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


Admission requirements

Admission to the MA Asian Studies (60 EC, 120 EC or research), or another relevant MA or MA (research).


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.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

Attendance is compulsory for all sessions. Students must prepare well and contribute to in-class discussion. If a student cannot attend because of illness or misadventure, they should promptly inform the convener. Extra assignments may be set to make up for missed class time, at the convener’s discretion. Absence without notification may result in lower grades or exclusion from assessment components and a failing grade for the course.

Assessment method

Assessment and weighing

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

In order to pass the course, students need to complete all requirements (participation and contribution, discussion groups, final essay) and receive a pass mark (“voldoende”, i.e. “5.50” or higher) for the course as a whole.

The research paper is written in two stages: a first version, on which the convener will offer feedback, and a final version. Feedback on the first version is conditional on this being handed in before the deadline. The grade will be determined on the basis of the final version only. (The paper deadline mentioned in uSis is for administrative purposes only. The actual date will be communicated by the convener.)

All categories of assessment 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 5.49 or lower and this is the result of the final paper graded 5.49 or lower, a re-sit of the paper is possible (60%). In that case the convener of the course may decide to assign a (new) topic. The deadline for this version will be determined by the course convener, after consultation with the student.

A re-sit for other course components is not possible.

Inspection and feedback

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

Reading list

See Brightspace.


Enrolment through MyStudyMap is mandatory.