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Experience pursuing a PhD in Chinese Literature


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Has anyone here enrolled in a Chinese university and pursued / currently pursuing a degree in Chinese Literature (Classical, Moderrn, etc.)? If so, can you juxtapose western and eastern curriculums / demands on the student? What's different, what's similar? Lastly, how would a PhD from, say, BeiDa in Classical Chinese Literature match up against an equivalent from Harvard, Columbia, etc? Thoughts and experience appreciated! :D

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Don't know. Haven't studied in Chinese university. But in researching grad schools, I've noticed that university profs in the U.S. (including profs from China) have all gotten their PhDs from Columbia, Berkeley, Harvard etc. Draw your own conclusions. I've come across a couple American profs who did a master's in literature in China, then went to the States for a PhD. Might be interesting to contact them directly.

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I can share what the profs in my master's program at BNU told me - to a large degree, a literature doctorate program in China is what you make of it. It used to be that even the master's degree was kind of perfunctory - you got in, that was the hard part, and you were practically guaranteed to graduate. It's gotten somewhat stricter, but the degree is still very much an entitlement once you test into the PhD program.

However, as the basic requirements for a master's degree were raised, personal interaction and advisor-guided study gradually decreased. In the PhD program, on the other hand, you'll still have lots of opportunities to pursue research that interests you.

Differences between China's programs and the US:

(1) Theory, definitely. There's much more familiarity with different modes of criticism in the west; I feel that the aesthetic theory course given at BNU was about the level of an undergrad course in the US.

(2) Languages. Looking at US programs, working knowledge of two other Asian languages is required in some schools; a comparative lit degree at one of those big names requires three modern and one ancient or something like that. Chinese schools are not as strict in this requirement.

(3) Treatment of non-native students. US universities don't usually have a double standard for American and foreign students, but Chinese schools, even though there may not be something stated outright, may go easy on the foreigner.

Given these issues, if I were going to continue for a PhD (which I most certainly am not), I would not do it in China (and this would probably apply to any humanities field. Science is a different matter). If you do, be aware that for future employment you may have to make more of a mark with published papers.

Of course, it also might depend on what you study - if the resources for your dissertation are available only in China and you are able to spend time getting intimately acquainted with them, that may be enough to make it worthwhile.

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