MPhil in Traditional East Asia
About the course
The MPhil in Traditional East Asia examines the Sinitic tradition and its development and adaptations in China, Korea, and Japan. It will appeal to students wishing to develop an intimate knowledge of the region for academic purposes or as preparation for careers in museology, libraries, journalism, diplomacy, international banking, business, law, government service, secondary education, or non-governmental organisations.
On arrival, students are required to have proficiency in at least one East Asian language (Chinese, Korean, or Japanese).
Your first-year work has three parts.
You should have some proficiency in an East Asian language (Chinese, Korean, or Japanese). A qualifying examination in your modern language is held at the end of the third term. If your proficiency in your main language is not up to academic standards, you will prepare for an examination in that language. If, on arrival, your proficiency is judged to be up to academic standards, you will choose a different modern East Asian language for research purposes and prepare for the examination in the selected language.
You will be required to follow a general course in Classical Chinese, Classical Japanese, or Middle Korean. Instruction may take the form of lectures, text classes, or some combination of the two. You will prepare and present English translations in text classes. Depending on your ability, you may be permitted to follow more than one classical language, but you must choose only one classical language for assessment in your qualifying examination.
You will also attend throughout the year the East Asia Colloquium, for which you receive a reading list and write four essays per term. Students meet together every two weeks in a 90-minute seminar to present the gist of their essays and discuss the topic at hand. The qualifying examination for the seminar consists of an assessment of your three best essays from the twelve prepared over the year. No marks are given on each essay but you will receive comments and feedback, and you must choose and submit one essay to Examination Schools at the end of each term that you feel presents the best of your work.
Your second-year work has three parts.
In the second year, you will spend a good portion of your time researching and writing your thesis. There are no modern language requirements, but you may opt to monitor or audit classes in a modern or classical language that you were unable to study or for which you would like further study.
You will continue your study of a classical language by reading Prescribed Texts in Classical Chinese or Classical Japanese or Middle Korean. Texts are chosen in consultation with one of the Course Coordinators and drawn from canonical literature in the areas of history, literature, and philosophy. The final examination is a timed examination at the end of the second year. You have eight one-hour classes spread over three terms.
Bibliography and Methodology
For the Bibliography and Methodology requirement, you will choose a country specialisation (Korea, China, or Japan) and prepare answers to a series of exercises requiring you to find specific and general information in the classical bibliography and references of one of the three countries. You have eight one-hour classes spread over three terms.
Handwriting as a competence standard
Mastering the ability to handwrite in Korean, Japanese and Chinese has been identified as a competence standard for a mandatory core element of this course. This means that students will be required to produce handwritten work for assessment and it will not be possible to complete the assessment in an alternative format.
If you are interested in this course and your personal circumstances mean that handwriting may present a challenge, please contact the school/faculty for further information using the contact details provided in the Further information and enquires section of this page.
The allocation of graduate supervision for this course is the responsibility of the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies and it is not always possible to accommodate the preferences of incoming graduate students to work with a particular member of staff. Under exceptional circumstances a supervisor may be found outside the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies.
In the first year, you will take two examinations at the end of the third term. One will be in a modern language. The second will be in a classical language.
You will also be assessed on three essays from the first, second, and third terms of your first year.
In the second year, you will prepare a thesis of using information gathered through at least one East Asian language. You will present your interim research results at one public colloquium held at the end of the fifth term. The thesis is due during the sixth term. The last time you are able to consult your supervisor for the thesis is one month before the due date.
At the end of the sixth term, you will sit one examination on the Prescribed Texts you have prepared in your chosen classical language, and you will be given a take-home examination to assess your knowledge of classical Bibliography and Methodology in your chosen field (Korea, Japan, or China).
Further information on the course, and the examination process, can be found in the course handbook via the course webpage on the faculty's website.
Asian and Middle Eastern studies graduates have found employment in many and diverse fields including museology, libraries, journalism, diplomacy, but also international banking, business, law, government service, secondary education and non-governmental organisations.
