Students behind clear, long strips with Chinese writing in white letters.
Program Overview

East Asian Studies

Study the languages and cultures of China, Japan, and Korea.

Photo credit: William Bradford

An Integrated Focus on East Asia

East Asia is one of the most significant and culturally vibrant regions of the world, with 1.7 billion people making up 20% of the global population. Oberlin’s Department of East Asian Studies stands out within a liberal arts context for its faculty expertise in all three major regional areas: China, Korea and Japan. Our wide-ranging curriculum allows students to explore their diverse interests in Asia, from history and politics to literature and art. Oberlin’s East Asian Studies majors gain proficiency in a chosen language and can tailor their course of study around a specific region, historical period or culture, preparing them for a wide range of careers in business, law, education, culture and the arts.

A Dynamic and Welcoming Community of Scholars 

One of the first interdisciplinary programs of its kind, Oberlin’s Department of East Asian Studies is a welcoming community of gifted language teachers, committed scholars, and diverse, motivated students. Our majors enjoy cultural immersion as part of language tables, cultural events and festivals, workshops with visiting speakers, and student-led clubs. More than 90% of our majors study or conduct research in Asia, many on funded fellowships thanks to Oberlin Shansi, a nonprofit, nongovernmental educational and cultural exchange organization housed on the Oberlin campus.

Oberlin College is among the top producers of Fulbright scholars in the United States with EAS among the top yielding programs at the college
Oberlin College Recognized as Top Fulbright Producer

Asian Art and Manuscripts

The arts and cultures of Asia have a significant presence at the Allen Memorial Art Museum and as part of the library’s Special Collections. EAS faculty regularly take classes to the museum and library to explore the arts and material cultures of Asia.

Three students and a librarian in the special collections room.
90% of EAS majors study or conduct research in Asia
Learn about Oberlin Shansi fellowships

Study Abroad in Asia

There is no substitute for an immersive cultural and linguistic experience. Oberlin partners with numerous universities in Asia to offer our students the best opportunities to learn abroad, with access to financial support from Oberlin Shansi and other fellowship organizations.

Two students jumping up at China's Great Wall.

Featured Courses

EAST 107

Women and Literary Culture in Japan

Women wrote Japan’s most significant fiction and poetry, from the classical The Tale of Genji & Pillow Book, through 1920s proletarian literature, feminist manifestos of the 1960s, and manga of today. The course focuses on close readings of literary texts and criticism, informed by key concepts of gender, power, sexuality, and voice, and histories of women in literary spheres of society. We interrogate how cultural forms (linked verse, the confession, graphic novels) co-mingle with writing personas (narrator, author, reader).

Taught by
Ann Sherif
EAST 153

Religious Rituals in East Asia

Ritual has always played a central role in the religions of East Asia. In this course, we conduct case studies of ritual practices representative of each major tradition (Confucianism, Daoism, Buddhism, Shinto), as well as several that defy neat categorization. We will study ritual as compelling practices through which religious actors have sought to transform self, society, and cosmos. Orthopraxy, performance, affect, and the body are some the key themes we’ll consider in our engagements with textual primary sources as well as video and audio recordings of rituals as performed and recreated in contemporary settings.

Taught by
Andrew Macomber
EAST 309

Chinese Popular Cinema and Public Intellectualism

Does Chinese popular cinema function as public intellectualism? This course examines the history, genre, aesthetic, and politics of the post-reform Chinese fiction films and documentaries from 1982 to 2014. Studying the works of Zhang Yimou, Jia Zhangke, Wu Wenguang, Wong Kar-wai, Ann Hui, He Zhaoti, Wei Desheng and others, we examine the extent to which influential directors have become a new class or organic intellectuals who raise political questions to propel social change.

Taught by
Hsiu-Chuang Deppman
EAST 367

The Other Great Game, 1860-1905

The Korean peninsula was at the center of the most dramatic upheavals of the late 19th century and early 20th century East Asia. This was a period that witnessed the rise of Japan and the decline of China and the Sinocentric world order that had dominated the region for over a millennia. Imperial Russia was also making inroads into Asia. This seminar is focused on the diplomatic, political and military history of these years, concentrating on Korean, Russian, Chinese, Japanese, European and American history.

Taught by
Sheila Miyoshi Jager

Student Profiles

A Fulbright to South Korea

Catherine Lytle ’19 was an officer for the Oberlin Korean Student Association and a liaison for Asia House. During her junior year she studied at Seoul National University. She is now returning to Korea as a Fulbright Fellow.

Catherine Lytle.

Teaching English in Taiwan

At Oberlin, Grace Evans ’17 played varsity softball, majoring in East Asian studies with a linguistics concentration and politics minor. After graduation she received a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship in Taiwan.

Grace Evans.

Oberlin, Ohio to Oberlin, Japan

Henry Aberle ’16, an East Asian studies and musical studies major, was awarded a Shansi Fellowship to teach at J.F. Oberlin University in Machida, Japan, a suburb of Tokyo. Now based in New York, Henry has founded an online language learning website.

Henry Aberle

What does East Asian Studies at Oberlin look like?

A lecturer of Japanese smiling in front of a blackboard.

Oberlin’s EAS language faculty work closely with students at multiple language levels.

Photo credit: Courtesy of Oberlin College
Students and Noh actors.

Students pose with Noh actors from Tokyo as part of a Japanese music workshop.

Photo credit: Courtesy of Oberlin College
Kathleen Stephens, Sheila Miyoshi Jager, and Jiyul Kim.

As part of a campus event, Kathleen Stephens, former ambassador to South Korea, speaks with Professor of East Asian studies Sheila Miyoshi Jager and Visiting Assistant Professor of History Jiyul Kim.

Photo credit: Yvonne Gay
Taiko performers on stage in Finney Chapel.

OC Taiko, a student-led group, performs in Finney Chapel, the largest performance space on campus.

Photo credit: Jack Lichtenstein ’23
Kai Li.

Professor Li Kai teaching Chinese language and culture at the fifth-year level.

Photo credit: Dale Preston ’83
Hsiu-Chuang Deppman.

Professor Hsiu-Chuang Deppman reading from her recent book on Chinese cinema.

Photo credit: Gary Cohen ’11
Oberlin students and local residents.

Oberlin EAS students participate in an education abroad program in Kyoto, Japan.

Photo credit: Courtesy of Oberlin College
Fang Liu and a student in front of the rock on Tappan Square.

Senior Lecturer Fang Liu with a graduating student. The Chinese characters refer to a poem by Li Bai.

Photo credit: Courtesy of Oberlin College

Next Steps

Get in touch; we would love to chat.


Peters Hall behind a magnolia tree in spring.
Photo credit: John Seyfried