清华的大学部于1925年开始招收新生，1926年分设国文、西洋文学、历史、哲学、经济学、政治学、教育心理学和社会学系等系，1928年组成文学院。在教学方针上，与当时其他大学不同之点即多数系强调“中西兼重”原则，希望培养博通中外文史知识的通才。如中文系比较“注重新旧文学贯通与中外文学的结合”；外文系提出要培养“汇通东西之精神思想”的“ 博雅之士”；历史系则提出“中外历史兼重”；哲学系强调东西方哲学的相互阐释；社会学系也主张学生应有广博的基础知识。为此，各系都十分重视外国语文的教学，例如中文系必修的外文课程约占全部必修课总额的五分之一（联大以后有所削弱）。而学习外国语言及文化之目的则在于学习“西洋的方法”来“整理国故”，或创立新学派。与这种教学方针相适应，教师的学术研究也表现出现代释古学的种种特色：如中文系主任朱自清强调兼取“京派与海派之长”追求宏观上的开阔与微观上的谨严，代表作是《诗言志辨》。闻一多以立论上的大胆与考证上的绵密见长，对上古神话研究及诗经、楚辞的研究既富于历史感又具有鲜明的时代感。其它如杨树达的汉字研究，俞平伯的红楼梦研究，许维遹的管子、尚书研究和浦江清、余冠英的研究都显示出开阔与谨严相结合的特色。外文系的突出实绩是开拓了比较文学的教学与研究的先河。吴宓的《中西诗之比较》、瑞恰慈的《文学批评》、《比较文学》课程都对中国比较文学研究具有里程碑意义，特别是吴宓的《文学与人生》，在中西文化的“相互阐释”方面有突破性贡献。该系所培养的学生如吴达元、赵萝蕤、季羡林、李赋宁等均为比较文学界之中坚，特别是钱钟书，以其《谈艺录》和《管锥编》将现代释古学提到了新的高度。哲学系强调横切面的哲学问题的研究，强调论证、逻辑和概念分析，这些都是中国传统所缺的，其中金岳霖的《逻辑》、《论道》和冯友兰的《贞元六书》、《中国哲学史》影响较大；历史学系在继承国学院传统倡导“新史学”的目标下，陈寅恪的《唐代政治史述编》和《随唐制度渊源略论稿》、张荫麟的上古史研究、雷海宗的通史研究、吴晗的明史研究都在学术界具有较大影响。研究者的见解和观点尽管有所不同，但都注意对某一历史现象找出它所以如此的时代和社会的原因。概括地说，清华文学院继承和发展国学院时期的优良学风，在运用近代科学思想和方法阐释中国传统文化方面既能做到视野开阔，又不大而空；既立论谨严，又不拘泥细节，力求对中国历史、文化现象做出既符合当时情况又富于时代色彩的解释。在文学院执教的著名学者有：闻一多、朱自清、俞平伯、杨树达、刘文典、王力、陈梦家、浦江清、王瑶（中文系）；吴宓、王文显、叶公超、翟孟生、温德、瑞恰兹、燕卜荪、钱钟书（外文系）；陈寅恪（历史与中文系双聘）、雷海宗、刘崇鋐 、蒋廷黻、张荫麟、吴晗、周一良（历史系）；冯友兰、金岳霖、贺麟、张岱年、沈有鼎（哲学系）；陈达、潘光旦、费孝通（社会学系）等，现当代的著名学者、作家、艺术家如钱钟书、杨绛、季羡林、赵萝蕤、王瑶、林庚、季镇淮、费孝通、曹禺、何兆武、李学勤、傅璇琮、何炳棣、端木蕻良、吴达元、吴组缃等曾就读于文学院。
Founded in 1911 with part of the Gengzi indemnity returned by the U.S.A., Tsinghua University was initially a prep school whose students were to study in the U.S.A. after graduation. The University was founded in 1923, and the Institute of Chinese Studies in 1925, whose faculty included the Four Tutors, Wang Guowei, Liang Qichao, Chen Yinke, and Zhao Yuanren, and a couple of lecturers such as Li Ji and so on. Wu Mi was Director of the Institute, who had made clear the aims of the Institute in its cradle, "What I mean by Chinese studies refers to the entire Chinese scholarship and culture, and the way of research puts emphasis on the right and precise method, which is what people of today call scientific method. It also draws materials from European and American scholarship in Oriental languages and Chinese culture, which is where our Institute differs from other scholars in Chinese studies at home.' Wang Guowei's course "Ancient History and New Evidence," Liang Qichao’s "Method of Historiography," Chen Yinke’s "Bibliography of Western Sinology," Zhao Yuanren's "Modern Linguistics" and "Dialectology," and the like are all characterized by applying modern scientific methods of the West to the interpretation of traditional Chinese culture. At that time, Wang Li, Wu Qichang, Liu Pansui, Jiang Liangfu, and so on were students at the Institute. The Institute was closed in 1928, but in spite of that, it had educated a group of outstanding scholars who excelled at using new thinking in Chinese studies, and are in the front positions in the history of Chinese scholarship and education.
The University at Tsinghua began to enroll students in 1925, and in 1926, the Departments of Chinese Language and Literature, Foreign Languages, History, Philosophy (changed to Philosophy and Psychology in the time of the National Southwest Associated University), and Sociology were set up, and the School of Literary Studies was founded in 1928.
