The department of Chinese Studies is in the School of Languages and Cultures (SLC).
Program structure and content
The Chinese Studies program teaches Chinese culture, literature, media, society and linguistics in addition to modern and classical Chinese languages. It aims to provide students with a solid understanding of Chinese society and culture, the foundational language skills essential to function with confidence in the Chinese speaking world, a basic ability to work in China-related professions and the competence to conduct research in Chinese studies.
The modern Chinese language program caters for students with a wide range of language abilities: complete beginners, advanced learners, and background speakers of various regional Chinese languages. The program focuses on developing effective communicative skills at the lower and intermediate levels, including Chinese for professional purposes. At the advanced levels, we teach students research and academic writing skills in the Chinese language. The teaching of classical Chinese is integrated with the study of literature and philosophy in premodern China.
Students enrolling in the junior Chinese language units CHNS1101 Chinese 1A (For Beginners), CHNS1201 Chinese 1C (For Advanced Beginners) and CHNS1303 (Chinese for Background Speakers) no longer require placement interviews. Please read the unit of study descriptions carefully to decide which one is right for you. If you would like advice on which unit to choose, please contact a member of staff.
Placement interviews are still required for new students who wish to enrol directly into senior Chinese language units, that is, units with a '2' or '3' as the first number. This will apply, for example, to students who can already read and write Chinese well. In the week before the beginning of Semesters 1 and 2, there will be staff members available on Level 6 of the Brennan MacCallum Building from 10am to 1pm and 2pm to 4pm Monday to Friday to interview students and answer enrolment inquiries. Check the department's website for further details.
In the initial weeks of the semester students may be further assessed by a teaching staff member to make sure that they are enrolled at the appropriate level. Students may be required to show their high school or other relevant transcripts. The department will assist students who have enrolled in an inappropriate unit of study to correct their enrolment. It reserves the right to place students in the unit of study that it deems most suitable. The general principle is: the content taught in a given unit of study should be equally challenging for all students enrolled in that unit. Students who fail to withdraw from an inappropriate enrolment when directed to do so will be reported to the Dean.
Requirements for a major
All students who intend to major in Chinese Studies are advised to take as many CHNS units of study as possible (up to a maximum of 60 senior credit points) and are strongly advised to take CHNS1601 Understanding Contemporary China in their first year. They must complete a minimum of 36 senior credit points in Chinese Studies, or selected units of study cross-listed from other programs.
Students may take Asian Studies units in addition to completing a Chinese Studies major to provide breadth in their major sequence. This applies particularly to students in the senior levels of the Beginners stream.
Students who have completed first-year language studies in advanced streams may be able to commence learning a second language alongside their major from second year onward. Mid-year entry students may need to exceed the junior credit point limit of their course in order to commence a language in their second year, in which case special permission will be needed. If you are not sure, consult with the Student Advisers in the Faculty office.
For information on cross-listed units of study please see the table of cross-listed units on the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences website.
Sample Pathways (3 or 4 year degrees):
Pathways to a Chinese Studies major differ from student to student, depending on your level of Chinese language ability at entry to the program. It is important that you start at the appropriate level. Students are strongly encouraged to discuss their level of entry with Dr Linda Tsung, the undergraduate co-ordinator for Chinese Studies (
1. For speakers of non-Chinese languages
Sample Pathways (3 or 4 year degrees):
Year 1: CHNS1101 and CHNS1102, CHNS1600 or CHNS1601.
Year 2: CHNS2601 and CHNS2602 plus options from CHNS2611, CHNS2612, CHNS363X or CHNS364X.
Year 3: CHNS3601 and CHNS3602 plus CHNS3611 and CHNS3612 or options from CHNS2611, CHNS2612, CHNS363X or CHNS364X.
Year 4: CHNS3603 and CHNS3604, CHNS3605 and CHNS3606, plus options from CHNS2611, CHNS2612, CHNS363X or CHNS364X.
Year 1: CHNS2601 and CHNS2602, CHNS1600 and CHNS1601. CHNS2611, CHNS2612 are options for those interested in classical Chinese.
Year 2: CHNS3601 and CHNS3602 plus CHNS3611 and CHNS3612 plus options from CHNS2611, CHNS2612, CHNS363X or CHNS364X.
Year 3: CHNS3603 and CHNS3604, CHNS3605 and CHNS3606, plus options from CHNS2611, CHNS2612, CHNS363X or CHNS364X.
