Autumn East Asian Civilizations

  • In 2012, students visited Japan with Professor James Ketelaar. (Photo by Chen Chen)

  • In 2011, the students visited a migrants’ school in suburban Beijing.

The University of Chicago Center in Beijing hosts the quarter-long East Asian Civilizations in Beijing program, part of the University’s range of Common Core Civilization Studies courses abroad. The program is structured as a three-course sequence focusing on East Asian culture, history, politics, and society. This sequence is taught in English by University of Chicago professors, its emphasis shifting from year to year in accordance with the interests and expertise of that year’s faculty. While China, in keeping with the location of the program, will hold a central position in the sequence, some professors may choose to focus on Asian international issues or countries such as Korea or Japan. In addition to the civilization sequence, students take a fourth course in Chinese language, taught at various levels, designed to facilitate their access to the local culture. Each of the Civilizations courses lasts three weeks, while the Chinese language course runs for the entire program.

Beijing itself, once the fabled “Northern Capital” of the Ming Dynasty and now the political and cultural heart of modern China, plays a key role in this program. A series of excursions and site visits helps connect the courses with the physical reality, past and present, of China. Each year, the professors and students also visit areas farther afield, such as Shanghai or Xi’an (home to the Terracotta Warriors).

Beijing was selected as the location for the East Asian Civilizations program because the city provides an enormous collection of historic and contemporary resources for enriching the program. In addition to the ancient palaces, temples, theaters, alley neighborhoods, and garden complexes scattered around the city, there are numerous historical and art museums that provide the densest collection of cultural resources anywhere in China. The city has also become a model of the new urbanization sweeping China, with numerous examples of state-of-the-art architecture and urban planning. In the mountains surrounding Beijing, there are a number of historic sites that are available for day trips, such as the Great Wall and the Western Hills Buddhist and Daoist temple complexes. The city also boasts a wide range of cuisine from throughout China. The language dialect spoken in Beijing is the national language, Mandarin, and is one that students study in the program.

Civilizations students also have the chance to participate in an optional one-month intensive Chinese language learning program during August and September before the Civ program begins. This pre-session is hosted at Capital Normal University, which is also in northwestern Beijing. There is generally a small number of students enrolled in the pre-session, so small classes and one-on-one tutoring are possible, and participants can take advantage of the opportunity to acclimate to China and enjoy Beijing while focusing intensively on language learning.

Get a student’s perspective on studying Civilizations at the Center: A Typical Day in Beijing

For More Information:

For additional information, including information on the optional Chinese Language pre-session, housing, credits and registration, finances, eligibility and application, please visit the East Asian Civilizations page on the University of Chicago Study Abroad website.

2014 East Asian Civ Fall Program:

2014 Program Recap

2013 East Asian Civ Fall Program:

2013 Program Recap

Autumn 2013 Alumni Career Panel

2012 East Asian Civ Fall Program:

2012 Program Recap

2011 East Asian Civ Fall Program:

2011 Program Recap

2010 East Asian Civ Fall Program:

Center in Beijing Serves 2010 East Asian Civilizations Class as Base for Exploring China

Maroons Explore Silk Road Ties

Professor Chin Holds Office Hours at the Great Wall

A Typical Day in Beijing