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Ph.D. in Chinese

The Ph.D. program in Chinese is designed to prepare students for a doctoral degree in Chinese literature, philosophy, or linguistics.

Applicants must have a minimum of three years of Chinese language study at Stanford or the equivalent to be considered for admission. Ph.D. students will complete the M.A. (as described in the M.A. requirements section on this website) on the way to advancing to Ph.D. candidacy. The majority of required course work for Ph.D. students demands the ability to read primary and secondary materials in Chinese. Advanced standing may be considered for students entering the Ph.D. program who have already completed an M.A. in Chinese literature or linguistics elsewhere only in cases when the level of prior course work and research is deemed equivalent to departmental requirements for the Ph.D. All courses must be taken for a letter grade.

For a Ph.D. in Chinese, a candidate must fulfill the following requirements:

  1. Complete the department's requirements for the M.A. in Chinese and two of three advanced classical Chinese Courses: CHINLIT 221, Advanced Classical Chinese: Philosophical Texts; CHINLIT 222, Advanced Classical Chinese: Historical Narration; or CHINLIT 223, Advanced Classical Chinese: Literary Essays. All incoming Ph.D. students must take a placement test in classical Chinese held during Orientation Week of fall quarter. Those who fail to place into the advanced level must take Beginning Classical Chinese.
  2. Demonstrate proficiency in at least one supporting language, to be chosen in consultation with the primary adviser according to the candidate's specific research goals. Reading proficiency must be certified through a written examination or an appropriate amount of coursework, to be determined on a case-by-case basis. When deemed necessary by the student's adviser(s), working knowledge of a third language may also be required.
  3. Students in Chinese literature must take at least one Chinese linguistics course, and linguistics students must take at least one literature course.  One linguistics course is CHINA 291:  Structure of Modern Chinese.
  4. Complete two relevant seminars at the 300 level. These seminars must be in different subjects.
  5. Pass a set of three comprehensive written examinations, one of which tests the candidate's methodological competence in the relevant discipline. The remaining two fields are chosen, with the approval of the graduate adviser in consultation with the student's individual adviser, from the following: archaeolology, anthropology, art, Chinese literature, history, Japanese literature, linguistics, philosophy, and religion. With the adviser's approval, a Ph.D. minor in a supporting field may be deemed equivalent to the completion of one of these three examinations. Students concentrating on modern Chinese literature should follow the instructions below for comprehensive written exams.*
  6. Demonstrate pedagogical proficiency by serving as a teaching assistant for a minimum of one quarter, and taking DLCL 301, The Learning and Teaching of Second Languages.
  7. Pass the University Oral Examination — General regulations governing the oral examination are found in the "Graduate Degrees" section of the University Bulletin. The candidate is examined on questions related to the dissertation after acceptable parts of it have been completed in draft form.
  8. Submit a dissertation demonstrating ability to undertake original research based on primary materials in Chinese.


Field Exam/Comprehensive Written Exam Instructions for Modern Chinese Literature Students:
All students in the Ph.D. program in modern Chinese literature must pass three comprehensive written examinations (a.k.a. field exams or qualifying exams) by the end of their ninth quarter: Theory, Literature, and X. The theory exam tests the student’s competence in the fundamental methods and issues of literary and cultural studies. The literature exam tests the student’s familiarity with the basic canon of modern Chinese literature, representative texts in his or her own area/period/genre of interest, and the core secondary scholarship of the field. The third field (X) may be chosen, with the approval of the Director of Graduate Studies in consultation with the student’s primary adviser from the following: comparative literature, premodern Chinese literature, linguistics, history, film, art history, philosophy, religious studies, archaeology, anthropology, political science, sociology, Japanese literature, Korean literature, FGSS, environmental humanities, digital humanities, medical humanities. It is the student’s responsibility to secure a faculty member’s (EALC or non-EALC) consent to supervise the third exam. With the primary adviser's approval, a Ph.D. minor in a supporting field may be deemed equivalent to the completion of the third exam. Comprehensive/field exams must be completed before students can register for TGR; students should take their first field exam at the latest in the spring or summer quarter of their second year to be on track to complete all three exams by or before the end of their third year.

Students should prepare for each exam by taking the following steps:

  1. Prepare a reading list. Start with the core list and add 10-20 more titles that pertain directly to his/her own area/period/genre of interest; the list should be organized into 4-5 topics and must conform to a standard bibliographical style. Submit the list to both the primary advisor and field supervisor (if different) for approval.
  2. Set a date for the exam. Two  weeks prior to the exam date, submit a list of 4-5 discursive questions each keyed to a topic in the reading list.
  3. On the day of the exam, the student receives three or four questions from which s/he chooses to answer two. Each exam essay should be 5-6 pages, double-spaced, and proofread. Footnote citations or a works cited list is not necessary. The allotted time for each exam is 4 hours with a half hour break. The exam may be administered by email.

The exam essays are evaluated for breadth, accuracy, and analytical acumen. Students will be graded on a scale from Fail to Pass and Pass with Distinction. A student who receives the "Fail" grade will be placed on probation and must retake the exam within three months. A second "Fail" grade will result in dismissal from the program.