It followed a different education principle from other universities, and many departments stressed the importance of "studying both the Chinese and the Western," in the hope of bringing out graduates with a superior mastery of Chinese and foreign culture and history. For instance, the Chinese Department "gave emphasis to studying both the old and new literature, and Chinese and foreign literature," and the Department of Foreign Languages aimed to cultivate "gentlemen of erudition and distinction" "with a thorough knowledge of the Western mind," and the History Department "highlighted a balanced study in both Chinese and foreign history," and the Department of Philosophy underscored an interpretative relationship of mutual illumination between Eastern and Western philosophy, and the Department of Sociology insisted that its students have a broad knowledge. All the departments put foreign languages and culture at the center of their curriculum. For instance, one fifth of the required courses of the Chinese Department were courses in foreign languages and culture. The aim of studying foreign languages and culture lay in studying the "Western method” and using it on the redaction of ancient Chinese books, or starting a new school. In accordance with this education principle, the faculty's research reflected the characteristics of this modern hermeneutics in the interpretation of the ancient. For instance, Professor Zhu Ziqing, whose main work is On "Poetry Speaks One's Intention", insisted on learning the best of the Beijing school and the Shanghai school alike to seek a broad perspective as well as the exactitude of textual criticism. Wen Yiduo was bold in raising questions, but conscientious in answering them, and his study of the mythology in archaic times, the Book of Poetry and Chuci is a blend of rich historical consciousness and the sense of urgencies in his day. The same is true of Yang Shuda's study of the Chinese language, Yu Pingbo's study of The Dream of the Red Chamber, Xu Weiyu’s study of Guanzi and Book of Documents, as well as Pu Jiangqing’s and Yu Guanying's works. The major achievement of the Department of Foreign Languages is to have started the teaching and research in comparative literature in China. The courses offered in the Department, such as Wu Mi's A Comparison of Chinese and Western Poetry, I. Richards's Literary Criticism and Comparative Literature, have become famous landmarks in the field of comparative literature in China, and particularly, Wu Mi's Literature and Human Conditions has made breakthrough contributions to the method of mutual illumination between Chinese and Western cultures. Graduates from the Department, such as Wu Dayuan, Zhao Luorui, Ji Xianlin, Li Funing, and so on have become the main force in the field of comparative literature, and a special mention should be made of Qian Zhongshu, who has elevated the modern Chinese hermeneutics to a new height with his On the Arts and Guan Zhui bian. The Department of Philosophy gave priority to a synchronical approach to philosophical issues, and foregrounded proof, logic, and conceptual analysis, which are where the Chinese tradition is weak. The most influential works are Jin Yuelin’s Logic and On the Way, and Feng Youlan's Six Books of the Zhenyuan Period and History of Chinese Philosophy. Pleading for New Historiography, the History Department inherited the legacy of the Institute of Chinese Studies and has brought out such important studies as Chen Yinque's A Political History of the Tang Dynasty and A Brief Study of the Origins of the Political Systems in the Sui and Tang