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About DFLL

General Information

History and Tradition of DFLL

Founded in 1926, the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures at Tsinghua University was initially named Department of Western Literatures, and in 1928, it was renamed Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures (DFLL). After the nation-wide restructuring of higher education in 1952, the Department did not exist any longer, and the majority of its faculty were assigned to other institutions, such as Peking University, Beijing Foreign Languages Institute (now called Beijing Foreign Studies University), and the Institute of Foreign Literature at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. Since then, it enrolled a limited number of undergraduate students, majoring in English, Japanese and German, only in 1965, 1970 and 1974 respectively, to train foreign language teachers and translators for the country. In 1983, the Department was restored officially, and started to enroll undergraduate and graduate students in 1985. In 2010, its name was changed back to Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures.

Before 1952, the Department went through three major phases of development: 1. from its inception to the outbreak of the War of Resistance against Japanese Invasion (April 1926-July 1937); 2. National Southwest Associated University (July 1937-May 1946); 3. from its return to Beijing after the War to the restructuring of higher education (May 1946-1952). In its second phase, the Department became part of the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures at the National Southwest Associated University (comprising Peking University, Tsinghua University, and Nankai University). From 1929 to 1951, it produced about 450 undergraduate students (including those graduated from the National Southwest Associated University). This was a period of unprecedented social turmoil, in which Chinese and Western learning, the ancients and the moderns, and the humanities and science were in radical confrontation and conflict. Among the graduates we see emerging a galaxy of outstanding scholars and writers in modern China, such as Qian Zhongshu, Cao Yu (Wan Jiabao), Ji Xianlin, Yang Jiang (Yang Jikang), Zhao Luorui, Wang Zuoliang, Xu Guozhang, Zhou Jueliang, Zha Liangzheng (Mu Dan), Li Funing, Xu Yuanchong, Wen Jieruo, Zong Pu (Feng Zhongpu), Ying Ruocheng, Jiang Fen, and so on. They are the cream of the crop that have benefited from the education tradition of the Department, and their achievements after graduation have contributed critically to the rise of modern Chinese scholarship.

The curriculum of the Department drawn up by Wu Mi, Wang Wenxian, and other senior professors in the early stages proffers to “understand the spirit of Western civilization, and bring together the spirit and thought of the East and the West.” It lays down two principles of broadness and specialization in education, that is, “to study the totality of Western literatures for the purpose of gaining a general knowledge, and to concentrate on the language and literature of one country for the purpose of gaining depth.” Beyond literature and history, two major areas of study for the first year, the freshman courses also included those in mathematics, physics, chemistry and biology, and in Chinese as well. The theory and practice have become an important part of the academic tradition of “connecting the East and the West, bridging the past and the present, and integrating the humanities and the sciences” at the university.  

Since the Reform and opening-up, the Department has gone through an exuberant rebuild process. It restored its organization, enrolled its first undergraduate students in English (1983) and in Japanese (1999), launched a pilot class on Chinese and Western culture with the Chinese Department (1999-2004), opened an MA program in English language and literature (2000), and in Japanese language and literature (2003), and a PhD program in English language and literature (2003), which was qualified for the first tier discipline program of foreign languages and literatures in 2010, and in the same year, it started to take post-doctoral fellows. During this period of rapid progress, the Department had formed its major teaching sections and research centers, such as English Major Teaching and Research Section, Japanese Major Teaching and Research Section, Basic-level English for non-English Majors, Elective English Courses for Undergraduate Students, English for Graduate Students, German, Russian and French Teaching and Research Section, and Center for Comparative Literature and Culture Studies, Center for Translation and Cross-cultural Studies, Center for the Studies of European and American Literatures, Center for Australian Studies, Center for Linguistics and Applied Linguistics, Center for Language and Mind, Center for Foreign Language Study Environment at the College Level, Center for College Foreign Language Testing, Center for College English Writing, College English Study Strategy and Service, etc. All these have provided an extensive platform and matchless opportunities for new cooperation and growth in teaching and research.  

In recent years, the Department has achieved remarkably in teaching, research and international cooperation, and has carried out substantial exchange and cooperation programs with a number of famous universities around the world, such as Cambridge University, Oxford University, London School of Economics and Political Science, Yale University, Harvard University, Cornell University, University of Michigan, Université Paris-Sorbonne, Universit?t Heidelberg, Georg-August-Universit?t G?ttingen, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universit?t München,  Waseda University, Soka University, Seoul National University, etc. In December 2014, as part of the global strategy of Tsinghua, the Institute for World Literatures and Cultures was founded, and it has been providing a fresh impetus for further advance of the humanities at the university. 

New DFLL Today

In 2015, the university embarked on an overall personnel system reform to step up its strife to become a world-class university. The DFLL has readjusted accordingly its strategic vision as “Move onto the humanities plateau, target the frontiers in the world, pursue Tsinghua standards, and build topnotch disciplines.” Since then it has streamlined its organization into 8 research clusters. They are: 1. Language, Mind and Cognition; 2. Language, Education and Application; 3. Language, Culture and Society; 4. Euro-American Literatures and Critical Theory; 5. Comparative Literature and Culture Studies; 6. East Asian Language and Culture; 7. Translation and Cross-cultural Studies; 8. History of Literature, Thought and Civilization.

These eight research clusters, as a new definition of the discipline of foreign languages and literatures, are playing an active role in calibration for new goals in research and teaching. Teaching, disciplinary consolidation and research---these three goals have become a growing consensus of all the divisions. They have so far organized the following academic activities: Seminars in Global Humanities:World Literatures and Cultures, lectures given by professors from such world-level universities as Cornell University, University of Michigan, University of London, and Euro-American Literature Forum, Young Scholars’ Salon, Linguistic Classics and Frontiers Reading Group, and so on. In addition, the first pilot class in world literatures and cultures was in session in 2015, and in the same year, Tsinghua-Michigan Society of Fellows completed its first appointment of three post-doctoral fellows. All these will for sure make the Department “more innovative, more international, and more humanities oriented.”


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