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East Asian Languages and Civilizations

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Questions about these requirements? See the contact info at the bottom of the page. 

The department considers applications only for the PhD degree.


Minimum of two years of full-time study, sixteen four-credit courses or the equivalent. For tuition requirements, see the Harvard Griffin GSAS website.

Program of Study

Each student is required to engage in a program of study that involves at least three fields of knowledge. One of these fields should be chosen to demonstrate breadth in regard to a different area or discipline. The program will be determined in consultation with the student’s advisor. Courses in other departments may be included whenever appropriate. Two research seminar papers with a grade of A- and above, one of which must be in the student’s primary field, are required of all students prior to taking the General Examination.

Language Requirements

The department sets specific language requirements for the degree that are intended to ensure that all students are proficient in the primary language(s) needed for professional scholarly research in the field. These requirements are the same for EALC and HEAL PhD candidates.

The general principle is competence in a relevant research language other than the language of primary focus, but we will also emphasize flexibility and individual needs. Students are required to obtain written permission from their advisor and the DGS if they want to waive or change the language requirements. Students may be asked to demonstrate their competence in their primary language through course work or a language examination (administered by the head of the relevant language program in consultation with the advisor). They normally fulfill their research language requirement through course work but can choose to demonstrate their competence through a language examination.

Chinese Studies

  • Fourth-year level in modern Chinese
  • Second-year level in literary Chinese
  • Third-year level in modern Japanese or, in exceptional cases, equivalent ability in another east Asian language or another research language

Japanese Studies

  • Fourth-year level in modern Japanese
  • First-year level in classical Japanese
  • For students of pre-modern Japan: One year of literary Chinese and other appropriate language study (e.g., kanbun, komonjo, more classical Japanese) as determined by the advisor
  • For students of modern Japan: One year of literary Chinese or advanced proficiency (2nd year level) in another modern East Asian language. 

Korean Studies

  • Fourth-year level in modern Korean
  • Third-year level in modern Japanese
  • For students of pre-modern Korea: Second-year level in literary Chinese
  • For students of modern Korea:  First-year level of literary Chinese.
    • Note: May be waived in certain circumstances with written permission of the faculty advisor.

Tibetan Studies

  • Third-year level in literary Tibetan
  • First-year level in modern Tibetan
  • Combined two years of study of literary and/or modern Chinese depending on specialty. In some cases, the equivalent background in either Manchu or Mongolian may be substituted for Chinese.
  • One year of Sanskrit


Students must not carry more than three incompletes.


Students are assigned advisors appropriate to their fields when they first arrive, and will continue to work closely with them throughout their program. They will also consult periodically with the director(s) of graduate studies. Students may change advisors in consultation with the department.

General Examination

The student must pass a two-hour oral examination in at least three fields. In addition to the oral examination, the student will be required to demonstrate proficiency in the primary language to be used in their research. Each subfield within the department will determine the means to test such proficiency.

Students are expected to pass the general examination by the end of the third year in the department, and certainly no later than the beginning of their fourth year. For those students who have previously gained the AM at Harvard, students are expected to pass the general examination at the end of the second year in the PhD program of the department, and certainly no later than the beginning of the third year.

The Dissertation Prospectus

A prospectus of a student’s dissertation, between fifteen and twenty-five pages, is to be submitted and approved within six months of the General Examination. At the end of the G4 year, students are expected to present their prospectuses at a conference of faculty and students. Students who pass the general examination by the beginning of the spring semester in their third year may present their prospectuses at the end of the G3 year upon consultation with their advisors and the director of graduate studies. Note: Students must have their prospectuses approved prior to presenting at the conference.


The dissertation, which must make an original contribution to knowledge, may deal with any subject approved by the department. It must demonstrate the student’s capacity to make critical use of source material in one or more East Asian languages.

Dissertation Defense

To qualify for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, students are required to present their dissertation at a public defense. Note: The dissertation must be submitted to the student's committee at least six weeks prior to the anticipated defense.

PhD in History and East Asian Languages

In addition to the degree in EALC, the department also accepts applications from students who wish to study for the PhD in History and East Asian Languages. The requirements for the degree are similar to those for the PhD in East Asian Languages and Civilization. The principal difference is the additional requirement of a passing grade in one of the first-year colloquia (e.g., History 3900) offered in the Department of History. Students in this program are overseen by EALC’s Committee on the PhD in History and East Asian Languages, which includes faculty from the Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations, the Department of History, and the Department of the History of Science.

Contact Info 

East Asian Languages and Civilizations Website

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