Dynasties, Zhang Yinlin's studies of the history of archaic times, Lei Zonghai's study of the general history of China, Wu Han's study of the history of the Ming dynasty. Different as they were in their perspectives and conclusions, they did not fail to probe into the historical phenomenon to find out causes that were deeply rooted in its time and society. To sum up, Tsinghua School of Literary Studies has creatively inherited the splendid scholarship formed in the time of the Institute of Chinese Studies and, in its application of modern scientific thinking and methodology to the interpretation of traditional Chinese culture, it has never shied away from seeking a broad and solid perspective. It has shown prudence in establishing the thesis, but never allowing itself to be bogged down by pointless details, and it strove to provide an interpretation of Chinese history and cultural phenomena that faithfully reflected the reality and at one and the same time spoke for their time. Famous scholars who have taught in the School of Literary Studies include Wen Yiduo, Chen Yinke, Zhu Ziqing, Liu Wendian, Yu Pingbo, Pu Jiangqing, Wang Li, Yang Shuda, Chen Mengjia, Wang Yao(Department of Chinese Language and Literature); Wu Mi, Wang Wenxian, Ye Gongchao, Zhai Mengsheng, Winter, Ivor Armstrong Richards, William Empson, Qian Zhongshu (Department of Foreign Languages); Chen Yinke, Lei Haizong, Jiang Tingfu, Liu Chonghong, Zhang Yinlin, Wu Han, Zhou Yiliang(Department of History); Jin Yuelin, Feng Youlan, Shen Youding, He Lin, Zhang Dainian(Department of Philosophy); Chen Da, Pan Guangdan, Fei Xiaotong(Department of Sociology), Famous scholars, writers, and artists who attended the School of Literary Studies include Qian Zhongshu, Yang Jiang, Ji Xianlin, Zhao Luorui, Wang Yao, Lin Geng, Ji Zhenhuan, Fei Xiaotong, Cao Yu, He Zhaowu, Li Xueqin, Fu Xuanzong, He Bingdi, Duanmu Hongliang, Wu Dayuan, Wu Zuxiang.
The faculty and students in the humanities and social sciences at Tsinghua inherit a superior revolutionary tradition of patriotism and progress. As early as the May Fourth Movement, Wen Yiduo posted a ci poem "The River Is Red" by Yue Fei to call upon the students at Tsinghua to fight against the hegemonic power from abroad and expunge traitors at home. Wei Jiesan, a student in the Chinese Department, died a heroic death in the March 18 protest against the Japanese invaders who had fired cannons at Dagukou in 1926; Jiang Nanxiang and Yao Yilin, two students in the School of Literary Studies, were among the leaders in the December 9 Protest that had shaken the entire nation. Actively participating in the students movements during the period of the National Southwest Associated University and the Liberation War, the faculty and students in the humanities and social sciences at Tsinghua have played a pioneering role in the fight for the independence, peace, and democracy of our nation. Some of them sacrificed their precious lives. Wen Yiduo rose to his feet in anger, staring down the enemy who was holding a pistol at him, and would rather die than give in. Zhu Ziqing, seriously ill, chose to starve to death rather than take the American relief food. They all showed the unbending fighting spirit and noble patriotism of Chinese intellectuals. They have set good examples for contemporary Chinese intellectuals, and are the pride and honor of the faculty and students of our university.
