Brick tea. Photo by Brian Lander.

Brick tea. Photo by Brian Lander.

Ph. D. Program in East Asian History (History-East Asia Program)

1. Course Requirements
2. Language Requirements
3. Registration Category Requirements
4. First-year Essay, Research Papers and MA Degree 
5. M.Phil. Oral Examinations
6. Teaching Requirements 
7. Dissertation Prospectus
8. Dissertation Workshops
9. Dissertation Defense
10. Dissertation
11. Advanced Standing
12. Conference Travel Funds

Columbia University offers a program in East Asian History to Ph.D. students registered in either the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures or in the Department of History. The faculty, requirements, teaching assignments, and East Asian History program are the same for all students, regardless of their departmental affiliation. The History–East Asia Coordinator who works with the Directors of Graduate Studies in both Departments oversees the program.

Prior to entry into the program, the student must have completed at least three years of study in the East Asian language of specialization. In addition, a student who is a candidate for the M.Phil. and Ph.D. degrees must fulfill the following requirements:

1. Course Requirements

Students in East Asian History are required to enroll in a total of twelve one-semester courses for credit. Of these, one must be History GR8910 (Introduction to History and Historiography), to be taken in their first year, and one must be a bibliography course or the equivalent. Of the remaining ten courses, eight must be colloquia or seminars or the equivalent selected in consultation with the advisor. The remaining courses may include directed-reading courses. If you take two semesters of second-year Classical Chinese you may count these two courses as one seminar to fulfill your seminar requirement. Additional courses above the required twelve may be taken in consultation with the student’s advisor.

2. Language Requirements

Entering students are required to take the language placement examination in the East Asia language of specialization at the beginning of the semester in which they enter the program, unless that language was the primary language of instruction at the institution from which they received the B.A. degree. The results are forwarded to the History–East Asia Coordinator, to the DGS in EALAC, and to the respective advisors. The Ph.D. language requirement is fulfilled by receiving a B+ or better in the required Asian language courses, or by demonstrating equivalent proficiency in the language placement examination. European language requirements can be fulfilled by exam either in the History Department or in the corresponding language department. Students must pass all required languages before taking the comprehensive Oral Examination and are encouraged to do so as early as possible.

A. The primary language

1. Required for the study of Chinese history: Fifth-year Modern Chinese or the equivalent; two years Classical Chinese or the equivalent.

2. Required for the study of Japanese history: Fifth-year Japanese (plus one semester of a translation-intensive course); one year classical Japanese or the equivalent; one semester of Kanbun, or the equivalent. Students in pre-1900 history are expected to undertake additional training in Classical Japanese, Sōrōbun, Kuzushiji, Kanbun, and/or Classical Chinese, as recommended by the advisor.

3: Required for the study of Korean history: Fifth-year Korean or the equivalent; Korean GR8010, “Advanced Korean in Mixed Script”

4: Required for the study of Tibetan history: Third-year Tibetan or the equivalent; third-year classical Tibetan or the equivalent.

B. Second and third languages

1. Required for the study of Chinese history: Pre-Qing history: three years of Japanese or the equivalent; Qing and later: advanced proficiency in a relevant language, such as Japanese, Korean, Manchu, Mongolian, Tibetan, etc., chosen in consultation with the advisor. For all: one European language, chosen in consultation with the advisor.

2. Required for the study of Japanese history: For all: one European language, chosen in consultation with the advisor. Students are encouraged to take another Asian language or languages, and a second European language, if required by the advisor.

3. Required for the study of Korean history: Pre-20th-century history: two years of Classical Chinese, or the equivalent; 20th century history: three years of Japanese, or the equivalent. For all: one European language, chosen in consultation with the advisor.

4. Required for the study of Tibet: For all students: reading knowledge of one European language or Japanese, chosen in consultation with advisor. For all students: three years of modern Chinese or two years of modern Chinese and one year Classical Chinese, chosen in consultation with advisor. In exceptional cases in which Chinese is not necessary for research interests, this requirement may be waived in consultation with advisor.

C. Second European language requirements:

Second European language, if required by the advisor.


3. Registration Category Requirements

All doctoral students are required to maintain continuous registration as long as they are enrolled in the program and are not taking a Leave of Absence.  This means that every semester, regardless of funding source or physical location, you are required to register (via SSOL) for one of the registration categories below.


First-Year and Second-Year students: register for a full Residence Unit (RU) during both semesters.

Third-Year Students:

  1. If you have completed less than 6 RUs, register for a full RU both semesters.
  2. If you have completed 6 RUs, register for Extended Residence (ER).

Fourth-Year through Seventh-Year Students:

  1. During the semester you are teaching, register for Extended Residence (ER).
  2. During the semester you are not teaching, register for Matriculation & Facilities (M&F).

Students on External Funding: You must register for Matriculations & Facilities for both semesters.

Students on CU Fellowship but not teaching (Dissertation Fellows): If you are using a year of your Columbia University fellowship and have already completed your teaching duties, you must register for an M&F for both semesters.

