Undergraduate Study

You are here

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.

Applicants must first successfully receive 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 an additional major (double major) in another discipline. Courses taken to complete a double major also fulfill the normal requirement for elective units. 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.

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
  • Critical thinking about cultural diversity
  • Clear written and verbal expression in English
  • Mastery of an Asian language at the second-year level or higher


Completion of the major requires 30 credits at the 2200 level and beyond with a minimum grade of B (S/U not accepted), including:

  • 1 course at the 3300 level.
  • 1 course at the 4400 level.
  • A maximum of 6 credits of language study beyond those required for proficiency may be used.
  • At least 1 course from two of the Asian Studies course categories (RL, SC, LL). See below.
  • 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 2019

General Education (GE)

  • ASIAN 1192 "Modern China" (also HIST 1920/CAPS 1920)
  • ASIAN 2208 "Introduction to Southeast Asia"
  • ASIAN 2211 "Introduction to Japan"

Society and Culture (SC)

  • ASIAN 2245 "Gamelan in Indonesian History & Culture" (also MUSIC 1341/VISST 2744)
  • ASIAN 2252 "Introduction to Japanese Film" (also PMA 2452)
  • ASIAN 2258 "The Occupation of Japan" (also HIST 2315)
  • ASIAN 2262 "Medicine and Healing in China" (also HIST 2562/BSOC 2561/CAPS 2262/STS 2561)
  • ASIAN 2267 "Women and Society in China" (also FGSS 2257/CAPS 2267)
  • ASIAN 2274 "Mughal India and the Early Modern World, c. 1500-1800" (also HIST 2749)
  • ASIAN 2285 "Introduction to Asian Art: Material Worlds" (also ARTH 2805/VISST 2805)
  • ASIAN 3312 "What was the Vietnam War?" (also HIST 3312)
  • ASIAN 3339 "Bollywood and Beyond: South Asian Cinema" (also ARTH 3830/VISST 3830)
  • ASIAN 3389 "China's Rural-Urban Setting"
  • ASIAN 3395 "What is China?" (also GOVT 3967/CAPS 3967)
  • ASIAN 4412 "Religion and Politcs in Southeast Asia" (also ANTHR 4513)
  • ASIAN 4436 "Topics in Indian Film" (also VISST 4436/PMA 4536)
  • ASIAN 4442 "Shadowplay: Asian Art & Performance" (also ARTH 4852/VISST 4852)
  • ASIAN 4448 "China, Tibet and Xinjiang" (also GOVT 4827/CAPS 4827)
  • ASIAN 4450 "Art in Zen and Zen in Art" (also ARTH 4820)
  • ASIAN 4451 "Gender/Sexuality in Southeast Asian Cinema" (also FGSS 4451/PMA 4451/RELST 4451/LGBT 4451)
  • ASIAN 4452 "Critical Filipino/Filipino American Studies" (also AAS 4050/AMST 4052)
  • ASIAN 4459 "History of Book in China"
  • ASIAN 4468 "Transpacific Studies"
  • ASIAN 4470 "Modernity in East Asia"

Religion (RL)

  • ASIAN 2254 "South Asian Religions in Practice: The Healing Traditions" (also ANTHR 2546)
  • ASIAN 2273 "Intro to Religious Studies: Religion & Ecology" (also RELST 2273/NES 2273)
  • ASIAN 2299 "Buddhism" (also RELST 2299)

Literature and Linguistics (LL)

  • ASIAN 2271 "China's Literary Heritage: An Introduction in Translation" (also CAPS 2271)
  • ASIAN 3317 "Japanese Poetry"
  • ASIAN 4411 "History of the Japanese Language" (also LING 4411/JAPAN 4410)
  • ASAIN 4447 "Interpreting Indian Texts"

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.  We now 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, student societies for most of the Asian nations, visiting lecturers and performing groups, and arts exhibitions. There are numerous Asians studying and teaching on the Cornell campus, and the visits of Asian scholars, diplomats, journalists and performers provide students with additional opportunities to meet people from the cultures they are studying. We encourage majors and minors to become familiar with the activities of the East, South, and Southeast Asia Programs on campus.

Study Abroad

There are many strong options for study abroad in Asia. Cornell Abroad 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 The Office of Global Learning (300 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.

Study, Research, and Service Travel Grants

You can have the opportunity to spend part of winter break or a summer in an Asian country on an Asian Studies Study, Research, and Service Travel Grant that would provide funding for travel and living expenses.

Students receiving grants are responsible for managing all aspects of their trip including:

  • making their own travel itinerary
  • arranging travel and accommodations
  • managing their own budgets

At the end of the travel recipients must provide documentation of travel and submit a 10-page report summarizing the language and cultural experiences. 

Applicants may be from any college or major, but must have a proposed project that relates to their area of study. Priority will be given to students who have completed 2 years of language work in the relevant language prior to the intended travel; have no prior travel experience in the area of travel; and are Asian Studies majors or minors. Awardees must be enrolled at Cornell in the semester following travel. Applicants should have a strong cumulative GPA, a well-articulated project, and submit an appropriate budget. 

Applicants must complete an application form, and provide the following:

  • a 1500-word proposal about the plan of study or service or research (consisting of the title of the project, project summary, project detail, a detailed project timeline, and a detailed budget)
  • a transcript
  • a list of the current Academic Year Fall and Spring courses
  • two letters of recommendation, one from a language teacher* 
  • letter of recommendation from host institution if you are doing a service project*

The application deadline for Winter 2020 is October 21st.

*All recommendation letters should be emailed directly to Erin Kotmel.

Winter 2020 Travel Application

Click here for Frequently Asked Questions about the Travel Grants.

To apply for a Travel Grant, or to ask for more information, contact Erin Kotmel, Undergraduate Coordinator, Department of Asian Studies, 350 Rockefeller Hall, e-mail elk38@cornell.edu.

Undergraduate Prizes

The following prizes are offered by the department for undergraduate students.

Robert J. Smith Award/Russell Mann Gift

As a result of a gift from Russell Mann (BA-Asian Studies '90) in honor of Professor Robert J. Smith, an award is given to outstanding Japanese language students, from our beginning and intermediate streams of Japanese language instruction, as the most promising in their cohorts. 

Korean Language Program Award

As a result of funding from the Joh Foundation, three awards are given to Korean language students who have three years of hard work, dedication, and love of learning the Korean language.  

Irene M. Anderson Summer Travel Scholarships


For additional questions, contact: asianstudiesdus@cornell.edu.

Director of Undergraduate Studies:
Associate Professor Nick Admussen
373 Rockefeller Hall

Undergraduate Coordinator:
Erin Kotmel

350 Rockefeller Hall