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Asian Studies (Research)

More information can be found under the tab “More info” and on the department’s website.

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 should familiarize themselves with the notion of academic integrity and the ways in which this plays out in their own work. A good place to start is this page. Plagiarism will not be tolerated.


Note: ‘ Semester 1’ stands for Fall semester and ‘ Semester 2’ for Spring semester.

Course EC Semester 1 Semester 2

First year

Common Core Course I:

Critical Area Studies: Placing Your Research 10

Common Core Course II (10 EC):

Students are strongly advised to opt to take the Methodologies course mentioned below. By taking this course, they fulfill the requirement that they should take in total at least 10 EC of courses from one of the research schools over the two years.
Alternatively, students may take 10 EC worth of national research school courses over the full duration of their enrolment (note that the number of credits per course offered by the research schools may vary).

Methodologies in the Social Sciences and Humanities 10
Research School Course(s) 10

Research Project

Research Project Preparation (1)

Core Elective Courses: choose two or more of the following courses with a minimum of 20 EC in total*

  • Alternatively students may opt to choose one or more (600-level) courses from one of the other Research Masters or from one of the research schools. NB: students should be aware, though, that not all courses on offer carry a weight of 10 EC and more than one course may be required to obtain the required ECs.
LIAS PhD Seminar: Knowledge and Authority 5
LIAS PhD Seminar: Archives, Power and Memory 5
Advanced Readings in Classical Chinese (ResMA) 5
Art and Power in Asia (ResMA) 10
Can the Subaltern Write? China’s Migrant Worker Culture (ResMA) 10
China's International Political Economy (ResMA) 10
Cultures of Resistance in the Post-colonial World (ResMA) 10
Democratizing Histories: Asia and the World (ResMA) 10
Economic Development and Social Change in Southeast Asia (ResMA) 10
Histories of Southeast Asia (ResMA) 10
International Relations of the Middle East and Asia (ResMA) 10
Masters of Chinese Philosophy (ResMA) 10
Material Culture, Memory and Commemoration along the Silk Roads in Central Asia (ResMA) 10
Modern Muslim Qur’an Interpretation (ResMA) 10
Religious Themes in Asian Art (ResMA) 10
Topical Readings in Classical Japanese (ResMA) 10
Topics in Chinese Linguistics (ResMA) 10
The Visual and Material Culture of Exchange in Asia and Europe, 1500-1800 (ResMA) 10
LIAS PhD Seminar: Global Political Economy 5
LIAS PhD Seminar: Text and Image 5
China and Global Cyberspace (ResMA) 10
Contemporary Indian Politics (ResMA) 10
Contemporary Japan’s Economy in Global Economic Crises (ResMA) 10
Creativity and Culture in Contemporary China (ResMA) 10
Culture and Conquest: the Impact of the Mongols and their Descendants (ResMA) 10
Hands-on Research Experience in Museum Volkenkunde (ResMA) 10
Muslims in a Global Context: Anthropological Approaches (ResMA) 10
Oral Traditions (ResMA) 10
Politics of Culture in Southeast Asia (ResMA) 10
Sinographics: Chinese writing and writing Chinese (ResMA) 10
Topical Readings in Historical and Literary Chinese Texts (ResMA) 10
Topics in Chinese Art History, Things and Paths: Approaches to Chinese Art and Material Culture (ResMA) 10
`Ulamâ’ in the Modern Muslim World (ResMA) 10
Word and Image in Premodern Japanese Culture (ResMA) 10

Elective Courses from one of the MA programmes (20 EC)

Choose two or more courses from the list that can be found under the tab "elective courses" up to a total of at least 20 EC.

Additionally, students can apply to participate in a series of extra-curricular lectures

Discipline and Place in the Social Sciences and the Humanities 0

Second year

Research semester

During the first semester of their second year students need to do research worth minimally 20 EC and maximally 30 EC. As the semester must have a total load of 30 EC, the remainder may be filled by taking another course at at least 400 level in the case research is less than 30 EC.

