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Buddhist Art


Admission requirements



This course offers an introduction to Buddhist art, the visual culture that spread with Buddhism from the Indian subcontinent to the South (Sri Lanka) and the East (East and Southeast Asia). The course takes a thematic rather than geographic approach. During the first block we discuss diverse visual representations of the biography of the Buddha; the form, function and development of reliquaries and other objects of worship; traditions concerning images of the Buddha; and why so much wealth was spent on the production of Buddhist art. In the second block the attention turns to discussions on the aniconic art of early India and the development of Bodhisattvas, protective deities and complex iconographic programmes, as on the Borobudur stupa (in Indonesia) and in the mandalas of Tibet. The last meeting will focus on some recent developments involving Buddhist art. Students may enroll for a one-day excursion to the famous Asian art museum Musée Guimet in Paris at the end of the course.

Course objectives

  • Basic knowledge of the form, function and development of Buddhist art and material culture in South and Southeast Asia.

  • Insight into the religious foundation and socio-cultural embedding of Buddhist art and material culture in South and Southeast Asia.

  • Insight in dynamic processes such as globalization and interculturalization as expressed in Buddhist art.

  • Ability to analyze scholarly literature, distinguish between main and side subjects, ask critical questions.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Lectures

Students are expected to actively participate in the lectures through a thorough preparation of the weekly readings.
There is an excursion at the end (not mandatory).

Assessment method


Take home examination with essay questions: one at the end of block 1 and one at the end of block 2.


Each of the two partial examinations counts for 50%. The average of these results is the end-result for the course.


The resit combines the mid-term and second-term take home exams into one full take home exam covering the readings and teaching materials of the full course. The result, if higher, replaces the average result of the first two partial exams.

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

A syllabus with the reading list will be posted on the Brightspace site at the beginning of the course.


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