Call Numbers:
Residence Unit (full RU): 99991
Extended Residence (ER): 77771
Matriculations & Facilities (M&F): 88881

For more information, please consult the GSAS webpage:

4. First-year Essay, Research Papers and MA Degree

All students, including those already holding an M.A., write a first-year essay, to be completed by the end of the second semester. Students who enter the program without an M.A. should apply to their department to receive the M.A. degree upon completion of the first-year essay (which will count as the M.A. thesis, 25 to 30 pages in length) and course requirements. Any student who has already received an M.A. from their department at Columbia University is exempt from having to apply for another M.A., as well as from the additional paper requirement. Two additional research papers, normally written for a seminar, must be completed by the time of the oral examination. At least one of these papers must be based on research in primary sources, and at least one must deal with a topic outside the student’s major field of specialization. On completion of the first-year essay, continuation to the Ph.D. requires approval by the advisor, in consultation with the History-East Asia Coordinator and the DGS in the relevant department. Students must submit a one-page progress form at the end of each academic year. Download MA Degree Requirements for Ph.D. Students: link.

5. M.Phil. Oral Examinations

The purpose of the oral examination is to help students develop a general knowledge of several fields of history and scholarship so as to equip them to teach and write in areas beyond those of their specific research interests. The examination committee consists of four examiners in four fields, one of which will typically be in the major field of specialization (e.g., Modern Chinese History), two outside the specialization, and one outside East Asia (e.g., 20th-century France, Theories of Imperialism, etc.), the exact composition to be determined in consultation with the advisor. The oral examination is normally taken at the end of the third year (but no later than the end of the fourth year) of PhD study.

For EALAC History-East Asia Ph.D. students, please see §6 on the EALAC Ph.D. requirements page for all required forms.

6. Teaching Requirements

After the first year, all students in History and EALAC get teaching assignments in the undergraduate East Asian program, offered mainly by EALAC and the Committee on Asia and the Middle East. These assignments are determined through consultation among the History-East Asia Coordinator and the DGSs of History and EALAC.

7. Dissertation Prospectus

Professor Ruth Barraclough giving a talk on Comrade Vera Khan

Professor Ruth Barraclough giving a talk on Comrade Vera Khan

Within six months of the oral examination or before leaving for field research (whichever occurs first), the student will defend the dissertation prospectus before a committee of four faculty, including one outside the major field of specialization or representing issues of method. The composition of the committee is determined in consultation with the advisor. The prospectus is usually a refined version of the grant proposal submitted at the beginning of the third year to outside funders for dissertation research in Asia. For the purpose of fellowships requirements, it is possible to defend the prospectus in advance of the orals.

8. Dissertation Workshops

All post-M.Phil. students are required by GSAS to participate in dissertation workshops at least once per year between their fourth and seventh years. The workshops provide students with the opportunity to receive feedback on their dissertation work in a group setting. EALAC offers a colloquium series as one option for fulfilling this requirement. The format of the colloquium is flexible and can take the form of a formal presentation of a dissertation chapter, a group discussion of a pre-circulated draft, or a mix of the two. The requirement may also be fulfilled through a range of other options, such as participating in student-run writing groups, presenting at non-EALAC dissertation workshops, or receiving feedback through job talks.

Students wishing to sign up for an EALAC workshop date should contact Jae Won Chung ( Please provide your name, year, field, preferred dates (you can choose multiple), provisional title of the presentation (may be changed at a later date), and discussant name (you may find someone at a later date). All the dates fall on a Thursday and the sessions will run from 2pm-4pm at 403 Kent.

Potential Fall 2016 Dates:
October 6, October 20, November 3, November 17, December 1, December 15

Potential Spring 2017 Dates:
January 26, February 9, February 23, March 9, March 23, April 6, April 20

9. Dissertation Defense

See the University rules of dissertation preparation, defense, and deposit at

Dissertation defense, registration status, and deposit policies are as follows:

  1. Defense applications should ideally be submitted four – but no fewer than two – weeks before the scheduled defense date: Application for the Dissertation Defense Applications received within two weeks of the proposed defense date will not be accepted, and the defense will have to be rescheduled. GSAS no longer requires students to file the form titled Intent to Distribute and Defend. In its place, all students who intend to participate in graduation ceremonies must complete the Convocation Registration and Mailing Materials Form.
  2. In order to meet the Graduate School’s requirement for continuous registration, Ph.D. candidates must register for full-time enrollment each semester until the semester of distribution. Once a dissertation has been distributed, students are no longer required to register. If a student intends to distribute during a specific term and does not do so before the end of that term, the student must register in the following semester.
  3. To assist us in maintaining accurate information on the academic progress of our students, the committee that evaluates the dissertation proposal or prospectus must complete the Report of the Dissertation Proposal Committee form at the time of the defense of the proposal. The department should submit the completed form to GSAS immediately after the prospectus defense.

The forms used by the Dissertation Office are listed below:

The dissertation defense is a milestone ideally reached with all five members of a student’s dissertation committee present. When a committee member can only participate from afar, an accommodation may be made by employing audio or video conferencing during the defense. A maximum of two members of the dissertation defense committee may participate remotely, but the committee chair and the sponsor must be present at the defense.

