Asian Building

Over half the world’s population lives in Asia, home to many of the oldest and most vibrant cultures in human history. We explore these cultures through literary, linguistic, and textual analysis, illuminating vital connections between East and West from our vantage point on the Pacific Rim.



Undergraduate majors


The Department of Asian Languages and Literature plays a central role in all areas of Asian studies at the University, with a total enrollment of more than 6,000 students in its courses each year.

The department provides instruction in nine Asian languages: Bengali, Chinese, Hindi, Indonesian, Japanese, Korean, Sanskrit, Urdu, and Vietnamese. It awards BA degrees in Asian Languages and Culture, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and South Asian Languages & Literature, as well as MA and PhD degrees with specialization in Chinese, Japanese, South Asian languages and literature, and Buddhist Studies.

While attaining language proficiency, our undergraduate majors explore the cultural, literary, and linguistic aspects of Asia, past and present. At the graduate level, students acquire and apply their knowledge through advanced seminars and original research. 

Graduates of our programs go on to successful careers in academia, business, government, journalism, law, and other professions, using their cultural and linguistic expertise to foster understanding between Asia and the rest of the world. The department strongly encourages its students to study abroad through programs coordinated with the Study Abroad Office. During the 2018-2019 academic year, students from across the Yniversity participated in study programs in China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Nepal, the Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam. For undergraduate and graduate students alike, the overseas experience is a crucial element in their intellectual, personal, and professional development.

The department hosts a career panel every spring to help undergraduates learn how to leverage their language skills into careers, and to help them connect with potential employers.


September 2018 - August 2019

  • 107 Undergraduate majors
  • 36 Graduate students
  • 6,335 Total student enrollment

Degrees Awarded

September 2018 - August 2019

  • 50 Bachelor of Arts degrees
  • 2 Master of Arts degrees
  • 2 PhD degrees

Student Awards

2018 - 2019

  • Alvord Dissertation Fellowship Award
  • Critical Language Scholarship
  • Dhammachai Foundation Grant
  • Foreign Language and Area Studies
  • (FLAS) Fellowships
  • Fulbright Fellowship
  • Graduate School Presidential
  • Dissertation Fellowship
  • Japan’s Ministry of Education, Culture,Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) Fellowship
  • Phi Beta Kappa


Segments of an ancient birch bark manuscript, part of a collection of manuscripts dating back to the first century CE that are the focus of the Early Buddhist Manuscripts Project.
Segments of an ancient birch bark manuscript, part of a collection of manuscripts dating back to the first century CE that are the focus of the Early Buddhist Manuscripts Project.

2018 - 2019

  • 4 Professors
  • 9 Associate Professors
  • 1 Assistant Professor
  • 1 Principal Lecturer
  • 8 Senior Lecturers
  • 8 Lecturers
  • 7 Emeritus Faculty
  • 3 Adjunct Faculty
  • 2 Affiliate Faculty

Recent Faculty Awards:

  • American Institute of Indian Studies Senior Short-Term Fellowship
  • American Institute of Pakistan Studies Short-Term Research Grant
  • Association for the Study of the Arts of the Present Book Prize
  • College Art Association Millard Meiss Publication Fund Award
  • Henry Luce Foundation Grant
  • Japan Foundation Fellowship for Research on Japanese Art
  • Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs Commendation
  • Northeast Asia Council of the Association for Asian Studies Grant for Travel to Japan
  • Prix de la Fondation Colette Caillat en études indiennes
  • Urdu Writers Society of North America Award
  • UW Global Innovation Fund Grant
  • UW Royalty Research Fund Award
  • UW Simpson Center Large Scale Collaboration Grant


Faculty in the Department of Asian Languages and Literature pursue their study of Asian languages and cultures primarily through the medium of text, but they represent a wide range of disciplinary interests, including linguistics, philosophy, history, literature, visual arts, and cultural studies. They participate in collaborative research projects that extend throughout the UW community and beyond. Examples of current collaborations include:

  • Early Buddhist Manuscripts Project: Established in 1996 to edit, study, and publish the earliest collections of Buddhist manuscripts yet discovered, dating to the first century C.E.
  • Japanese Visiting Scholar Program: Every spring the department hosts a senior scholar from a leading Japanese research university to co-teach a graduate seminar with department faculty on a topic of shared interest.
  • The Hōsei Encyclopedia of Noh Drama: An interdisciplinary, multinational effort to create the first work of this kind in English.
  • Publication of the Encyclopedia of Chinese Language and Linguistics: A major international project involving many UW faculty as authors, editors, and advisers from around the world. The encyclopedia was published in January 2017 and is now a major reference in the field.
  • Research on Korean at the Nexus of the Northeast Asian Linguistic Area (in conjunction with Cornell University): Research on the status of Northeast Asia as a linguistic area or sprachbund, with a focus on Korean’s central role among the languages of this region. 
  • UW Translation Hub: A project funded by the Simpson Center for the Humanities that aims to coalesce energies on campus and beyond by building on existing and emergent faculty and graduate student research courses, and initiatives in public engagement around translation.

Areas of Research

  • Ancient Chinese Syntax and Phonology
  • Applied Chinese Linguistics
  • Applied Japanese Linguistics
  • Asian Film and Asian Cultural Studies
  • Buddhist Studies
  • Classical and Modern Chinese Literature
  • Classical and Modern Japanese Literature
  • Comparative Literature
  • Early Indian Buddhism and Buddhist Manuscripts
  • Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies
  • Hindi Literature and Linguistics
  • Indian Philosophy
  • Japanese Visual Culture
  • Medieval Hindi Religious Literature
  • Modern Korean Literature
  • Okinawan Fiction
  • Philology
  • Sanskrit Literature and Religious Texts
  • Second Language Acquisition
  • Sociolinguistics
  • Translation and Interpretation
  • Textual Criticism
  • Urdu Literature
  • Writing Systems


The department sponsors two annual evening lecture series for the general public: the endowed Andrew L. Markus Memorial Lecture (inaugurated in 1998) and the Washin Kai – Friends of Classical Japanese Lecture series (inaugurated in 2018).


Department of Asian Languages & Literature
225 Gowen Hall
mail address: Box 353521
University of Washington
Seattle, WA 98195
(206) 543-4996


last update:  January 2020