Greetings from the Department Chair

The Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures (EALAC) has long been recognized as an international leader in the study of the histories, literatures, cultures, religions, and languages of East Asia. EALAC’s coverage has historically comprised the cultures and languages of China, Japan, and Korea. In 2005, the department expanded its expertise to Tibetan Studies, which has become a major field of study at Columbia University. More recently Columbia has joined the handful of universities offering colloquial Tibetan within the EALAC department.

EALAC organizes and administers the cross-disciplinary East Asian Studies undergraduate major, and mounts an undergraduate curriculum in cooperation with outstanding East Asian specialists in such other Columbia departments as Anthropology, Art History and Archaeology, Comparative Literature and Society, Economics, Philosophy, Political Science, and Religion, as well as with the Weatherhead East Asian Institute. Our offerings in Asian Humanities and in Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Tibetan Civilizations have carried a significant share of the course load for the Columbia College’s Global Core requirement.

Our outstanding language lecturers provide all the formal language instruction in the modern Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Tibetan, and Vietnamese languages that are offered for students at Columbia, Barnard and the Columbia professional schools, and our professorial faculty and lecturers together provide all the instruction in the classical languages of the same regions: classical Chinese, classical Japanese and kanbun, mixed-script Korean, and classical Tibetan.

EALAC works closely with the faculty at Barnard College, the History Department, the Religion Department, and the Institute for Comparative Literature and Society, many of whom hold joint appointments. Our curriculum is geared to the diverse needs of a growing constituency of both majors and non-majors, as well as our own graduate students and students from the whole spectrum of the social sciences and professional schools, including Business, Law, and the School of International and Public Affairs.

Our MAO program prepares a significant number of students for Ph.D. study at this and other institutions, and more broadly serves the needs of students who seek expertise that apply to a wide range of fields, including business, museum work, diplomacy, the arts, and law. Our PhD program has produced hundreds of distinguished scholars and leaders who occupy university positions throughout the world; we regularly place close to a hundred per cent of our PhDs in academic jobs.

The CV Starr East Asian Library, which is housed in the same building as the EALAC faculty, has dedicated librarians in each of the major regions of East Asian and boasts one of the largest collections of East Asian and Tibetan materials in the Western World.

EALAC draws its strength from a combination of interdisciplinarity and strong relationships with single discipline departments across the Arts and Sciences. Our department has always included historians, literary scholars, and scholars of religion and thought, and regarded the interaction among these fields and faculty to be a central attraction of the department. More recently, responding to the growing importance of non-print media, we have been able to add specialists in film and visual culture. A department that covers the histories, cultures, and literatures of four major nations cannot but emphasize connections, interactions, and comparisons among the four, and beyond, and to an ever increasing extent the students who come to us are interested in “transnational” studies. At the same time, the participation of our faculty as full members of disciplinary departments guarantees the continued participation of regional specialists in the methodological and comparative projects important to scholarship on the large questions of concern today.

As we move forward, I see us not only continuing to strengthen our main areas of research and teaching in the areas that we are known for–Japan, Korea, China, and Tibet–but to seek out more and more lines of intersection amongst these cultures both inside and outside of East Asia. The strength will come from not only deepening our commitment to the languages, literature, histories, religions, and visual/material cultures of these dynamic countries, but to finding deeper levels of intersection within a larger conception of Asia (including central and inner Asia) that only a department like this can achieve.

Even as it stood at the forefront of modern and postmodern studies, EALAC has consistently found strength in the study of the long histories of these East Asian countries. I believe that our simultaneous commitment to both modern/contemporary and pre-modern has been paying rich dividends, creating rich clusters in ancient, medieval, early modern, and modern studies across multiple nations and civilizations. Here one can find the strongest faculty in the world in the study of the ancient world, in the exploration of medieval and early modern cultures, and in the pursuit of understanding the myriad aspects of the modern and contemporary world.







Haruo Shirane
Chair, EALAC
Shincho Professor of Japanese Literature and Culture