About the East Asian Studies Program

East Asian Studies at Princeton had their roots in the Department of Oriental Languages and Literatures, established in 1927 to coordinate graduate work in Semitic and Indo-European philology. An undergraduate program was not contemplated at that time. Undergraduates nevertheless had access to excellent courses in Chinese art taught by George Rowley, and in Far Eastern politics taught by Robert K. Reischauer, who was on the faculty of the Woodrow Wilson School at the time of his death in Shanghai in 1937, and by David Nelson Rowe, who later moved to Yale. After World War II social science of the Far East was further developed with the appointments of William W. Lockwood in political economy and Marion J. Levy, Jr., in sociology.

But although some hesitant steps toward language teaching were taken during and after World War II, it was not until the appointment in 1956 of Frederick W. Mote, a graduate of Nanking, that the Department of Oriental Studies, as it then was known, began regular work in Chinese. Working with Ta-Tuan Ch'en, who joined him in 1959, Mote built a language program that trained students to utilize the formidable resources of the Gest Library and also to master the modern colloquial language. Later, Yu-Kung Kao came in Chinese literature, permitting Mote to return to his own specialty of history, where he was joined in turn by James T. C. Liu.

Work in Japanese began with the appointment of Marius B. Jansen in history in 1959; Japanese language and literature were offered after 1960, and directed by John Nathan after 1973. Meanwhile, a number of other men and women came in Japanese studies to balance the strength the Chinese program had already shown.

In 1961 an interdepartmental undergraduate program in East Asian Studies was set up under the direction of Jansen, and in 1969 the East Asian wing of the Department of Oriental Studies received independent status as the Department of East Asian Studies, also under his chairmanship. Later, Mote and Levy succeeded Jansen as chairman. Generous financial support by John D. Rockefeller III (1961), the Ford Foundation (1961), the Carnegie Corporation (1963), the federal Office of Education (1965), and the government of Japan (1973) enabled the University to staff strong undergraduate and graduate programs that ranked with the best in the United States.

A graduate program in Chinese and Japanese art and archaeology was established in 1958; Wen Fong and Shujiro Shimada made it the center for acquisitions and activities that produced holdings such as the Carter bronzes (1965) and exhibits recorded in publications like Traditions in Japanese Art (with Fogg Art Museum, Harvard, 1970) and Studies in Chinese Connoisseurship (Princeton, 1973). The Department of Religion began offering courses in Buddhism in 1960, and additional courses in the modern history, sociology, and politics of East Asia were made available. An experiment with Korean language, history, and politics proved unsuccessful, but a project in Chinese linguistics, begun in 1960, enriched the department's program, bringing a series of specialists to Princeton for conferences, research, and teaching.

East Asian Studies has from the first focused upon undergraduate mastery of the modern colloquial languages as the primary requirement for competence and understanding. Mote and Jansen worked with their colleagues at other universities in establishing Inter-University Centers in Tokyo and Taipei in the early 1960s, and qualified undergraduates were encouraged (through support provided by the Class of 1944) to take an additional, undergraduate year of intensive language work in East Asia. Princeton-in-Asia added other opportunities. In 1963 the Critical Language Program brought undergraduates from other colleges to spend a ``junior year abroad in Princeton'' working on East Asian, Near Eastern, or Russian language. In 1966 a summer school, initially in Chinese, after 1970 also in Japanese, was established at Middlebury College with Princeton direction and cooperation.

By the 1970s, East Asian Studies had acquired a home in the old mathematics building, Fine Hall, now renamed Jones Hall, and a full range of language, literature, history, and cognate courses, undergraduate as well as graduate, had brought the department into the mainstream of campus -- and national -- attention.

Marius B. Jansen
Copyright 1978 Princeton University Press