Hakka earth house, Fujian. Photo: Brian Lander.

Hakka earth house, Fujian. Photo by Brian Lander.

Chinese Literary and Cultural Studies

The Department Of East Asian Languages And Culture At Columbia University is one of the preeminent centers of Chinese literary and cultural studies in the world. Our faculty expertise ranges across modern and pre-modern literature, textual traditions in Chinese history, film, visual culture, and media. Recipients of our doctoral degrees have held distinguished positions in major universities in the United States and abroad.

Columbia has been one of the oldest and most important centers of graduate education in Chinese literary studies in this country since 1901. Our graduate program encourages innovative and rigorous research in modern and pre-modern studies. Students receive extensive training in classical and modern texts and across different periods and disciplines. Our Ph.D. program emphasizes not only the deep knowledge and philological skills students must acquire in order to become future scholars, but also train them to become competent teachers at the college and university level.

Our program encourages comparative and interdisciplinary studies or forward-looking humanistic scholarship that focuses on more than a single country or a single linguistic tradition in Asia. Students, for example, combine their interest in literature with film, visual culture, gender studies, religion, cultural history, material culture or comparative literature through the joint Concentration Program of the Institute of Comparative Literature and Society. They frequently take seminars with professors in other programs and fields.

Professors Wei Shang is an expert in pre-modern and early modern Chinese drama and fiction with particular strengths in the Yuan, Ming and Qing periods. His research interests include fiction commentary, print culture, visual culture, book history and intellectual history of the same era. He offers a broad range of courses on Chinese literary culture.

Professors Lydia H. Liu and Ying Qian (starting in the fall of 2015) are the main teachers/scholars in the fields of modern/contemporary Chinese literature and culture, film and media, and comparative literature, with particular strengths in modern narrative fiction, critical translation theory, comparative intellectual history, documentary film, visual studies, digital media, and popular culture.

In addition, some visiting professors will be offering seminars for the coming academic year on subjects ranging from contemporary Chinese theater and film studies to pre-modern Chinese poetry. Students benefit also from Columbia’s superlative resources in Chinese art history and cultural history, including Professor Dorothy Ko in Ming-Qing cultural history, Professor Robert Hymes in pre-modern Chinese social and intellectual history, Professor Eugenia Lean in modern Chinese cultural history, and Professor Robert Harrist in Chinese art history.

Our program has official ties with one of the leading universities in Beijing, Tsinghua University, through the establishment of the Tsinghua-Columbia Center for Translingual and Transcultural Studies. The Center is home to cutting-edge comparative research, new modes of international collaboration, transnational public education, and humanistic interpretations of contemporary socioeconomic and cultural processes in China. The Center hosts postdoctoral research and provides resources for Columbia’s doctoral students to pursue their dissertation research in China. Our program has also established partnership with the Institute of International China Studies at Beijing University, Renmin University, and other research institutions in East Asia.

With the C.V. Starr East Asian Library, Columbia University has one of the strongest library collections in Chinese literature, culture, and film. It has particularly extensive holdings of books and journals in pre-modern and modern literature, history, and religion. Its growing Chinese multimedia and film collection is an important resource for scholarship not only on cinema and popular culture, but also on many other aspects of modern Chinese history. The collections contain early Chinese cinema, feature films, documentary films, independent films, T.V. series and dramas, avant-garde and experimental cinema and so on.

Our location in New York City creates close connections to Asia Society, Lincoln Center, Metropolitan Museum of Art, and New York Public Library, as well as providing exposure to a wide variety of China-related film screenings, gallery shows, talks by writers, and live performances by both traditional and contemporary artists throughout the year.