Roadside shrine in Nara. Photo by David Lurie.

Roadside shrine in Nara. Photo by David Lurie.

Ph. D. Program in East Asian Religion

1. Course Requirements
2. Language Requirements
3. Registration Category Requirements
4. M.Phil. Oral Examinations
5. Ph.D. Dissertation Prospectus
6. Dissertation Workshops
7. Dissertation & Defense
8. MA Degree and Advanced Standing
9. Conference Travel Funds

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.

1. Course Requirements

The student must take twelve one-semester courses for a grade, at least six of which must be graduate-level colloquia or seminars. One of the twelve courses must be outside the student’s East Asian country of specialization. The student is required to take Religion GR6901, the primary methodology seminar of the Religion Department. Students are also strongly encouraged to take a bibliography course dealing with or appropriate to the country of specialization when available. The methodology and bibliography courses are counted as two of the twelve required courses. The choice of courses must be approved by the student’s adviser and by the DGS. Courses in first-year classical Chinese, first-year classical Japanese and Kanbun can be counted toward the twelve courses. Second-year classical Chinese can be counted as a graduate colloquium/seminar.

2. Language Requirements

Entering students are required to take the language placement examination in their primary East Asian language of specialization (Chinese, Japanese, or Korean) 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. Requirements for each primary language are as follows:

A. Primary language

1. Students with Chinese as their primary language are required to complete Fifth-year modern Chinese or the equivalent, as well as one year of classical Chinese or the equivalent.

2. Students with Japanese as their primary language are required to complete Fifth-year Japanese or the equivalent as well as one year of classical Japanese or the equivalent. In addition, they are required to complete one semester of Kanbun or one year of classical Chinese.

3. Students with Korean as their primary language are required to complete Fifth-year Korean or the equivalent. In addition, they are required to complete one year of classical Chinese or one semester of Kanbun

B. Second and third languages

In addition to work in their primary language, students are also required to be able to use other research languages as well.

1. Students with Chinese as their primary language are required to also complete two years of Japanese or the equivalent. In addition, they are expected to complete either the equivalent of two years of a European language or two years of a third language in either classical or modern form chosen in consultation with the adviser.

2. Students with Japanese as their primary language are expected to complete the equivalent of two years of European language or two years of a second Asian language in either classical or modern form, in consultation with adviser.

3. Students with Korean as their primary language are required to complete the equivalent of two years of modern Japanese or Chinese. In addition, they are required to complete the equivalent of two years of one European language, to be chosen in consultation with the adviser.

4. Students with Tibetan as their primary language are required to complete the equivalent of two years of Sanskrit, modern Japanese, or Chinese. In addition, they are required to complete the equivalent of two years of one European language, to be chosen in consultation with the adviser.

Note: Students who receive a FLAS fellowship, and spend a year abroad deepening proficiency in an East Asian language, will not have that year counted as one of their funded years by GSAS.

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. M.Phil. Oral Examinations

The student must take a two-hour comprehensive oral examination in three or four subject areas defined in consultation with the advisor and the DGS. Normally, one of these subject areas is outside the student’s country of specialization. The committee for the oral examination, which is put together by the advisor, consists of three or more faculty members. It is up to the student to consult carefully with the advisor and DGS in constructing an effective program and schedule. The oral examination is normally taken at the end of the third year (but no later than the end of the fourth year, or third year for those with full advanced standing) of Ph.D. study.

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

5. Ph.D. Dissertation Prospectus

PhD students are required to write and defend the dissertation prospectus within six months of completing the M.Phil. oral examinations. The student must pass an one-hour oral defense of the dissertation prospectus before his or her M.Phil oral examination committee or before a dissertation prospectus committee selected by the advisor.

The prospectus, which is at least 10 pages plus a bibliography, is usually a revision of the grant proposal submitted to outside funders at the beginning of the third year for dissertation research in Asia. The prospectus defense may be carried out in conjunction with the M. Phil oral examination, or it may be taken afterwards, before leaving for dissertation research.

6. 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

7. 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:

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. 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 and GSAS must be informed of this arrangement at the time of application. 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.

8. MA Degree and Advanced Standing

All students, including those already holding an M.A., write a research paper to be completed by the end of the third 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. However, two additional papers must be completed by all other students by the time of the oral examination, one paper based on research in primary sources, and one paper outside the student’s primary specialization to be chosen in consultation with, and submitted to, the adviser.

This is done by completing the following two steps:

1) Apply for the M.A. degree with the Registrar. This can be done online via their website:

2) Submit the completed M.A. Degree Requirements Checklist for PhD Candidates form, signed by the advisor, to the EALAC office, 407 Kent Hall. This form is available on the department website:

9. 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 Religion should apply directly to the Religion 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: