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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.

Spring 2020

General Education (GE)

  • ASIAN 2212 "Introduction to China" (also CAPS 2212)
  • ASIAN 2250 "Introduction to Asian Religions" (also RELST 2250)

Society and Culture (SC)

  • ASIAN 2222 "The World of Modern Japan" (also HIST 1622/CAPS 1622/GOVT 1623)
  • ASIAN 2259 "Music in and of East Asia" (also MUSIC 2330)
  • ASIAN 2260 "Japanese Pop Culture"
  • ASIAN 2283 "Social Debates in China" (also HIST 2133/CAPS 2133)
  • ASIAN 2290 "East Asian Martial Arts" (also HIST 2960)
  • ASIAN 2293 "Making of an Empire in China" (also HIST 2931/CAPS 2931)
  • ASIAN 2294 "Of Saints, Poets, & Revolutionaries: Medieval & Modern Iran & Central Asia" (also NES 2722/MEDVL 2722/RELST 2722)
  • ASIAN 3304 "China's Next Economy" (also CAPS 3409/GOVT 3044)
  • ASIAN 3319 "Small Countries in a Big World"
  • ASIAN 3365 "Genocide Today" (also ANTHR 3552)
  • ASIAN 3368 "Imagining India, Home and Diaspora" (also ENGL 3530)
  • ASIAN 3380 "The Asian Century: The Rise of China & India" (also ILRIC 3380/AEM 3388/CAPS 3387/GOVT 3384)
  • ASIAN 3396 "Transnational Local: Southeast Asian History from the 18th Century" (also HIST 3960)
  • ASIAN 4415 "The Body Politic in Asia" (also HIST 4127/FGSS 4127/CAPS 4127/BSOC 4127)
  • ASIAN 4420 "Cultures of Disability in Japan"
  • ASIAN 4426 "Narrating Choson Korea: History and Memory"
  • ASIAN 4437 "Topics in Tamil Studies"
  • ASIAN 4461 "China's Early Modern" (also HIST 4963/CAPS 4963/MEDVL 4963)
  • ASIAN 4465 "Scandal, Corruption, and the Making of the British Empire in India" (also HIST 4723)
  • ASIAN 4473 "Modern Chinese Art" (also ARTH 4816)
  • ASIAN 4494 "Topics in Southeast Asian Studies"

Religion (RL)

  • ASIAN 3359 "Japanese Buddhism" (also RELST 3359)
  • ASIAN 3386 "Islam & Ethnographic Imagination" (also NES 3880/ANTHR 3680)
  • ASIAN 4441 "Mahayana Buddhism" (also RELST 4441)
  • ASIAN 4489 "Religion, Food Systems and Ecology" (also RELST 4489)

Literature and Linguistics (LL)

  • ASIAN 2279 "Chinese Mythology" (also RELST 2279)
  • ASIAN 3318 "Literature & Media in Japan" (also VISST 3318/COML 3150)
  • ASIAN 3352 "Getting Rich in Modern China" (also CAPS 3352)
  • ASIAN 3366 "Poetry of Classical India"
  • ASIAN 3370 "Nature Imagined & Experienced: Ancient Chinese Travel Literature" (also CAPS 3370)

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 Summer 2020 is February 21st.

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

Summer 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