Asia - East region | University of Oxford
Elevated view of the central shopping district of Shanghai
Elevated view of the central shopping district of Shanghai
(Image credit: Licensed under the Creative Commons by rickyqi).

Asia - East region

Oxford’s links with East Asia, in particular with China, Japan and Korea, are among its most important, and rank among the most extensive of any university in the West.

East Asia studies at Oxford

Study of the region is focused in a number of multi-disciplinary academic centres, including the Oxford University China Centre and the Nissan Institute of Japanese Studies, as well as in the Faculty of Oriental Studies, which also offers courses in Chinese studies, Korean studies, and Japanese studies. The Asian Studies Centre at St Antony's College provides a collaborative home for all Oxford's academics and researchers working on Asia, and hosts a range of seminar series, workshops, conferences and lectures.

Libraries and museums

The Bodleian Library holds an extensive range of rare and ancient Korean resources in its collections. These include two titles which are included on the ‘100 Hangul Heritage’ list, in addition to rare antiquarian printed books, manuscripts, imperial publications, fine portrait albums, and a painted scroll of the funeral procession of King Yŏngjo.

The Bodleian Library also houses one of the oldest and largest collections of Chinese material in Europe.

The Bodleian Japanese Library was opened to readers in April 1993 in the newly constructed building of the Nissan Institute of Japanese Studies. The Library houses the University's principal collections in the humanities and social sciences which relate to the history and culture of Japan. It combines the Bodleian’s extensive holdings on Japan with the residual collection of the former Nissan Institute Library. The Library, comprising about 120,000 volumes, offers one of the best research collections for Japanese studies in Europe.

There has been Japanese material in the Ashmolean Museum's collections from the earliest stages of the Museum's history. A pair of Japanese zori, described in an early inventory as 'sandals made of twigs', was part of the original Tradescant collection, the foundation of the Ashmolean Museum given to the University of Oxford by Elias Ashmole. Highlights of the Japanese collection include woodblock prints, Buddhist sculpture, sword furniture, netsuke and inrō, and lacquerware for both export and domestic markets.

The Ashmolean Museum also has one of the finest collections of Chinese art in Europe. Visitors can see bronze dating from predynastic China and the Shang Dynasty (1200–1050BC); porcelain of the Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties; and the greatest collection of modern and contemporary Chinese art in the west.

The Pitt Rivers Museum's collections include many items from China and Japan. From Japan, their collection includes Noh masks, netsuke, arms and armour, and everyday objects. From China, the museum holds 7,000 objects and 4,000 photographs, as well as decorative arts, ceramics, textiles, and extensive collections of everyday objects and archaeological materials.

Collaborations with East Asian institutions

Collaborations with China

The Oxford Suzhou Centre for Advanced Research (OSCAR), opened in 2018, is the University's first overseas centre for physical science and engineering research. Primarily expanding on activities from across the University's Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences Division, it offers scientists the opportunity to undertake research in applied science fields in proximity to Chinese industry and science and technology institutes. Based in the Souzhou Industrial Park, researchers have access to state-of-the-art facilities in a research environment enriched by numerous universities and research institutions, and a substantial industrial base. Research is directed by University of Oxford academic staff, with most of the research undertaken by researchers employed locally by OSCAR.

The China Kadoorie Biobank is a major long-term prospective cohort study that looks at the interplay of lifestyle, environment and genetic susceptibility as causes of chronic disease. It holds information and biological samples from over 510,000 participants in China, and tracks those individuals' subsequent major health events until the end of their lives. The information can be used to see what effect some factor had on the group's health and mortality. Findings from the China Kadoorie Biobank have covered smoking as a cause of death in China, the health effects of indoor air pollution, physical activity and heart disease/stroke risk, and many other topics. The Biobank is a collaboration between Oxford's Clinical Trial Service Unit, the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences (CAMS) and Peking University.

The Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences has its first Medical Sciences Institute in the UK, in a collaboration with Oxford. The Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences Oxford Institute hosts collaborative work between researchers in Oxford and China, and a DPhil/MD programme for students of selected Chinese institutions, sponsored by the China Scholarship Council. Then vice premier of China, Liu Yandong, attended the signing of the agreement establishing the Institute, held in Oxford in 2017.