Research Project (ResMA) 19-29
Research MA Thesis (Middle Eastern Studies, Asian Studies) 30

The writing process is supported through a bi-weekly Thesis Writing Seminar

Thesis Writing Seminar 0

Elective courses

The courses listed are, in principle, open to all students admitted to the MA Asian Studies (research). However, some of them may have additional entry requirements such as, for example, a particular level of language sufficiency. Please refer to the course descriptions for further details.

Course EC Semester 1 Semester 2

Specialisation courses offered by the MA Asian Studies programme:

History, Arts and Culture of Asia

You can find information on course availability for the 2019-2020 academic year in History, Arts and Culture of Asia (Asian Studies) through the following link.

Politics, Society and Economy (Asian Studies)

You can find information on course availability for the 2019-2020 academic year in Politics, Society and Economy (Asian Studies) through the following link.

East Asian Studies

You can find information on course availability for the 2019-2020 academic year in East Asian Studies through the following link.

You can find information on course availability for the 2019-2020 academic year in Korean Studies through the following link.

Chinese Studies

You can find information on course availability for the 2019-2020 academic year in Chinese Studies through the following link.

Japanese Studies

You can find information on course availability for the 2019-2020 academic year in Japanese Studies through the following link.

Southeast Asian Studies

You can find information on course availability for the 2019-2020 academic year in Southeast Asian Studies through the following link.

South Asian Studies

You can find information on course availability for the 2019-2020 academic year in South Asian Studies through the following link.

Language courses

Students can take up to 10 EC maximum of language courses at beginner’s or intermediate level (i.e. BA-courses), but only under the condition that similar courses were not part of the BA-programme which gave access to the programme.
If they want to take more courses, these will not be counted towards their degree. They will, however, be listed on their Diploma Supplement as extra-curricular course(s).

Note that the number of available places for these (BA-)courses may be limited.


Note that this course is only offered in Dutch.

Mandarijn IA 15


Hindi 1 10


Indonesian 1 10


Note that courses are only offered in Dutch and that if you choose to follow an elective in Japanese language you are obliged to follow all four courses.

Structure: Japanese Grammar Ia 5
Applied linguistics Ia: Conversation & Listening Skills 3
Applied linguistics Ia: Kanji 2
Teksten Ia 5


Korean 1 15


Persian Language and Culture 1 10


Sanskrit 1 10


Tibetan 1 10

Advanced Language Courses

Students can take more than 10 EC of language courses at advanced level (MA courses, level 400-500), pending approval of the Board of Examiners.

Advanced Readings in Classical Chinese 5
Advanced Reading & Writing in Japanese 1 (60 EC) 10
Advanced Mandarin: Reading & Writing 1 5
Advanced Mandarin: Listening & Speaking 1 5
Advanced Mandarin: Reading & Writing 2 5
Advanced Mandarin: Listening & Speaking 2 5
Advanced Reading & Writing in Japanese 2 (60 EC) 5
Advanced Readings in Sanskrit Literature 10
Hindi Literature 10
Indonesian 5 10

More info

Programme Details

  • Title: Master of Arts

  • Duration: 2 years, full-time

  • Start date: September

  • Language of instruction: English

  • Responsibility: Programme director Master Asian Studies (research), Prof.dr. J.A. Silk.


This research master provides core training in an Area Studies approach to knowledge, opportunities for the development of disciplinary skills (politics, history, literature, philosophy, religion, etc.), and possibilities to build upon regional and language specialisation (such as Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Sanskrit, and Tibetan). Master students in Asian Studies develop sophisticated theoretical and methodological tools for scholarly reflexivity as well as tools specific for their research projects – which may be framed in more conventionally disciplinary and regional terms. They are guided to understand the parameters of the various disciplines and the ways in which they may be creatively combined into sophisticated forms of inter-disciplinarity, suitable to their subject matter. Students develop in-depth knowledge of one of the regions of Asia (East Asia, South or Southeast Asia, including Tibet), and/or a transregional/comparative perspective that tracks particular themes through their relationship with ‘areas.’