From 1952 to 1978, Tsinghua University was a polytechnic institution as a result of the 1952 restructuring for higher education in China and its humanities departments being sent off to other universities and research institutions.
Although the humanities programs were suspended for this period of time, the humanistic tradition and superior scholarship have persevered and remain as strong as before. Since 1978, Tsinghua University has either restored or founded the Departments of Foreign Languages and Literatures, Sociology, Chinese Language and Literature, the Institute of the Humanities, the Institute of Education, the Institute of Science, Technology and Society, and the Art Center. In December 1993, the School of Humanities and Social Sciences was formed, covering the entire range of disciplines in the humanities and social sciences, including literature, history, philosophy, law, economics, management, and so forth. The attainment has transformed the School into an important institution to demonstrate what the university has achieved in the humanities and social sciences, and particularly, in the humanities.
The School was closed in July 2012, however, and in the meantime the School of Humanities and the School of Social Sciences were founded.
In Tsinghua’s efforts to build itself into a comprehensive and open world-class research university, the humanities and social sciences plays an indispensable role. For the university, to accelerate the development of its programs in the humanities and social sciences is high on its agenda. Concentrating on the general goals of the university, the School of Humanities is trying very hard to fit its programs to the pace of economic and social progress in the new century. It adheres to the maxim：“Be conversant with the ancient and the modern, and versed in the Chinese and the Western; conjoin the humanities and sciences to innovate and make a difference.” The top priorities it upholds in the research and teaching are a solid foundation, practice and applications, and interdisciplinary blending. The research programs in the School cover many subjects of study, but it maintains the integrity of its programs and will have more tier-1 and tier-2 programs step by step.
The disciplines in the School of Humanities include literature, history, philosophy, and the subjects they cover. Currently, the School has 6 Tier-1 Ph.D. and M.A. Degree programs, 1 M.A. Degree program, 4 Bachelor's Degree programs, 4 Postdoctoral programs, 1 national key program, and 3 key programs of Beijing. There are about 180 people on its faculty and staff, including 75 full professors, 72 associate professors and 16 lecturers. The current enrollment is about 1200 undergraduates, about 200 Master’s degree students, about 210 doctoral students, and over 20 postdoctoral fellows. Additionally, there are more than 1,000 international students who come to study Chinese language and culture at its International Chinese Language and Culture Center every year.
The School has 4 departments, 1 center, and about 20 interdisciplinary research institutions. In recent years, the School has undertaken more than 200 research projects, most of which are National Social Sciences Fund key tender projects, Humanities and Social Sciences key projects funded by the Ministry of Education, projects in the National Science and Technology Pillar Program, and so forth. Through these research projects the School has made important contributions to the development of the economy, society and culture of the nation. In the past five years, the faculty members have published a few hundred books, over 1,000 research papers, with their research projects bringing many awards to the School from the Ministry of Education to the Municipality of Beijing.
The School also actively seeks academic collaboration with institutions at home and abroad, and has set up extensive academic exchange programs with institutions in countries in North America, Europe, and Asia, and with institutions in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Macau, and has hosted more than 100 international academic conferences. To better serve the needs of the broad society, the School has set up a training section with degree and non-degree programs for continuing education. Every year it opens dozens of graduate classes, advanced seminars, and has trained over 1,000 people in training classes on commission of the ministries of the central government, local governments, and state and private companies.
Since the beginning of the new century, there have been many profound changes on the international and national levels, which have brought to the School hard-to-get opportunities for development, while at the same time, grave challenges and higher expectations. A world-class humanities program is intrinsic to a world-class Tsinghua University, and so the new School of Humanities at Tsinghua will try its best to meet the research and education requirements of the university, to be committed to carry on the superior tradition, to grasp the new opportunities for development, to push forward its research, faculty construction, and talent cultivation in order to provide solid support for the economic and social development of our nation, to make contributions worthy of its stature and a positive impact on our times, and to lead the development of human civilization.