Over one billion people speak some form of Chinese. Modern Standard Chinese, the official language of China, is spoken by more than eight hundred million people, making it the most widely spoken language in the world. Chinese boasts the longest unbroken literary tradition of any modern civilization, with the oldest texts dating to more than three thousand years ago. Among the most famous works of Chinese literature are some of the great treasures of world heritage, such as the belle-lettristic treatises of early figures such as Confucius and Mencius, the works of Tang dynasty poets such as Li Bo, Du Fu and Wang Wei, and early modern vernacular novels such as the Romance of the Three Kingdoms and the Dream of the Red Chamber. Today China continues to produce exciting works of intellectual and political history, literature and film. Chinese characters, the writing system invented by the Chinese in the late Shang period, ca. 1200 B.C., and still in use today, have been central to the development of writing in other Asian countries such as Japan, Korea, and Vietnam.
In recent decades China's global reach has grown dramatically. The country plays an increasingly important political, economic, and cultural role on the world stage. Chinese immigrants and their descendants form vibrant communities in the United States, Canada and in many other countries around the world.
The Department of Asian Languages and Literature at the University of Washington is committed to providing students with cultural, literary and linguistic proficiency in Chinese. The department's world-class program offers a wide range of courses in modern Chinese, from beginning to advanced levels, as well as in Classical Chinese at all levels. The department also offers courses in Chinese literature (both in the original and in English translation), film, and linguistics. Departmental courses serve the entire UW community of students, as well as departmental majors and minors.