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Mapping Iconography


Admission requirements

Successful completion of 5482K1B05 Buddhist Art or 5483KHM01 Hindu myths in the art of South and Southeast Asia.

If you are interested in taking this course but do NOT fulfill the abovementioned requirement, please contact the lecturer (


Asia’s religious images derive much of their distinctive visual presence from an intricate iconographic vocabulary. Message and meaning are expressed through systems of gestures, postures and attributes that capture the essence of Hindu and Buddhist beliefs and practices. Various iconographies of one and the same deity exist, depending on the particular aspect of a deity emphasized and on choices made in different regions and at different times. Mapping the spatial and temporal information of different iconographic forms, will help to better understand the spread and relationship of these different forms and to trace religious developments over time.

During the first part of this course, students develop skills to ‘read’ this iconography by carefully looking at, describing and understanding selected divine images from South and Southeast Asia. They are also introduced to a number of important digital image databases to find and compare images. A visit to a Dutch museum collection with Asian art is also part of the programme. During the second part of the course students learn to work with QGIS, a free Geographic Information System. They first get an introduction into this software, by Jelena Prokic of the Leiden University Centre for Digital Humanities, and then practice under her guidance with an already existing set of data. In the final part of the course students collect images of a particular iconographic image type according to their own choice, document their spatial and temporal data, and use QGIS to visualise and analyse the spread of the image type across different regions and times.

Course objectives

  • Knowledge of the basic principles of Hindu and Buddhist iconographic language;

  • Awareness of the conceptual iconographic links between the arts of various religious systems in South and Southeast Asia;

  • Developing skills in describing and analysing Hindu and Buddhist art;

  • Developing skills in presenting an iconographic analysis with the help of Powerpoint;

  • Overseeing the landscape of digital resources for iconographic studies of Asian art;

  • Developing skills in digital humanities, in particular QGIS to visualise and analyse the spread of certain image types;

  • Awareness of spatial and temporal perspectives in the study of art;

  • Developing skills to put the results of research into writing.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

  • Excursion

Assessment method


During the first block, students are expected to prepare written assignments related to the readings. At the end of the block, they present an iconographical analysis of an image with the help of Power Point.
The final paper focuses on a particular iconographic image type and includes an analysis of its historical spread with the help of QGIS.


  • Written assignments (20%)

  • Presentation in class (30%)

  • Final exam/paper (50%)


Students submit a version 1 of their paper. After receiving feedback, they may submit a final version for final grading. This arrangement is a form of ‘resit’. Students are allowed to skip version 1 and submit only a (final) version of their paper for grading (in that case a concise explanation for the grade is provided afterwards). In order to pass the course, students must achieve a passing grade for the final version of their paper/paper combo and obtain an overall mark of “5.50” (=6) or higher.

Inspection and feedback

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. 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

Selected readings will be listed in the syllabus (to be distributed at the beginning of the semester).


Enrolment through MyStudyMap is mandatory.
General information about course and exam enrolment is available on the website