Asia is the world's most densely populated continent and suffers the highest number of natural disasters. The health impact of these disasters is exacerbated by the gap between rich and poor in many Asian countries, as well as a lack of understanding about how to manage disaster responses. In an effort to build up the continent’s resilience to natural disasters, Oxford and The Chinese University of Hong Kong joined together to create the Collaborating Centre for Oxford University and CUHK for Disaster and Medical Humanitarian Response (CCOUC). The Centre is a non-profit research body that carries out research, training and community knowledge transfer in disaster and medical humanitarian response in Greater China and the Asia-Pacific Region.

Collaborations with Japan

The annual Kyoto Prize at Oxford event has been hosted at Oxford's Blavatnik School of Government since 2017, one of a small number of events that host the Inamori Foundation's Kyoto Prize laureates after they receive their awards in Japan. The Prize recognises individuals who have ‘contributed substantially to the cultural, scientific, and spiritual betterment of mankind’. The Oxford event is intended as a forum to bring the laureates together with prominent or influential figures in their fields.

A number of leading Japanese organisations have supported the creation of research centres at Oxford. For example, the car manufacturer Nissan supported the creation of the Nissan Institute of Japanese Studies, and the Uehiro Foundation on Ethics and Education in Tokyo supports the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, set up in 2002 in the Department of Philosophy.

Collaborations with Korea

Oxford's Centre for Tropical Medicine and Global Health is a member of the multinational ZikaPLAN consortium for Zika virus preparedness, with the International Vaccine Institute (IVI) in Korea. The project was begun in order to develop a response to the 2015 Zika virus outbreak in the Americas, and, in the longer term, to improve the ability of countries in that region to deal with future outbreaks of Zika and other infectious diseases.

The University is also a partner in the RadioNet radio astronomy infrastructure consortium, with the Korea Astronomy and Space Science Institute (KASI). This is a consortium of institutions that operate leading radio astronomy-related infrastructures, who are working cooperatively to develop, coordinate and integrate their activities in the field.

The International Alliance of Research Universities

Oxford is a member of the International Alliance of Research Universities (IARU) that includes the Universities of Tokyo and Peking, as well as eight other global research-intensive universities. Together, they are tackling major research projects, offering a Global Summer Programme to one-another’s students, and taking action on critical university issues such as campus sustainability.

Scholarships and travel assistance

There are many schemes offering funding for international undergraduate students and particularly funding for international graduate students to study at Oxford, as well as schemes to help students already at Oxford travel abroad.

Student societies

The Oxford University Chinese Society and the Oxford University Hong Kong Society (OUHKS) provide opportunities for those linked to China via heritage, research or just interest to meet, socialise and network. The Oxford University Japanese Society (OUJS) is a student-run society which aims to introduce and promote the enjoyment of Japanese culture and provide an interface between Japanese students in Oxford and those with an interest in Japan. For Korean students at Oxford looking for support networks, the student-led Oxford University Korea Society provides a focal point for social and cultural activities.

Oxford alumni in East Asia

There are five alumni groups in mainland China, three in Japan and one in each of Mongolia, the Republic of Korea, Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan.

Notable East Asian alumni

Famous alumni from East Asia include:

  • Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako of Japan
  • Dr. Myungju Choi, director, North Asia Investment Corporation; former president of the Oxford Alumni Association and member of the Presidential Commission on Policy Planning
  • Prof. George F. Gao, virologist and director general of the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (China CDC)
  • Haruhiko Kuroda, governor, Bank of Japan; former president of the Asian Development Bank
  • Dr. Jin Park, executive president, Asia Future Institute; former member of the National Assembly of the Republic of Korea
  • Guo Shuqing, head of the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission (CBIRC); former governor of Shandong Province and chairman of the China Construction Bank
  • Dr Hak-Gyu Son, South Korean politician, leader of the Bareunmirae Party
  • Miyuki Suzuki, president (Asia, Pacific and Japan), Cisco Systems; former CEO, Jetstar Japan
  • Yang Xianyi, literary scholar
  • Qian Zhongshu, literary scholar