The Study of China at Harvard

Harvard University’s entry into the China field began over 125 years ago, in 1879, when Harvard hired its first Chinese teacher, Mr. Ko Kun-hua, who reached Cambridge from Ningbo after nearly nine months of travel with his wife and six small children. While Mr. Ko unfortunately died within months of his arrival, the collection of books bought for him to use in his classes were the first Chinese materials acquired by the Harvard College Library. These were later among the initial holdings of what became the Harvard-Yenching Library, which now, at over one million volumes, is the largest university East Asian research collection outside of Asia.

That early attempt to introduce Chinese into the curriculum set in motion what has become a comprehensive program of the study of China at all instructional levels within the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Harvard now offers language instruction in Mandarin, Cantonese, Uyghur, Manchu, Mongolian, and Tibetan, with over 600 students enrolled in these courses each year. More than 370 different academic courses across the university relate to some aspect of East Asian studies ranging from history and literature to archaeology, government, and plant biology. In addition, nearly every school at Harvard is involved in China-related research or training. The university is also fortunate to be home to two libraries with extraordinary collections of Chinese materials, the Harvard-Yenching Library, noted above, and the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies Library (now part of the Fung Library), with its unique collections of post-1949 materials from China. The University also houses important collections of Asia and China-related photographs at the Arnold Arboretum Archives and the Peabody Museum.

In addition, a number of research centers and programs focus exclusively or in part on Chinese studies and contemporary issues. Among these are the Harvard Yenching Institute, the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies, the Harvard University Asia Center, the Harvard Kennedy School’s Rajawali Foundation Institute for Asia in the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation, the Harvard Law School’s East Asian Legal Studies Program, the Harvard China Project in the Harvard University Center for the Environment at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and the China Initiative at the Harvard School of Public Health.

Throughout the University, faculty members are working on numerous research projects, often in partnership with Chinese colleagues, addressing a vast range of topics. Every year, increasing numbers of undergraduate and graduate students travel to mainland China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan for language study and research, to take part in business and other professional internships, and to teach. Such students often form a lifelong interest in China and develop long-lasting relations with the people and institutions that they came to know while abroad.

Harvard’s contacts with China through the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and the professional schools continue to expand, as does Harvard’s impact in the region. The University now has over 584 students and 834 scholars from China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. See below for a listing of current Student Organizations at Harvard:

Undergraduate Student Organizations:

Asian Baptist Student Koinonia -ABSK
Asian American Brotherhood - AAB
Asian American Dance Troupe - AADT
Asian American Women's Association - AAW
Chinatown Afterschool Program
Chinatown ESL Program
Harvard Asia Pacific Review - HAPR
Harvard College Association for US-China Relations - HAUSCR
Harvard College Global China Connection - HGCC
Harvard College in Asia Program - HCAP
Harvard China Care - HCC
Harvard East Asia Society - HEAS
Harvard Hong Kong Society - HHKS
Harvard Project for Asian and International Relations - HPAIR
Harvard-Radcliffe Asian American Association - HRAAA
Harvard-Radcliffe Asian American Christian Fellowship - HRAACFHarvard-Radcliffe Chinese Students Association - HRCSA
Organization of Asian American Sisters in Service - OAASIS
Taiwanese Cultural Society - TCS


Graduate Student Organizations:

Asian American Business Association (HBS)
Asia Business Club (HBS)
Asia Law Society (HLS)
Asia Pacific American Law Students Association (HLS)
Asian American Policy Review (KSG)
Asian Coalition for Education (HGSE)
ChinaGSD (GSD)
Chinese Students and Scholars Association (GSAS)
Harvard Asia Quarterly (GSAS)
Harvard Buddhist Community (GSAS)
Harvard China Review (GSAS)

Additionally, there are thousands of Harvard alumni now living in mainland China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong, who represent the college and every professional school at the university. Many of these alumni maintain close ties with the University and contribute to the flourishing Harvard Clubs in Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Taipei. Hundreds of other Chinese scholars and government officials have come to Harvard to take part in advanced training courses or as visiting scholars. There are currently 11 active Harvard Clubs in Greater China. See below for a full listing:

Harvard Clubs in Greater China:

Harvard Club of Beijing
Harvard Club of China (Beijing)
HBS Association of Beijing
HKS China Regional Alumni Network
HLS Association of China
Harvard Club of Shanghai
HBS Club of Shanghai

Hong Kong:
Harvard Club of Hong Kong
HBS Association of Hong Kong

Harvard Club of the Republic of China
HBS Association of Taipei