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Field of Study: Chinese Language and Literature


Programs in Chinese language and literature teach people the spoken and written traditions of China.



Chinese language and literature programs include topics such as:

  • Chinese culture
  • Art
  • Anthropology
  • History
  • Literature and poetry
  • Translation techniques
  • Folklore and film
  • Dialects
  • Linguistics

In Chinese language and literature programs, students may be able to specialize in:

  • Cantonese (Min, Hakka, Yue)
  • Conversation
  • Creative and Technical Writing
  • Interpreting
  • Literary Criticism
  • Mandarin/North Chinese/Putonghua
  • Teaching

Many colleges and universities offer bachelor's degrees in Chinese language and literature. A bachelor's degree usually takes about four years of full-time study.

A few universities offer graduate degrees in Chinese language and literature. A master's degree typically requires two years of study beyond a bachelor's degree. Doctoral (PhD) degree programs usually require two or more years of study beyond the master's degree.


College preparation

You can prepare for this program by taking courses in high school that prepare you for college. This typically includes four years of English, three years of math, three years of social studies, and two years of science. Some colleges also require two years of a second language.

  • Humanities
  • Multi/Interdisciplinary Studies
  • Second Language
  • World Geography
  • World History
  • Ancient Civilizations
  • World Area Studies
  • Political Science
  • Economics
  • Contemporary World Issues


Graduate admissions

Admission to graduate programs is competitive. You need a bachelor's degree, good grades, and good test scores. In addition, you must be able to demonstrate that you can speak, read, write, and understand Chinese at an advanced level.

Additional requirements at some schools include:

  • Graduate Record Exam (GRE) General
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Personal statement
  • Academic writing sample


Typical course work

This program typically includes courses in the following subjects:

  • Applied Phonetics
  • Business Chinese
  • Civilization and Cultural History
  • Conversation and Composition
  • Linguistics
  • Literary Studies
  • Literature, Folklore, and Film
  • Reading Skills
  • Translation
  • Study in Mandarin Chinese (beginning, intermediate, advanced)

Graduate programs in Chinese language and literature typically require:

  • Required courses
  • Thesis (master's degree)
  • Preliminary exams (doctoral degree only)
  • Dissertation and dissertation defense (doctoral degree)


Things to know

Within China there are several other distinctive but related language families. Because of this, most programs typically teach students how to speak, read and write Mandarin.

Students who major in Chinese language and literature may be required or encouraged to spend some time living, working, and studying abroad. Most programs coordinate semester abroad or work internships. In most cases, you can participate in these after you have completed at least two years of language study.

Colleges that do not have complete programs in Chinese language and literature may offer elective courses as part of a major in interdisciplinary studies or liberal arts.

Often, Chinese language and literature programs are part of Asian studies departments.


Similar fields of study

Careers you may qualify for

College Foreign Language Teachers
Interpreters and Translators



Association for Asian Studies

Languages on the Web
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Schools that offer program

Click on the school name to see a list of their programs related to this field of study.

Carleton College - Northfield, Located in Southeast
College of Saint Benedict - St. Joseph, Located in Central
Concordia College - Moorhead, Located in Northwest
Hamline University - St. Paul, Located in Metro
Macalester College - St. Paul, Located in Metro
St. John's University - Collegeville, Located in Central
St. Olaf College - Northfield, Located in Southeast