Changes to this course and your supervision
The University will seek to deliver this course in accordance with the description set out in this course page. However, there may be situations in which it is desirable or necessary for the University to make changes in course provision, either before or after registration. The safety of students, staff and visitors is paramount and major changes to delivery or services may have to be made in circumstances of a pandemic (including Covid-19), epidemic or local health emergency. In addition, in certain circumstances, for example due to visa difficulties or because the health needs of students cannot be met, it may be necessary to make adjustments to course requirements for international study.
Where possible your academic supervisor will not change for the duration of your course. However, it may be necessary to assign a new academic supervisor during the course of study or before registration for reasons which might include illness, sabbatical leave, parental leave or change in employment.
For further information please see our page on changes to courses and the provisions of the student contract regarding changes to courses.
Other courses you may wish to consider
If you're thinking about applying for this course, you may also wish to consider the courses listed below. These courses may have been suggested due to their similarity with this course, or because they are offered by the same department or faculty.
Courses suggested by the faculty
Contemporary Chinese Studies MSc
Modern Chinese Studies MPhil
Korean Studies MSt
Asian and Middle Eastern Studies DPhil
All graduate courses offered by the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies
Entry requirements for entry in 2023-24
Proven and potential academic excellence
As a minimum, applicants should normally hold or be predicted to achieve the equivalent of the following UK qualifications:
- a first-class or strong upper second-class undergraduate degree with honours in any subject.
For applicants with a degree from the USA, the minimum GPA sought is 3.5 out of 4.0.
If your degree is not from the UK or another country specified above, visit our International Qualifications page for guidance on the qualifications and grades that would usually be considered to meet the University’s minimum entry requirements.
GRE General Test scores
No Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or GMAT scores are sought.
Other qualifications, evidence of excellence and relevant experience
- Entrants are required to have a reading ability in at least one modern language (Chinese, Korean, or Japanese). If you are not a native speaker in one of these languages, your level of proficiency must be supported by one of the standardised proficiency tests accepted by the faculty.
- Publications are not required.
English language proficiency
This course requires proficiency in English at the University's higher level. If your first language is not English, you may need to provide evidence that you meet this requirement. The minimum scores required to meet the University's higher level are detailed in the table below.
|Test||Minimum overall score||Minimum score per component|
|IELTS Academic (Institution code: 0713)||7.5||7.0|
TOEFL iBT, including the 'Home Edition'
(Institution code: 0490)
*Previously known as the Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English or Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE)
†Previously known as the Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English or Cambridge English: Proficiency (CPE)
Your test must have been taken no more than two years before the start date of your course. Our Application Guide provides further information about the English language test requirement.
Declaring extenuating circumstances
If your ability to meet the entry requirements has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic (eg you were awarded an unclassified/ungraded degree) or any other exceptional personal circumstance (eg other illness or bereavement), please refer to the guidance on extenuating circumstances in the Application Guide for information about how to declare this so that your application can be considered appropriately.
You will need to register three referees who can give an informed view of your academic ability and suitability for the course. The How to apply section of this page provides details of the types of reference that are required in support of your application for this course and how these will be assessed.
You will be required to supply supporting documents with your application, including an official transcript and a CV/résumé. The How to apply section of this page provides details of the supporting documents that are required as part of your application for this course and how these will be assessed.
Performance at interview
Interviews may be conducted. If interviewing takes place, candidates will be shortlisted based on their qualifications and appropriateness for the course. Interviews will be held at times convenient to both staff and applicant. The interview will be held online if you are outside Oxford and will consist of around 30 minutes of question and answer and around 30 minutes of a short language examination. There will be a minimum of two interviewers, usually three.
How your application is assessed
Your application will be assessed purely on your proven and potential academic excellence and other entry requirements published under that heading. References and supporting documents submitted as part of your application, and your performance at interview (if interviews are held) will be considered as part of the assessment process.
An overview of the shortlisting and selection process is provided below. Our 'After you apply' pages provide more information about how applications are assessed.
Shortlisting and selection
Students are considered for shortlisting and selected for admission without regard to age, disability, gender reassignment, marital or civil partnership status, pregnancy and maternity, race (including colour, nationality and ethnic or national origins), religion or belief (including lack of belief), sex, sexual orientation, as well as other relevant circumstances including parental or caring responsibilities or social background. However, please note the following:
- socio-economic information may be taken into account in the selection of applicants and award of scholarships for courses that are part of the University’s pilot selection procedure and for scholarships aimed at under-represented groups;
- country of ordinary residence may be taken into account in the awarding of certain scholarships; and
- protected characteristics may be taken into account during shortlisting for interview or the award of scholarships where the University has approved a positive action case under the Equality Act 2010.
Whether or not you have secured funding will not be taken into consideration when your application is assessed.
Processing your data for shortlisting and selection
Admissions panels and assessors
All recommendations to admit a student involve the judgement of at least two members of the academic staff with relevant experience and expertise, and must also be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies or Admissions Committee (or equivalent within the department).
Admissions panels or committees will always include at least one member of academic staff who has undertaken appropriate training.
Other factors governing whether places can be offered
The following factors will also govern whether candidates can be offered places:
- the ability of the University to provide the appropriate supervision for your studies, as outlined under the 'Supervision' heading in the About section of this page;
- the ability of the University to provide appropriate support for your studies (eg through the provision of facilities, resources, teaching and/or research opportunities); and
- minimum and maximum limits to the numbers of students who may be admitted to the University's taught and research programmes.
Offer conditions for successful applications
If you receive an offer of a place at Oxford, your offer will outline any conditions that you need to satisfy and any actions you need to take, together with any associated deadlines. These may include academic conditions, such as achieving a specific final grade in your current degree course. These conditions will usually depend on your individual academic circumstances and may vary between applicants. Our After you apply pages provide more information about offers and conditions.
In addition to any academic conditions which are set, you will also be required to meet the following requirements:
If you are offered a place, you will be required to complete a Financial Declaration in order to meet your financial condition of admission.
Disclosure of criminal convictions
In accordance with the University’s obligations towards students and staff, we will ask you to declare any relevant, unspent criminal convictions before you can take up a place at Oxford.
Oxford's libraries preserve one of the largest and most important collections on materials on East Asia to be found in the western world. For Chinese, Korean, and Japanese, the Bodleian Chinese Library in the Dickson Poon University of Oxford China Centre, the Bodleian Japanese Library in the Nissan Institute, and the 'Window on Korea' Library in the Nizami Ganjavi Library part of the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies are most useful, together with the Eastern Art Library in the Sackler Library.
For Chinese, there is also the Dickson Poon University of Oxford China Centre Building (hereafter China Centre) which has a dedicated library with study carrels and a reading room. The China Centre Library holds books from the Bodleian Library's China Collection. The Bodleian Library has been collecting books in Chinese and on China since the early seventeenth century and presently contains one of the largest collections in Europe.
For Korean, the ‘Window on Korea’ project - sponsored by the National Library of Korea - provided the Bodleian Library with around 4,000 volumes in 2012 to augment the 36,000 volumes already in the collection and provides 200 volumes per year. The National Library of Korea also provided funding to help create a Korean Studies Library with an audio-visual seminar room at the Nizami Ganjavi Library. This provides the opportunity to expand the collection as well as bringing all necessary Korean materials (reference, newspapers, teaching, audio visual and research materials) into one location at the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies. The Weston Library houses the Korean collection of pre-modern books and manuscripts and the Bodleian intranet system maintains subscriptions to most of the key online databases, eg DBpia, KISS, KRpia and KSI e-book. The Korean collection possesses the Bishop Mark Trollope Collection (from the nineteenth century and earlier), the Monsignor Richard Rutt Collection (mid to late twentieth century), and the earliest translations of the New Testament into Korean by John Ross in the 1880s.
For Japanese, the Nissan Institute houses the Bodleian Japanese Library, the University’s research collection of Japanese books. The library was constructed in 1993 and contains certain rare items. The first known accession of Japanese printed material was three volumes printed by Hon’ami Kōetsu’s press at Saga, Kyoto, c.1608-15.
There are also rare printed volumes produced by the Jesuit press in Japan (Kirishitan-ban) before they were expelled in 1614 as well as log books by William Adams (1564-1620), the first Englishman known to have visited Japan. The collection grew with Western-language publications on Japan from the seventeenth century onwards, and as an active research library serving the Oxford community, there is also an extensive and expanding modern collection.
There is also the Research Centre for Japanese Language and Linguistics in the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, which functions as an umbrella for research activities related to Japanese language and linguistics through the University. The centre serves as a forum for publicising teaching, lectures, seminars, and other activities of interest to Japanese linguistics, and as a point of access to information for prospective graduate students interested in Japanese language and linguistics.
Adjacent to the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies is the Ashmolean Museum, which houses superb Chinese, Japanese and Korean collections, and the Sackler Library, which houses an extensive collection on the art history of East Asia.
You will have access to the University's centrally provided electronic resources, the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies' IT Officer, and other bibliographic, archive or material sources as appropriate to the topic. There is a computing room for the use of graduate students in the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, as well as a common room where tea and coffee are available and staff and students can meet.
The University expects to be able to offer around 1,000 full or partial graduate scholarships across the collegiate University in 2023-24. You will be automatically considered for the majority of Oxford scholarships, if you fulfil the eligibility criteria and submit your graduate application by the relevant December or January deadline. Most scholarships are awarded on the basis of academic merit and/or potential.
For further details about searching for funding as a graduate student visit our dedicated Funding pages, which contain information about how to apply for Oxford scholarships requiring an additional application, details of external funding, loan schemes and other funding sources.
Please ensure that you visit individual college websites for details of any college-specific funding opportunities using the links provided on our college pages or below:
Please note that not all the colleges listed above may accept students on this course. For details of those which do, please refer to the College preference section of this page.
Further information about funding opportunities for this course can be found on the faculty's website.
Annual fees for entry in 2023-24
Annual Course fees
Further details about fee status eligibility can be found on the fee status webpage.
Information about course fees
Course fees are payable each year, for the duration of your fee liability (your fee liability is the length of time for which you are required to pay course fees). For courses lasting longer than one year, please be aware that fees will usually increase annually. For details, please see our guidance on changes to fees and charges.
Course fees cover your teaching as well as other academic services and facilities provided to support your studies. Unless specified in the additional information section below, course fees do not cover your accommodation, residential costs or other living costs. They also don’t cover any additional costs and charges that are outlined in the additional information below.
Where can I find further information about fees?
The Fees and Funding section of this website provides further information about course fees, including information about fee status and eligibility and your length of fee liability.
There are no compulsory elements of this course that entail additional costs beyond fees and living costs. However, as part of your course requirements, you may need to choose a dissertation, a project or a thesis topic. Please note that, depending on your choice of topic and the research required to complete it, you may incur additional expenses, such as travel expenses, research expenses, and field trips. You will need to meet these additional costs, although you may be able to apply for small grants from your department and/or college to help you cover some of these expenses.
In addition to your course fees, you will need to ensure that you have adequate funds to support your living costs for the duration of your course.
For the 2023-24 academic year, the range of likely living costs for full-time study is between c. £1,290 and £1,840 for each month spent in Oxford. Full information, including a breakdown of likely living costs in Oxford for items such as food, accommodation and study costs, is available on our living costs page. When planning your finances for any future years of study in Oxford beyond 2023-24, it is suggested that you allow for potential increases in living expenses of 5% or more each year – although this rate may vary significantly depending on how the national economic situation develops. UK inflationary increases will be kept under review and this page updated.
All graduate students at Oxford belong to a department or faculty and a college or hall (except those taking non-matriculated courses). If you apply for a place on this course you will have the option to express a preference for one of the colleges listed below, or you can ask us to find a college for you. The Colleges section of this website provides information about the college system at Oxford, as well as factors you may wish to consider when deciding whether to express a college preference. Please note that ‘college’ and ‘colleges’ refers to all 45 of the University’s colleges, including those designated as Permanent Private Halls (PPHs).
For some courses, the department or faculty may have provided some additional advice below to help you to decide. Whatever you decide, it won’t affect how the academic department assesses your application and whether they decide to make you an offer. If your department makes you an offer of a place, you’re guaranteed a place at one of our colleges.
The following colleges accept students on the MPhil in Traditional East Asia:
Before you apply
Our guide to getting started provides general advice on how to prepare for and start your application. Check the deadlines on this page and the information about deadlines in our Application Guide. If it's important for you to have your application considered under a particular deadline – eg under a December or January deadline in order to be considered for Oxford scholarships – we recommend that you aim to complete and submit your application at least two weeks in advance.
Application fee waivers
An application fee of £75 is payable per course application. Application fee waivers are available for the following applicants who meet the eligibility criteria:
- applicants from low-income countries;
- refugees and displaced persons;
- UK applicants from low-income backgrounds; and
- applicants who applied for our Graduate Access Programmes in the past two years and met the eligibility criteria.
You are encouraged to check whether you're eligible for an application fee waiver before you apply.
Do I need to contact anyone before I apply?
You do not need to make contact with the department before you apply but you are encouraged to visit the relevant departmental webpages to read any further information about your chosen course.
Completing your application
You should refer to the information below when completing the application form, paying attention to the specific requirements for the supporting documents. If any document does not meet the specification, including the stipulated word count, your application may be considered incomplete and not assessed by the academic department. Expand each section to show further details.
Three overall, academic preferred
Whilst you must register three referees, the department may start the assessment of your application if two of the three references are submitted by the course deadline and your application is otherwise complete. Please note that you may still be required to ensure your third referee supplies a reference for consideration.
Whilst it is appreciated that obtaining academic references will be difficult for some candidates, academic references are requested because it is necessary to establish whether a candidate is intellectually prepared for a course. It is unlikely that this is something that can be established from a professional or personal reference, so you should only submit such references if there is absolutely no alternative.
Your references will support intellectual ability, academic achievement, motivation, and fitness for the chosen course of study.
Your transcripts should give detailed information of the individual grades received in your university-level qualifications to date. You should only upload official documents issued by your institution and any transcript not in English should be accompanied by a certified translation.
More information about the transcript requirement is available in the Application Guide.
A CV/résumé is compulsory for all applications. Most applicants choose to submit a document of one to two pages highlighting their academic achievements and any relevant professional experience.
Statement of purpose/personal statement:
A maximum of 1,000 words
Your statement should be written in English and explain your motivation for applying for the course at Oxford, your relevant experience and education, and the specific areas that interest you.
If possible, please ensure that the word count is clearly displayed on the document.
This will be assessed for:
- your reasons for applying, especially to Oxford
- evidence of motivation for and understanding of the proposed area of study
- commitment to the subject
- preliminary knowledge of research techniques
- capacity for sustained and intense work at a high intellectual level
- reasoning ability
- ability to absorb new ideas at a rapid pace.
Two essays of a maximum of 2,000 words each
Academic essays or other writing samples from your most recent qualification, written in English, are required. Extracts of the requisite length from longer work are also permissible.
The word count does not need to include any bibliography or brief footnotes.
If possible, please ensure that the word count is clearly displayed on the document.
This will be assessed for:
- ability to construct and defend an argument
- powers of analysis
- powers of expression
- clarity and accuracy of thought and writing
- conceptual sophistication
- critical skill
- control of relevant primary and secondary sources
- presentation of material in the appropriate scholarly form.
It is helpful if written work relates closely to the proposed area of study, though it is not compulsory, as there are many things that the assessors look for in the written work which are not specific to the subject area, such as ability to construct and defend an argument and presentation of material in the appropriate scholarly form.
Certificate of proficiency in an East Asian language
Applicants whose native language is not Chinese, Japanese, or Korean must supply scores from one of the major international proficiency examinations. For Chinese, scores should be submitted from the HSK (Chinese Proficiency Test) with a target level of 4. For Japanese, scores should be submitted from the Japanese Language Proficiency Test with a target of level N2. (Additionally, applicants will be required to submit a JCAT score). For Korean, scores should be submitted from the Standard Test of Proficiency in Korean (S-TOPIK) with a target level of 4.
Documentation of your scores should be uploaded to your application as a transcript.
This will be assessed for your language proficiency.
Start or continue your application
You can start or return to an application using the relevant link below. As you complete the form, please refer to the requirements above and consult our Application Guide for advice. You'll find the answers to most common queries in our FAQs.