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 ten Asian languages: Bengali, Chinese, Hindi, Indonesian, Japanese, Korean, Sanskrit, Telugu, Urdu, and Vietnamese. We award BA degrees in Asian Languages & Cultures, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and South Asian Languages, and we offer MA and PhD degrees with specialization in Chinese, Japanese, South Asian, 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 create knowledge through advanced seminars and original research. 

The department strongly encourages its students to study abroad through programs coordinated with the UW Study Abroad Office. Students from across the University participate in language-intensive 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.

Graduates of our programs go on to successful careers in academia, business, technology, government, journalism, law, entertainment, and other professions, using their cultural and linguistic expertise to foster understanding between Asia and the rest of the world. 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.


Autumn 2021

  • 88 Undergraduate majors
  • 103 Undergraduate minors
  • 39 Graduate students
  • 6,453 Total student enrollment (2020-2021)

Degrees Awarded

July 2020 - June 2021

  • 98 BA degrees
  • 7 MA degrees
  • 1 PhD degree

Student Awards

2018 - 2021

  • Alvord Dissertation Fellowship Award
  • Critical Language Scholarship
  • Dhammachai Foundation Grant
  • Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) Fellowships
  • Fulbright Fellowship
  • Fulbright Taiwan Study Grant
  • Fulbright-Nehru Student Research Fellowship
  • Ignatz Outstanding Anthology Award
  • Japan Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) Fellowship
  • Jiede Empirical Research Grant
  • JSIS China Recruitment Fellowship
  • JSIS Hsiao Fellowship in China Studies
  • JSIS Taiwan Studies Commendation Award
  • Phi Beta Kappa
  • UW Graduate School Distinguished Thesis Award
  • UW Graduate School International Research and Study Fellowship
  • UW Graduate School Presidential Dissertation Fellowship
  • UW Simpson Center Digital Humanities Summer Fellowship
  • UW Simpson Center Graduate Research Cluster Award


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.

2021 - 2022

  • 5 Professors
  • 8 Associate Professors
  • 6 Associate Teaching Professors
  • 2 Assistant Professors
  • 5 Assistant Teaching Professors
  • 4 Teaching Professors
  • 1 Lecturer
  • 2 Part-time Lecturers
  • 3 Adjunct Faculty
  • 1 Affiliate Faculty
  • 7 Emeritus 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
  • China-U.S. Scholars Program Grant
  • 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
  • Kyoko Selden Memorial Translation Prize in Japanese Literature, Thought, and Society
  • William Holmes McGuffey Longevity Award
  • 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
  • Washington Association of Teachers of Japanese Leslie Birkland Award
  • Washington Association for Language Teaching Inspirational Leadership Certificate


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 recent 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.
  • Hōsei Encyclopedia of Noh Drama: An interdisciplinary, multinational effort to create the first work of this kind in English.
  • Encyclopedia of Chinese Language and Linguistics: A major international project involving many UW faculty as authors, editors, and advisers. The encyclopedia was published in January 2017 and is now a major reference in the field.
  • 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 Studies 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 Cultural Studies
  • Asian Film and Media
  • Book History and Print Culture
  • 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 Ocean Cultural Studies
  • Indian Philosophy
  • Japanese Visual Culture
  • Malay Literature
  • Medieval Hindi Religious Literature
  • Modern Korean Literature
  • Okinawan Fiction
  • Philology
  • Sanskrit Literature and Religious Texts
  • Second Language Acquisition
  • Sociolinguistics
  • Textual Criticism
  • Translation and Interpretation
  • Urdu Literature
  • Writing Systems


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

The department faculty regularly lead language pedagogy workshops for teachers, including UW in the High School; organize colloquia and cultural events; host poetry readings; give public lectures; and judge language competitions.


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


last update:  December 2021