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Sharing the tales of the Buddha: narrative art in Asia


Admission requirements

Some knowledge of Art History, Asian Studies, or Buddhism is recommended.


In this course we examine visual expressions of Buddhist narratives, such as the previous lives of the Buddha, his biography, his miracles, and the pilgrimages of Buddhist lay people. Materials include reliefs and wall paintings on Buddhist temples and stupas, mainly from South Asia (India, Pakistan) and Southeast Asia (Myanmar, Thailand and Indonesia).

Topics to be discussed are: image-text relationships; various modes of visual narration; relationships between visual narratives and architectural space; the meaningful selection of episodes; the various historical and cultural contexts of the visual narratives; their inter-cultural relationships and culturally defined differences.

Course objectives

  • Knowledge of the history of Buddhist art in South and Southeast Asia

  • Ability to describe and analyse narrative themes in Asian art and interpret them in their art historical context

  • Insight into some of the problems and debates in the study of Asian art



Mode of instruction


Assessment method

  • participation (20%)

  • two papers (each 40%)


Visual materials and some reading materials will be posted on a Blackboard site.

Reading list

Articles made available through a reader and Blackboard.


Registration through uSis mandatory
Exchange and Study Abroad students, please consult the Study in Leiden website for information on how to apply

Contact information

Dr. M.J. Klokke