There are a variety of ways to concentrate in East Asian Studies, with different requirements. Interested students should schedule a meeting with the Assistant Director of Undergraduate Studies for their year or the Undergraduate Program Coordinator, Nicole Escolas, to determine the best track for their academic interests. Primary concentrators can choose the honors or non-honors track or the joint program in History Secondary.  Joint concentrators can choose the language or area track or the joint program in History. Students may also opt to do a 6-course secondary field in East Asian Studies. Click here for a detailed description of the various tracks available.

General Information

Course work in the East Asian Studies concentration falls into three categories:

  • language study
  • tutorials
  • East Asia "area courses" (including "historical survey" courses)

The exact number of courses required in each of these three categories varies, depending on your year of graduation and whether you seek to satisfy honors or non-honors requirements, and whether you are a primary, secondary, or joint concentrator.


Language study enhances the East Asian Studies concentration at Harvard. Most concentrators will spend 2-3 years on their language of choice. Students selecting a secondary concentration (area track), however, are not required to complete any language courses.


Tutorials are group instruction classes taught by EAS faculty and teaching fellows. All primary concentrators must take the sophomore and junior tutorials (tutorial requirements vary for secondary and joint concentrators). In the junior year students elect a particular country focus, usually determined by their language choice. They choose between social science and humanities tutorials focused on that country. Honors concentrators also take a senior tutorial in which they prepare an honors thesis.

Area courses

Area courses (described below) include East Asia courses in General Education, which provide varying degrees of general background, as well as more focused departmental offerings.

An area course is a non-language course in East Asian or related subjects. One of these courses must be one of the following survey courses: General Education 1136 "Power and Civilization: China" (formerly SW 12), History 1023 "Japan in Asia and the World" (formerly SW 13), General Education 1100 "The Two Koreas in the Modern World" (formerly SW 27), or SOC-STD 98LF "Globalization and the Nation-State." It is recommended that at least two area courses be upper-level seminars. The number of courses required depends on the number of East Asian language courses that a student chooses. Together these must total ten, so a student who chooses to count six courses of language requires four additional area courses, and a student who chooses to count four language courses requires six area courses.

  • Historical Survey Courses.
    Historical survey courses are a subset of East Asia area courses with a particular emphasis on history. Courses which count toward this requirement are: History 1023 "Japan in Asia and the World," SW 43 "Japan's Samurai Revolution," General Education 1136 "Power and Civilization: China," GOV 1280 "Government and Politics of China," General Education 1101 "The Business of China," General Education 1100 "The Two Koreas in the Modern World," KORHIST 111 "Traditional Korea," History 1820 (Vietnam), History 1821 (Vietnam), and History B-68 "America and Vietnam."

The logic of your plan of study:

Before filling in the blanks in a plan of study, you should give careful thought to the following. The key to making the EAS concentration a rich academic experience is constructing a coherent program of study. Your choices within each category (language, tutorial, area courses) should suit your interests. Ideally, your courses will also cohere across the three categories, reinforcing and building upon each other.

You should begin your language studies in your first year if possible, and by no means later than sophomore year. For native English speakers, East Asian languages require more years of study than European languages to reach fluency, and the concentration requirements will bring you to a minimum floor of proficiency, not a ceiling. Many students will wish to gain further language proficiency while in college, either through summer schools or term-time study abroad. To make best use of study abroad, you should have already completed at least two years of language study before going to Asia, so an early start is crucial. And of course, reaching a high level of language proficiency as soon as possible will help you in your advanced area courses, tutorials, and senior thesis.

EAS suggests that you take one course that acts as a history of the region that you plan to focus on ("historical survey" area course). Please consult your Assistant Director of Undergraduate Studies for advice on choosing this course. Suggested historical survey courses include History 1023 "Japan in Asia and the World," SW 43 "Japan's Samurai Revolution," General Education 1136 "Power and Civilization: China," GOV 1280 "Government and Politics of China," General Education 1101 "The Business of China," General Education 1100 "The Two Koreas in the Modern World," KORHIST 111 "Traditional Korea," History 1820 (Vietnam), History 1821 (Vietnam), and History B-68 "America and Vietnam."

Tutorials are an important part of the concentration. All sophomores take the sophomore tutorial, EAS 97ab. The tutorial introduces you to the culture, literature, and society of Korea, Japan, and China in pre-modern and modern times. It gives particular attention to some of the larger themes of East Asian history, and the various analytic disciplines used in studying East Asia today. It also seeks to train students to write clearly and persuasively, and to read and think critically. In their junior year, concentrators choose from among several junior tutorials according to their primary country of interest and the particular topics they wish to pursue. Junior tutorials have the designation EAS 98; offerings in EAS 98 vary from year to year. Students may substitute another seminar course for EAS 98 with the approval of the Director of Undergraduate Studies. 

Choice of area courses should be made with an eye toward relatedness among these courses, and between them, your junior tutorial, and your potential thesis topic. Several General Education courses qualify as area courses, and they offer a good general introduction to concentrators. As noted above, you should take one introductory course, such as General Education 1136, History 1023, or General Education 1100 in freshman or sophomore year. But we strongly encourage you to go beyond General Education and to take some of the many departmental courses on East Asia to meet your area course requirements. Indeed, Harvard's unique strength in the field of East Asian studies lies above all in the rich array of such courses. They tend to have smaller enrollments than Gen Ed courses and allow you to get to know the faculty better. Taking departmental courses in an area of particular interest in your sophomore or junior year will also help you explore possible topics for a senior honors thesis and get to know potential advisors.

Space and credit for additional area or language courses can be gained by taking advantage of the flexible line between the language and area course requirements. You can satisfy the language requirement by reaching second or third year proficiency as measured in a placement test, taking advantage of summer study, study abroad, or previous exposure to the language. This does not reduce your overall course requirement in the concentration, but it frees you to either take more advanced language courses or to replace language with additional area courses, or both.

If you intend to write an honors thesis, you should begin preparations in your junior year. Ask professors in your language and area courses, and your tutorial instructors, for suggestions about possible thesis topics. Explore possible topics in your papers written for tutorial or other courses. Harvard offers several grants to allow students to travel to East Asia in the summer between junior and senior year. By all means apply for these, and consult the EAS office for information. As applications are due in March, you need to begin thinking about topics and writing a proposal early in the spring semester, or before.

Senior tutorial, EAS 99, is a full-year course for those seniors writing honors theses. Students work in individual tutorials with a faculty advisor and a tutor. Not all students write theses, and the decision to do so or not is important. By all means consult widely, talking to upperclass students in the concentration, tutors, and faculty members. For those who elect this option, the senior honors thesis is an important and rewarding part of their college experience.