 dissertation is due during the sixth term.

At the end of the sixth term, you will sit 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.

Entry Requirements

Degree-level qualifications

As a minimum, applicants should normally hold or be predicted to achieve the equivalent of the following UK qualifications:

  • a first-class or strong upper second-class undergraduate degree with honours in any subject.

If your degree is not from the UK, visit our International Qualifications page for guidance on the qualifications and grades that would usually be considered to meet the University’s minimum entry requirements.

For applicants with a degree from the USA, the minimum GPA sought is 3.5 out of 4.0.

Other qualifications, evidence of excellence and relevant experience

  • Entrants are required to have a reading ability in at least one modern language (Chinese, Korean, or Japanese). If you are not a native speaker in one of these languages, your level of proficiency must be supported by one of the standardised proficiency tests accepted by the department.

Graduate Destinations

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.

Further Information

For further information please refer to our Postgraduate Taught Courses Handbook.