The committee chair will register the need for remote participation on the GSAS Application for the Dissertation Defense, and will sign the voting sheet on the absent member’s behalf after the defense. Committee members who must participate remotely are requested to submit comments, questions, and a provisional vote in advance so that the defense exercise may proceed in the event technical difficulties are encountered during the proceedings.

Committee Member Absence in Exceptional Circumstances

The dissertation defense committee may convene when one member is prevented from participating by extreme circumstances at the time of the defense. Such a last-minute absence will count toward the total of two members allowed to participate remotely. If possible, the absent member should submit before the defense a report containing comments, questions, and a provisional vote on the dissertation’s approval. The committee chair will convey these questions to the candidate at the defense and rule on the quality the responses made. If circumstances prevent the submission of a report before the defense, the absent member’s report should be sent as soon as possible after the defense to the dissertation defense committee chair and to the Dean of the Graduate School. The committee vote will not be considered final until the report is reviewed and the defense committee chair determines whether any further action is warranted.

Students must be registered in the semester in which they distribute their dissertation. PhD students should be aware that if they distribute their dissertation during the summer session they incur the cost registering for the term, which EALAC does not cover, so please plan your defenses accordingly.


10. Dissertation

Those students who complete the requirements for the Ph.D. program except for the dissertation receive the M.Phil. degree. Ph.D. candidates are then required to complete and submit a dissertation, which must be prepared through research by the student conducted in close consultation with his or her Ph.D. faculty sponsor. After the M.Phil. oral exam has been passed, the DGS, in consultation with the student’s dissertation sponsor, establishes a committee of two faculty members to oversee the dissertation. The dissertation committee must approve the dissertation prior to its submission for the defense, which, in accordance with University regulations, is held before five faculty members, two of whom must be from outside the department. The accepted dissertation (subject to whatever revisions the defense committee may deem appropriate) must be typed in conformity with the University’s dissertation format and deposited with the Dissertation Office, whose template may be found here.

11. Advanced Standing

Students who enter the Ph.D. program with a M.A. or equivalent degree in East Asian Studies may be eligible for advanced standing.  These include students who received the M.A degree from a Columbia’s East Asian Studies program and those who earned a M.A degree from another institution that is the academic equivalent of the Columbia’s M.A. The granting of the Advanced Standing is decided by the department, and it gives 2 Residence Units, which will shorten the student’s study period by 4 courses. At the same time, it results in reduction of the student’s multi-year funding by one year, regardless the origin of the student’s M.A. degree.

In order to receive Advanced Standing, the student must submit his or her M.A. thesis or its equivalent, a research paper, for the department’s approval. Students with advanced standing must take eight (instead of twelve) one-semester courses for grade credits at least four of which must be graduate-level colloquia or seminars. Specific course requirements may be waived, if taken for the M.A., subject to the approval of the DGS. All other requirements remain the same as those of the Ph.D. program.

Note: The Admissions Committee of the Department may recommend transfer of a student into the free-standing M.A. program if he or she does not show sufficient progress after the first year in the Ph.D. program.

12. Conference Travel Funds

Each year, EALAC offers a limited number of travel matching funds (up to $250) to support EALAC PhD students to present papers in domestic and international conferences and workshops. The student must apply for DGS approval and submit their application to GSAS prior to travel and can be reimbursed upon return.

Students funded by the Department of History should apply directly to the History Department for this grant. 

Please adhere to the following instructions when applying for this funding:

  1. Complete the application form, which can be found here:
  1. Submit the form, a copy of the invitation to participate or the relevant page in the conference program, and a budget directly to the DGS by leaving a paper copy of all application materials in the DGS mailbox in 407 Kent one month in advance of the deadline (see below for deadlines) and then notify the DGS
  1. Once the DGS has reviewed your application, he or she will inform you of the decision and at this point you will be responsible for submitting the Application for Conference Matching Travel Funds to the Office of Student Affairs in 107 Low Library
  1. If you need further assistance with the application, contact the Business Manager or Financial Assistant

Application deadlines are as follows:

  • July 3 — for conferences held May through August
  • November 3 — for conferences held September through December
  • March 3 — for conferences held January through Apri

Please take into account that the DGS will need to review and return your files prior to your submission. The department cannot guarantee that submissions tendered to the DGS less than two weeks prior to the deadline will be reviewed. 

After The Conference:

Within 10 days of concluding travel or receiving the award letter (whichever is later), students should complete the following steps:

  1. Download or print the Travel and Business Expense Report (Excel file) and complete its upper portion, noting “Graduate Student” next to the student’s name
  2. Include a complete explanation of the business purpose for the trip (for example, “travel to deliver paper at Name of Conference in City from date to date“)
  3. Tape the original receipts to an 8 1/2″ x 11″ sheet of paper so that the entirety of each receipt is visible; use as many sheets as necessary
  4. Provide evidence of participation in the conference (e.g., a copy of the program showing the student’s name and title of the paper delivered)
  5. Sign and submit the Travel and Business Expense Report, along with all supporting materials, to the Business Manager or Financial Assistant
  1. For more information, please visit: