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 three-hour 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 2,000-word 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 three-hour written 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.
The allocation of graduate supervision for this course is the responsibility of the Faculty of Oriental 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 Oriental Studies.
In the first year, you will take two, three-hour written examinations at the end of the third term (Trinity term). One will be in a modern language. The second will be in a classical language.
You will also be assessed on the three submitted essays from the first, second, and third terms.
In the second year, you will prepare a thesis of between 20,000 and 30,000 words, 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, three-hour examination on the Prescribed Texts you have prepared in your chosen classical language, and you will be given a take-home examination to be completed in the library to assess your knowledge of classical Bibliography and Methodology in your chosen field (Korea, Japan, or China).
Further information on the course and examinations can be found in the Course Handbook, which can be accessed via the faculty's course webpage.
Oriental 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.
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
All graduate courses offered by the Faculty of Oriental Studies
Entry requirements for entry in 2021-22
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.
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.
English language requirement
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.
You will be required to supply supporting documents with your application, including references and an official transcript. See 'How to apply' for instructions on the documents you will need 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.
Any offer of a place is dependent on the University’s ability to provide the appropriate supervision for your chosen area of work. Please refer to the ‘About’ section of this page for more information about the provision of supervision for this course.
How your application is assessed
Your application will be assessed purely on academic merit and potential, according to the published entry requirements for the course. Students are selected for admission without regard to gender, marital or civil partnership status, disability, race, nationality, ethnic origin, religion or belief, sexual orientation, age or social background. Whether you have secured funding will not be taken into consideration when your application is assessed.
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.
After an offer is made
If you receive an offer of a place at Oxford, you will 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 Oriental Institute are most useful, together with the Eastern Art Library in the Sackler Library. The Oriental Institute also has a computing room for the use of graduate students, and common rooms are to be found in or near many of the libraries where staff and students can meet for tea or coffee.
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 until 2022. The National Library of Korea also provided funding to help create a Korean Studies Library with an audio-visual seminar room at the Oriental Institute 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 Oriental Institute. 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 Oriental 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 Oriental Institute 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.
The University expects to be able to offer up to 1,000 full or partial graduate scholarships across the collegiate University in 2021-22. 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 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 college-specific funding opportunities using the links provided on our college pages.
Further information about funding opportunities for this course can be found on the faculty's website.
Annual fees for entry in 2021-22
Annual Course fees
|Home (UK, Republic of Ireland,|
Channel Islands & Isle of Man)
|Overseas (including EU)||£27,460|
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 likely increases 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.
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 2021-22 academic year, the range of likely living costs for full-time study is between c. £1,175 and £1,710 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 2021-22, you should allow for an estimated increase in living expenses of 3% each year.
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:
How to apply
You are not required to make contact with an academic member of staff before you apply.
The set of documents you should send with your application to this course comprises the following:
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.
References or letters of recommendation:
Three overall, generally academic
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.
Start or continue an application
Step 1: Read our guide to getting started, which explains how to prepare for and start an application.
Step 2: Check that you meet the Entry requirements and read the How to apply information on this page.
Step 3: Check the deadlines on this page and the deadline information in our Application Guide. Plan your time to submit your application well in advance - we recommend two or three weeks earlier.
Step 4: Check if you're eligible for an application fee waiver. Application fee waivers are available for:
- UK applicants from low-income backgrounds who meet the eligibility criteria;
- residents in a country listed as low-income by the World Bank (refer to the eligibility criteria);
- current Oxford graduate taught students applying for readmission to an eligible course; and
- additional applications to selected research courses that are closely related to your first application.
Step 5: Start your application using the relevant link below. As you complete the form, consult our Application Guide for advice at each stage. You'll find the answers to most common queries in our FAQs.