The B.A. (Honours) Degree in Chinese Studies at Cambridge is a single subject course that, normally, may not be taken in combination with another subject. The course is taught by scholars who are themselves engaged in research and publication and by native speakers of Chinese. Its aim is to train undergraduates in the Chinese language in its modern and classical forms, and to give them a critical sense of the Chinese tradition as it is being interpreted by modern scholarly research.
The course is four years in duration, and breaks into two parts. Part I, lasting two years (Part 1A and 1B), aims to provide undergraduates with a thorough grounding in reading, writing and speaking modern standard Chinese (putonghua), in reading literary and classical Chinese, and in Chinese and East Asian history from ancient to modern times.
It is possible, under the Cambridge system, to change subjects after Part I of the Tripos, and to take up another subject, usually at the Part IB level. Undergraduates in recent years have changed to Modern Languages, Archaeology, Law, and Social and Political sciences.
Undergraduates reading Chinese are required to spend the third year of the course in China, attending courses at Peking University in Beijing or the Ocean University of China in Qingdao in the People's Republic of China. See the Year Abroad page for more information.
The two year course leading to Part II consists of two elements, a core curriculum in both modern and classical Chinese and a number of special subject options. These options reflect the research interests of the teaching staff, and they give undergraduates an opportunity to study a particular period or subject within Chinese Studies at a high level of detail. A dissertation of 12,000 words, usually connected with one’s special subject paper, is also a requirement, and the topics chosen for these dissertations often involve undergraduates in original research.
It is possible to combine the study of Chinese and Japanese in the Tripos, but please note that this can not be done concurrently but only by taking Part I Chinese followed by Part I Japanese or vice versa. Applicants are advised to put only one language as the subject in their application form irrespective of whether they plan to do the combination in their third and fourth year in Cambridge. As one might expect, mastering two demanding Asian languages is no small achievement, and students opting to combine Chinese and Japanese must be in residence in Cambridge for 4 years and therefore do not have a year abroad.
Chinese and Japanese at the University of Cambridge are both taught from scratch and the course therefore requires no prior knowledge of the Chinese or Japanese language. A GCSE or A-level in an East Asian Language does not give applicants any particular advantage in terms of admission since the course consists of a wide range of cultural, historical, and literary papers that require analytical skills beyond basic language training. At present we advise applicants wishing to take Chinese or Japanese at A-level to do so only as one out of four A-level subjects, keeping in mind that the balance of admission is likely to depend on performance in the other three A-level examinations. It is more important to do some exploratory reading about China/Japan and the Chinese/Japanese tradition, which will make it much easier for you to assimilate the enormous amount of information with which you will be presented in the first year. Our experience tells us that any apparent advantage that may come from knowing something of the language before arrival will quickly dissipate. The Cambridge course is not suitable for native speakers.
A Michael Loewe Prize may be awarded annually to one or more candidates in any part of the Tripos who have achieved distinction in literary Chinese.
The Ng Mau Sang Prize may be awarded annually to one or more candidates reading Chinese for outstanding performance in Part II of the Tripos.
The Robert M. Somers Prize may be awarded for an outstanding performance in Chinese Studies in Part II.
Papers and regulations change from year to year, please see the Undergraduate Handbook for full details