Graduate Study

Asian Religious Traditions (ART)

ART offers training in the study of Asian religions in their historical and
cultural contexts.  Students are expected to choose their tradition or region of specialization from among the fields of expertise of the Brown faculty, currently in the following areas:


  • Chinese thought and religion of the classical period
  • Early Daoist contemplative traditions
  • Japanese religion and thought (16th-19th centuries)
  • Confucian traditions


  • Ancient Brahmanic religions



Students of East Asian Religions specialize in the religious traditions of either China or Japan, but attain broad competence in the religious history of the alternate area as well.  Students may also choose to concentrate on a specific religious tradition (Daoist, Confucian, or Buddhist) as it developed in the East Asian historical context.  Those who specialize in the Daoist tradition study its origins and development in the intellectual context of early China and selected later developments.  Students who concentrate on the Confucian tradition study its emergence and development in the intellectual context of early China as well as major Neo-Confucian interpretations.  The study of Buddhism focuses especially on its Japanese developments of the early modern period.  Regardless of their area of concentration, all EAR students are expected to develop an understanding of the key issues involved in the historical interaction of the religious traditions of East Asia.


Successful applicants to the doctoral program in East Asian Religions ordinarily possess an M.A. or the equivalent in a related field of study.  At least two years of either Chinese or Japanese is required.  Excellent command of English, both spoken and written is also essential.


Courses are selected each semester in consultation with the student's primary advisor.  EAR students are expected to complete at least six graduate seminars or the equivalent; at least four of the seminars will be in the main area of concentration (Chinese or Japanese religions); at least two should be in the secondary area.  In addition to the departmental course requirement in theory and method (RELS 2000), before their first preliminary examination each student should complete RELS 1190 or the equivalent, as well as a survey course in Chinese religions.  These two courses will count toward the seminar requirement if the student submits a successful graduate-level paper for the course requirement in each case.

EAR students als take course in the Department of East Asian Studies and are encouraged to draw on resources in the Departments of History, History of Art and Architecture, Comparative Literature, and Anthropology, among others.  In addition, a course in Chinese or Japanes bibliography (depending on the area of specilaization) is required.  Students may cross-register for this and other specialized courses at Harvard University, as appropriate (subject to the Harvard instructor's approval).


EAR students must attain reading competence in at least one modern European language other than English (ordinarily French), and a second modern language, to be determined (for details, see the Handbook).  Native speakers of an East Asian language will be asked to demonstrate mastery of a second modern East Asian language and a modern European language other than English.  

All students of Chinese religions must demonstrate competence in modern Chinese, proficiency in classical Chinese, and reading competence in modern Japanese.  Students of Japanese religions must attain proficiency in modern Japanese and competence in classical Japanese; depending on their period of specialization, they should also learn how to read Sino-Japanese (kanbun).

Preliminary Examinations

The first two doctoral examinations are based on bibliographies that the student and the advisory committee negotiate.  The first exam covers the history of Chinese and Japanese religions as a whole and the second focuses on the student's special field.  The third and final examination is a research paper written under the guidance of one of the members of the examination committee.  For details, see the handbook.

Dissertation Research

Students of Japanese or Chinese religions are generally expected to conduct on-site research using original sources, whether primary texts in archives and libraries, works of art in museums, interviews with subjects, or other materials.  EAR graduate students should therefore plan to conduct research for an extended period, usually one year, in China or Japan after their dissertation prospectus has been approved.  For details, see the handbook.  



Graduate study in this areafocuses on the religions of India, with possible specializations in either the ancient Brahmanic or Buddhist traditions. Students work closely with their advisors to develop a program that will best suit their interests and prepare them for a career as a teacher and scholar of South Asian religions.


Applicants should have significant preparation in the academic study of South Asia and South Asian languages, including ordinarily at least two years of Sanskrit.


Students normally take six semesters of course work and then spend two years in the research and writing of the Ph.D. dissertation.  Depending upon the needs of their particular program, students are encouraged to take courses in other Brown departments that bring them into contact with modern and contemporary contexts of South Asian religions and to seek out opportunities for periods of study and research in India in the course of their graduate careers.


All students in South Asian religions must passa Sanskrit reading exam; students of Indian Buddhism, in addition, reading proficiency in both German and French is required.  Students in SAR are also encouraged to study Hindi, they should attain reading competence in a second Buddhist language as well. 


The preliminary examination has two parts.  The first covers the general history, sources, and themes of Hindu Religions of South Asia.  The second covers the broad area and themes within which the student's dissertation research will take place.  For details, see the handbook.

Core Faculty

East Asia

  • Harold Roth, Professor of Religious Studies, Director of the Contemplative Studies Initiative
  • Janine Tasca A. Sawada, Professor of Religious Studies and East Asian Studies

South Asia

Associated Faculty

East Asia

South Asia