Year 4: CHNS2611 and CHNS2612 plus options from CHNS363X or CHNS364X.
Year 1: CHNS3601 and CHNS3602 and CHNS1601. CHNS2611, CHNS2612 are options for those interested in classical Chinese.
Year 2: CHNS3603 and CHNS3604 plus CHNS3611 and CHNS3612 or CHNS2611, CHNS2612, and/or options from CHNS363X.
Year 3: CHNS2611 and CHNS2612 or CHNS3605 and CHNS3606, CHNS363X and/or CHNS364X or optional China-focused units of study from other programs with permission.
Only units with a 2000- or 3000-level course code count towards the 6 units (36 credit points) required for the major. Units of study that focus on China offered by other departments may not be counted towards a Chinese Studies major by students in this stream, unless they have begun in year one at the level of CHNS3601, or higher.
The 36-credit-point major offers a basic introduction to the Chinese speaking world. A semester (or at least a summer program) in China or Taiwan is strongly recommended to students who want to develop advanced communication skills in Chinese.
Students interested in pre-modern Chinese thought, literature and/or the history of the Chinese language are strongly encouraged to take the basic Classical Chinese units, CHNS2611 and CHNS2612, which count towards the minimum 36 senior credit points required to complete a major in Chinese.
2. For speakers of Chinese languages
Sample pathways (3 or 4 year degrees):
Background Speaker (with low literacy)
Year 1: CHNS1201 and CHNS1202 and CHNS1601.
Year 2: CHNS3601 and CHNS3602 plus options from CHNS2611, CHNS2612, CHNS3611, CHNS3612, CHNS363X.
Year 3: CHNS3603 and CHNS3604, options from CHNS363X or CHNS364X or China-focused units of study from other programs with permission.
Year 4: CHNS3605 and CHNS3606, CHNS363X or CHNS364X, or China-focused units of study from other programs with permission.
Background Speaker (with intermediate literacy)
Year 1: CHNS3603 and CHNS3604 and CHNS1601. Optional CHNS2611, CHNS2612, CHNS3611 and CHNS3612.
Year 2: CHNS3605 and CHNS3606, CHNS363X and CHNS364X. Optional China-focused units of study from other programs with permission.
Year 3: CHNS363X and CHNS364X. Optional China-focused units of study from other programs with permission.
Background Speaker (with advanced literacy)
Year 1: CHNS1303, CHNS1304 and CHNS1601, CHNS2612 (optional).
Year 2: CHNS363X, optional CHNS2612, or CHNS364X (if CHNS2612 was completed in year 1) or other China-focused units of study from other programs with permission.
Year 3: CHNS363X or CHNS364X. Optional China-focused units of study from other programs with permission.
The 36-credit-point major offers a basic introduction to the Chinese speaking world. A semester (or at least a summer program) in China or Taiwan is strongly recommended to students with low and intermediate literacy who want to develop advanced communication skills in Chinese.
If you are already fluent in a Chinese language (eg Putonghua or Cantonese) but have very limited knowledge of characters, you may enter the language program beginning with CHNS1201. If you already have some degree of literacy in Chinese, you may enter the language program, beginning with CHNS3601 level.
If you can already read Chinese fluently, you can begin with CHNS1303 (Chinese for Background Speakers 1) and CHNS1601 (Understanding Contemporary China). In Semester 2, you can choose CHNS1304 (Chinese for Background Speakers 2) and CHNS2612 (Classical Chinese B).
The Honours program in Chinese Studies provides students with an opportunity to engage in in-depth study of social, political, cultural, literary or linguistic topics related to Chinese Studies.
All students with good academic records in Chinese Studies should consider an Honours year. There will be a range of options for students with different levels of Chinese language proficiency and research interest; however, the more Chinese you have learned before you start, the more interesting the options that will be available to you. The minimum requirements for admission to Honours are as follows:
- a major in Chinese studies plus sufficient additional credit points selected from other China-focused units of study to reach 48 senior credit points; and
- a credit or better average in all qualifying units of study.
Students are advised to consider taking ASNS3690 Approaches to Research in Asian Studies, in the semester before they intend to commence honours.
It is also possible to enrol in a joint Honours program with Chinese Studies and another department.
For further information see the department website.
Department website: sydney.edu.au/arts/chinese
Chair of Department: Dr Linda Tsung;