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 2024

General Education (GE)

  • ASIAN 2208 "Introduction to Southeast Asia" (also SHUM 2208)
  • ASIAN 2211 "Introduction to Japan"
  • ASIAN 2233 "Introduction to China: Beyond China" (also CAPS 2233)
  • ASIAN 2248 "Buddhists in Indian Ocean Arena: Past and Present" (also RELST 2248)
  • ASIAN 2930 "A Global History of Love" (also HIST 1930/LGBT 1940/SHUM 1930)

Society and Culture (SC)

  • ASIAN 2245 "Gamelan in Indonesian History and Culture" (also MUSIC 1341/VISST 2744)
  • ASIAN 2258 "The Occupation of Japan" (also AMST 2315/HIST 2315/SHUM 2315)
  • 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 2278 "East Asian Medical and Martial Arts" (also HIST 2207)
  • ASIAN 2296 "Korea and East Asia" (also HIST 2996)
  • ASIAN 3350 "The Arts of Southeast Asia" (also ARTH 3850/VISST 3696/MEDVL 3850)
  • ASIAN 3362 "Kingship & Statecraft in Asia: Angkor and Beyond" (also ANTHR 3520/ARKEO 3520)
  • ASIAN 3365 "Genocide Today: The Erasure of Cultures" (also ANTHR 3552)
  • ASIAN 3395 "What is China?" (also GOVT 3967/CAPS 3967)
  • ASIAN 4442 "Shadowplay: Asian Art and Performance" (also ARTH 4852/VISST 4852)
  • ASIAN 4448 "China, Tibet, and Xinjiang" (also GOVT 4827/CAPS 4827)
  • ASIAN 4459 "History of Book in China" (also HIST 4459)
  • ASIAN 4483 "Videogames in East and Southeast Asia"

Religion (RL)

  • ASIAN 2299 "Buddhism" (also RELST 2299)
  • ASIAN 3320 "Buddhist Meditation Traditions" (also RELST 3320)
  • ASIAN 3386 "Islam & the Ethnographic Imagination" (also NES 3880/ANTHR 3680)
  • ASIAN 4020 "Buddhist Moderns: Visions of Humans Flourishing" (also RELST 4020)
  • ASIAN 4021 "Zen Buddhism and its Japanese Context" (also RELST 4021)

Literature and Linguistics (LL)

  • ASIAN 2271 "China's Literary Heritage" (also CAPS 2271)
  • ASIAN 2279 "Chinese Mythology" (also RELST 2279)
  • ASIAN 2282 "Speculative Asias" (also COML 2282)
  • ASIAN 3314 "Korean Literature & Performance: From P'ansori to K-Pop" (also COML 3314)
  • ASIAN 3378 "Korean American Literature" (also AAS 3378/COML 3378)

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.