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Topical Readings in Pre-modern Chinese (ResMA)


Admission requirements

Admission to the MA Asian Studies (research) or another relevant Research MA. Students from other departments are kindly referred to the course description of the regular MA course.


This course aims to provide students with the basic skills to search for classical sources and materials related to Chinese painting. During the course a number of different text genres and formats and their patterns will be discussed to enable effective reading. Each text will focus on a different theme, giving the student an overview of both the traditional issues and motifs of Chinese painting and the necessary knowledge to comprehend the texts. The text will be translated and commented by students and later read together in class. The student will be familiarized with the following types of texts:

  • Painter’s biography

  • Description of a painting in a catalogue

  • Painting inscriptions

  • Practical recipes (from an encyclopedia)

  • Lists of principles

  • ‘Historical’ account on the origin of painting

  • Preface to a painting treatise

  • Discussion on style (strokes and textures)

  • Anecdotes about painters and paintings

  • Rhymed mnemonic formulas for painting

  • Q&A between student and master

There will be additional sessions for ResMA students after the regular course hours to work in depth with selected texts and a hands-on painting session to introduce technical vocabulary.

Course objectives

  • Familiarize students with different texts and genres used in art historical research and how these can be combined in research;;

  • Develop research skills in classical Chinese;

  • Improve students’ ability to interpret classical texts;

  • Improve students’ close reading skills;

  • Practical familiarization with basic painting techniques and related technical vocabulary;


The timetable is available on the Asianstudies website

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 280 hours (10 EC x 28 hours)

  • Seminar 2 ×13 hours: 26 hours (6 extra hours for students of the Research MA)

  • Compulsory readings: 86 hours

  • Class Assignments: 62 hours

  • Term paper: 100 hours

Assessment method


Take-home exercises, participation in class and a final annotated translation.


The final mark for the course is established by the weighted average of:

  • Take-home exercises and participation in class: 40%

  • Final annotated translation: 60%


Students must obtain a mark of 6 or higher to pass this course.

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.

Exam Review

Students may request an oral elucidation of the assessment within 30 days after publication of the grade.


Blackboard will be used for:

  • Syllabus

  • Selected course readings

  • Submitting assignments

Note: there is no separate Blackboard page available for this ResMa course. Please subscribe to the Blackboard page of the regular MA course.

Reading list

Reading material will be made available through Blackboard and a reserve shelf.

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.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.

General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch

Registration à la carte or contractonderwijs

A la carte nor contractonderwijs is possible for this course.


M. Klasing Chen MA


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.

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).