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Classical Cultures of South and Southeast Asia: Seminar 1


Admission requirements



This seminar offers an introduction to the classical culture of South and Southeast Asia, in particular to those aspects that have their origin in the region that have linked both regions through the ages. We focus e.g. on Hinduism and Buddhism as cultural phenomena and we discuss the role of the great epics Mahabharata and Ramayana in offering a narrative backbone for arts and media. We will study the visual heritage in the form of sculptures, paintings and architecture (mostly created for religious purposes) as region-specific manifestations of the common cultural tradition. The rich manuscript tradition of South and Southeast Asia, which illustrates the use of scripts with a common origin and formats familiar to both regions, also exemplifies the cultural bond between the two regions, as we shall see. Finally we will learn about the lively trade in particular luxury textiles between India and Southeast Asia, which presents a maritime expression of the long-lived links between India and countries in Southeast Asia.

These subjects are discussed by means of selected academic literature that is made available via Blackboard. The seminar links studying this contents with practical exercises focused on training specific academic skills, such as reading and abstracting, presenting, essay-writing, and using online resources for academic purposes. A study visit to the South and Southeast Asia galleries of the newly opened Asian art galleries in the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam is part of the programme.

Course objectives

  • To get familiarized with characteristic cultural traditions that connect South and Southeast Asia traditionally and up to the present;

  • To develop a first working knowledge of the nature of the sources for the study of the classical cultures of South and Southeast Asia (both primary and secondary);

  • To discover ways to access such sources (along traditional roads and digitally) and to judge them for their usefulness, quality and reliability;

  • To develop specific academic skills (academic reading, abstracting, presenting, writing) while focusing on content issues related to the classical cultures of South and Southeast Asia



Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

Course Load

140 hours (5 ECx28 hours):

  • 2 contact hours per week = 13 × 2=26 hours;

  • 5 hours reading for ca. 11 classes = 55 hours;

  • 4 home assignments (4 x ca. 5 hours = 20 hours);

  • preparing the presentation: 8 hours;

  • writing a short paper: 16 hours;

  • preparing for the exam: 1×12 hours = 12 hours;

  • museum visit 3 hours.

Assessment method

  • In the first half of the semester the emphasis is on reading and reading skills. These are linked to 4 mandatory home assignments throughout the course. These assignments are graded (10 %).

  • The literature read in weeks 2-11 is examined by means of a 2-hour written exam with open questions in the concluding exam week (50 %).

  • Early in the second half of the course the students prepare in small groups a joint presentation (20 %).

  • Later in the second half of the semester they write a short paper to test academic skills related to use of sources and academic writing (20 %).

Participation to classes is obligatory and so are the home assignments that are related to developing academic skills.

Participation in the final examination is only open to those who have submited all home assignments in time via SafeAssign according to the planned schedule of submission (to be found in Blackboard).

There will be a combined resit by means of a written exam for those who did not achieve an average of minimum 6 for the exam and home assignments together. For the presentation and home assignments there is no resit.


Blackboard is used for making available readings materials, presentations, supporting materials both for contents on the classical cultures of South and Southeast Asia and for the academic skill exercises. The Powerpoint presentations used in class are also made available via Blackboard. All administrative matters regarding classes, timings, exams, exam results and other activities related with the course are also communicated through Blackboard.

Reading list

  • Chapters from books or articles, offered via Blackboard.

  • A reading list is made available some time before the start of the course.
    Literature needs to be read in advance based on a reading assignment list made available through Blackboar before the start of the course. This includes reading for the first meeting.


Students are requested to register through uSis, the registration system of Leiden University for this course. General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch.

Registration Contractonderwijs via:


Mw. Dr. E.M. Raven