Undergraduate Study

Major in Asian Studies


A major in Asian Studies is rewarding for students of all backgrounds, as the global presence of Asia becomes ever more visible. This degree offers students career opportunities in law, business, government, journalism, arts, education, post-secondary education, and more.

Students are encouraged to apply to the major shortly after successfully receiving a minimum grade of B in at least two Asia content courses. These may include one language course, but writing seminars do not fulfill the requirement. The major must be declared no later than the second semester of the junior year. Admission to the major after the start of the seventh semester will be by petition only.

The majors can choose additional majors (double/triple major) in another discipline. Courses taken to complete another major also fulfill the normal requirement for elective units. Maximum of 15 transfer credits from courses taken outside of Cornell may be applied toward the major. Because the field is so vast, each major works  closely with a faculty advisor to design an academic program which meets individual interests, abilities, and career goals.

First-, second-, and third-year students may file an online Intent to Major form at any time.  (Students in their last year must petition.)  This initial step lets us know of your interest in the major.  We will add your name to the majors listserv so that we can let you know of Asian Studies-related news, opportunities, and events that may be of interest.

Learning Outcomes:

We expect our undergraduate majors to demonstrate:

  • The ability to conduct research on the cultural, religious, and/or literary traditions of a particular Asian region.
  • The breadth of knowledge to be able to discuss their research imaginatively within broader regional and global contexts and to contribute towards innovating the field of Asian Studies.
  • The capacity to critically analyze and contextualize linguistic and cultural norms, political structures, and texts as sites of resistance, oppression, and inequalities in the context of power relations within and beyond Asia.
  • Mastery of an Asian language at the second-year level or higher, including critical sensitivity to the target language's culture and society.
  • Written and verbal expression marked by clarity, coherence, intellectual force, and stylistic control.


Completion of the major requires 30 credits at the 2000 level and above with a minimum grade of B (S/U not accepted), including:

  • 1 course at the 3300 level.
  • 1 course at the 4400 level.
  • At least 1 course from two of the Asian Studies course categories (RL, SC, LL). See below.
  • A maximum of 6 credits of language study beyond those required for proficiency may be used.
  • Demonstration of 2-year proficiency in an Asian Language:
    • Testing into and completing the second semester of the 2nd year of that language
    • Obtaining a 2-year proficiency test result
    • Testing into a language course beyond the 2200 level.

To keep track of your progress, use the Major Degree Requirements worksheet.

Asian Course Categories

All Asian Studies courses including the Literature courses are divided up into different categories: (GE) General Education, (RL) Religion, (SC) Society and Culture, and (LL) Literature and Linguistics. 

Majors must take classes in at least two out the three categories beyond General Education.

Fall 2023

General Education (GE)

  • ASIAN 1192 "Modern China" (also CAPS 1920/HIST 1920)
  • ASIAN 2208 "Introduction to Southeast Asia" (also SHUM 2208)
  • ASIAN 2211 "Introduction to Japan"
  • ASIAN 2232 "Introduction to China: Getting Rich" (also CAPS 2232)'

Society and Culture (SC)

  • ASIAN 2245 "Gamelan in Indonesian History and Culture" (also MUSIC 1341/VISST 2744)
  • ASIAN 2261 "From Samurai to Superpower: Japan in World History I" (also CAPS 1621/HIST 1621)
  • ASIAN 2262 "Medicine and Healing in China" (also BSOC 2561/CAPS 2262/HIST 2562/STS 2561)
  • ASIAN 2269 "Korean Popular Culture" (also PMA 2465/AAS 2269)
  • ASIAN 2278 "Intersections: East Asia and Ithaca" (also HIST 2207)
  • ASIAN 2280 "Law and Society in Early Modern and Modern China" (also CAPS 2132/HIST 2132)
  • ASIAN 2281 "Gender, Family, and Confucianism in East Asia" (also CAPS 2281/FGSS 22281/HIST 2981)
  • ASIAN 2288 "Introduction to the Arts of China" (also ARTH 2800/ARKEO 2800/SHUM 2800)
  • ASIAN 3365 "Genocide Today: The Erasure of Cultures" (also ANTHR 3552)
  • ASIAN 3380 "The Asian Century: The Rise of China and India" (also AEM 3388/CAPS 3387/GOVT 3384/ILRIC 3380)
  • ASIAN 3397 "Monsoon Kingdoms: Pre-Modern Southeast Asian History" (also HIST 3950)
  • ASIAN 4415 "Body Politic in Asia" (also BSOC 4127/CAPS 4127/FGSS 4127/HIST 4217)
  • ASIAN 4424 "Objects, Rituals, and Tea" (also ARTH 4822)
  • ASIAN 4451 "Gender and Sexuality in Southeast Asian Cinema" (also COML 4451/FGSS 4451/LGBT 4451/PMA 4451/RELST 4451)
  • ASIAN 4452 "Critical Filipino and Filipino American Studies" (also AAS 4050/AMST 4052)

Religion (RL)

  • ASIAN 2273 "Religion and Ecological Sustainability" (also RELST 2273)
  • ASIAN 2299 "Buddhism" (also RELST 2299)
  • ASIAN 3320 "Buddhist Meditation Traditions" (also RELST 3320)
  • ASIAN 3344 "Introduction to Indian Philosophy" (also RELST 3344/CLASS 3674/PHIL 2540)
  • ASIAN 4438 "Islam in Asia: From Turkey to Japan" (also RELST 4438)

Literature and Linguistics (LL)

  • ASIAN 3324 "Modern and Contemporary Korean Literature"
  • ASIAN 3370 "Nature and Ecology in Ancient Chinese Travel Writing" (also CAPS 3370)
  • ASIAN 4440 "Jin Ping Mei and Sensorium of Text"

Honors Program

To be eligible for honors in Asian Studies, students must have an overall cumulative grade average of 3.0 and 3.7 in all Asian Studies area courses (not including language courses) and must successfully complete an honors thesis during their senior year. Students who wish to be considered for honors should apply to the Director of Undergraduate Studies during the second term of their junior year.

See the Honors page for more details and titles of past honors theses.

Minors in Asian Studies

The Asian Studies Department offers three areal minors.  Many students choose to highlight their Asian areal interests by combining a minor with their chosen major. For those interested in transregional studies, effective Fall 2021, we now offer a new minor in Global Asia Studies.  We also offer a minor in Sanskrit Studies. Students from any college or discipline are welcome to apply.

Click on the links below for detailed information/application process for each minor:

In addition to course work, there are many extracurricular activities related to Asia. These include: an annual Japanese film series; a Gamelan group; clubs in most of the martial arts of Asia and student societies for most of the Asian nations; arts exhibitions; visiting lecturers and performing groups; . and the visits of Asian scholars, diplomats, journalists and performers provide students with additional opportunities. We encourage majors and minors to become familiar with the activities of the East, South, and Southeast Asia Programs on campus.

A minor in Asian Studies is a rewarding add-on to any major and for students of all backgrounds, as the global presence of Asia becomes ever more visible.  First-, second-, and third-year students may file an online Intent to Minor form at any time. (Students in their last year must petition.) This initial step lets us know of your interest in one of the minors. We will add your name to the minors listserv so that we can let you know of Asian Studies-related news, opportunities, and events that may be of interest.

Study Abroad

There are many strong options for study abroad in Asia. Education Abroad, Office of Global Learning helps students plan a year or semester abroad as part of their Cornell undergraduate degree. Cornell has affiliations with several programs and institutions in Asia, and sends students to those and others. Cornell is affiliated with IUP, the Inter-University Program for Chinese Language Studies in Beijing (at Tsinghua University), and is a member of CIEE and IES, organizations sponsoring study abroad programs offering Chinese language instructions at several levels as well as courses in Chinese studies in the humanities and social sciences. Students may also study at other programs in China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan.

Cornell is a member of the consortium of the Kyoto Center for Japanese Studies, an undergraduate semester or year program in Japanese language and Japanese studies. An agreement with International Christian University (ICU), outside Tokyo, permits Cornell students to attend that institution. Cornell students have attended CIEE and IES programs in Japan, as well as some other programs and institutions.

Cornell is a member of the American Association of Indian Studies, which offers fellowships for intensive study in India or Hindi, Bengali, and Tamil. There are study abroad options in universities or study abroad programs in various regions of India.

Students may spend a term or year in Mongolia, Korea, Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore, or the Philippines, or choose to study about Asia at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, or the Faculty of Asian Studies at the Australian National University. Undergraduates should consult Education Abroad, Office of Global Learning (B50 Caldwell Hall); graduate students should inquire at the East Asia Program (140 Uris Hall), South Asia Program (170 Uris Hall), or Southeast Asia Program (180 Uris Hall) offices.