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Topics in Chinese Art History, Things and Paths: Approaches to Chinese Art and Material Culture (ResMA)


Admission requirements

Admission to the MA Asian Studies (research) or another relevant Research MA. No language requirement. Students from other departments are kindly referred to the course description of the regular MA course.


Drawing on a variety of visual and textual sources, this course introduces students to different approaches in material arts in China. When talking about agency, we usually associate it with subjects but rarely with the seemingly inert and passive objects/things. However, things have the power to gather or separate people, arouse emotions, and orient social practices. Focusing on concepts such as agency, gifts, fetishes, icons, appropriation, replicas, and collection, this seminar reconsiders artifacts and their movements in the broader art historical, social, and political contexts in China. Students will also be introduced to major art historical approaches in visual and material culture in relation to developments in anthropology, history, aesthetics, and other disciplines.

Course objectives

At the end of this course, student should be able to:

  • Recognize art historical debates in the field of material culture in general, and have a solid understanding of major issues in Chinese material culture;

  • Identify primary and secondary sources related with students’ specific interests and engage them with the approaches and knowledge introduced in this class;

  • Develop three key skills central to advanced art historical research: careful reading, confident oral presentation, and clear critical writing;

  • (For the Research MA students on Chinese visual art) equip students with in-depth knowledge and methodologies to develop their respective MA projects.


Visit MyTimetable.

Mode of instruction


Attendance and participation are obligatory for seminars. Students are required to attend all sessions. The convenors need to be informed without delay of any classes missed for a good reason (i.e. due to unforeseen circumstances such as illness, family issues, problems with residence permits, the Dutch railways in winter, etc.). In these cases it is up to the discretion of the convener(s) of the course whether or not the missed class will have to be made up with an extra assignment. Being absent without notification can result in a lower grade or exclusion from the term end exams and a failing grade for the course.

Course Load

Total Course Load 10 EC * 28 hours 280 hours
Extra contact hours Research MA 6 hours
Weekly seminars 14 × 2 hours 28 hours total
Class preparation (complete assignments and readings) 78 hours
Preparation for presentation ca. 28 hours
Written Work 140 hours

Assessment method

Academic Integrity

Students are expected to be familiar with Leiden University policies on plagiarism and academic integrity. Plagiarism will not be tolerated. If you submit any work with your name affixed to it, it is assumed to be your own work with all sources used properly indicated and documented in the text (with quotations and/or citations). It is also unacceptable for students to reuse portions of texts they had previously authored and have already received academic credit for on this or other courses. In such cases, students are welcome to self-cite so as to minimise overlap between prior and new work.

Students must submit their assignment(s) to the blackboard through turnitin, so they can be checked for plagiarism. Submission via email is not accepted.

Assessment and weighing

Partial Assessment Weighing
Class participation and contribution 20%
Class discussion groups (2 x 10%) 20%
Final Paper 60%

Final Paper
The final paper is written in two stages: a first version which will be commented on and a final version. Students who do not meet the deadline for the first version will lose the right to get comments and will only be graded based on their final version.

The final mark for this course is formed by the weighted average.

In order to pass the course, students must obtain an overall mark of 5.50 (=6) or higher.

The course is an integrated whole. All assessment parts must be completed in the same academic year. No partial marks can be carried over into following years.


Only if the total weighted average is insufficient (5.49 or lower) and the insufficient grade is the result of an insufficient paper, a resit of the paper is possible (60%). In that case the convener of the course may assign a (new) topic and give a new deadline.

A resit of the other partial assessments is not possible.

Exam review

If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam/paper results, an exam/paper review will be organized.

Reading list

See Brightspace.

For the Research MA students additional readings will be determined by the convener at a later stage taking into account the students’ fields of interest. Extra sessions will be organized to discuss this extra literature.


Students are required to register through uSis. To avoid mistakes and problems, students are strongly advised to register in uSis through the activity number which can be found in the timetable in the column under the heading “USIS-Actnbr.”. More information on uSis is available in Dutch and English. You can also have a look at the FAQ.

Not being registered, means no permission to attend this course. See also the webpage on course and exam enrolment for registration deadlines and more information on how to register.


Dr. Fan Lin


Students with disabilities

The university is committed to supporting and accommodating students with disabilities as stated in the university protocol (especially pages 3-5). Students should contact Fenestra Disability Centre at least four weeks before the start of their courses to ensure that all necessary academic accommodations can be made in time conform the abovementioned protocol.