Preferably during the first weeks after the start of their studies, the students of the MA Asian Studies (research) are coupled with an “academic advisor”, one of the professors involved in the programme who (preferably) works on a topic of interest to the individual student. Together with his or her “academic advisor” the student composes a programme which caters to her or his interest.

Common Core Courses

The programme consists of four semesters with a course load of 30 EC each. The courses have a weight of 10 EC each (some language courses have a weight of 5 EC) and students generally follow three courses per semester. During the first year students have to take two Common Core Courses: ‘Critical Area Studies: Placing Your Research’ (Fall Semester) and ‘Methodologies in the Social Sciences and Humanities ’ (Spring Semester). The first one of these courses is obligatory for students of both the MA Middle Eastern Studies (research) and the MA Asian Studies (research) and attended by them jointly. The other one may be replaced by courses from one (or more) of the national Dutch research schools in the Humanities.

Core Electives and Electives

Besides these Common Core Courses students take elective courses. The programme offers two kinds of electives: “core electives” and “electives”. Students need to choose at least two “core elective” courses (20 EC in total) during their first year. These core electives are courses which are also attended by regular MA students, but they aim at the same time at offering an extra intellectual challenge to the students of the research MA: during the course more challenging literature is read and extra tutorials are offered by the converners of the courses to discuss the literature read. Moreover, the assignments are assessed at a higher level to cater to the higher intellectual need of research MA students. Alternatively, students may opt to join LIAS PhD candidates in the LIAS PhD Seminars.
The remaining regular “electives” (20 EC in total) are courses attended jointly with the students of the regular MAs and lack the extra challenges offered by the “core electives”.
It is also possible to take courses from other programmes, but when students choose to do so, they need to obtain approval from the Board of Examiners first. Students should be aware, though, that for some of the courses a certain level of knowledge of a particular language is required (see course descriptions).

Research Project

Students are expected to spend the third semester of the programme on their research research project. They may combine this research project with taking a course of maximum 10 EC either in Leiden or at an affiliated institution.

The last semester: Thesis Writing Seminar and MA Thesis

After the students have finished their research project, they write their Research MA Thesis. The process of writing is supported by a “Thesis Seminar” which is obligatory and offered bi-weekly. Students present their research during this seminar and discuss relevant issues with their peers.


Year I
Semester 1 Common Core Course: Critical Area Studies (10 ec) Core Elective Course (10 ec) Elective Course (10 ec)
Semester 2 Common Core Course: Methodologies in the Social Sciences and Humanities or Research School courses (10 ec) Core Elective Course (10 ec) Elective Course (10 ec)
Year II
Semester 3 (Core) Elective Course (≤ 10 ec) Research Project (≥ 20 ec)
Semester 4 Thesis and Thesis Writing Seminar (30 ec)

Master’s thesis and requirements for graduation

In the first year the students start working on their individual research project proposal, while the research project itself will take place in the first semester of the second year. This will result in a master’s thesis. The thesis must be based on the student’s own research, including primary data. The fourth semester is entirely reserved for the writing of the thesis. During this semester, the students gather on a regular base under the guidance of Prof. Jonathan Silk in the Thesis Writing Seminar to discuss their progress.

In order to graduate, students need to have successfully completed the 120 EC programme including the thesis (30 EC) as part of that programme. The thesis should be related to the expertise of at least one of the members of staff involved in the programme.

Contact Information

Mailing address

MA Asian Studies programme Secretariat Vrieshof 4, rm 112a P.O.Box 9515 2300 RA Leiden The Netherlands

Visiting address (also address for courier services)

Matthias de Vrieshof 4, 2311BZ Leiden
Witte Singel 25, 2311BG Leiden


Matthias de Vrieshof 4, room 112a Phone +31 (0)71 527 2253 E-mail Opening hours

Coordinator/Student adviser

N.A.N.M. van Os, PhD Phone: +31 (0)71 527 2937 E-mail: Office hours: upon appointment through e-mail.

Start of your studies

Frequently asked questions about the start of the study MA Asian Studies (research).

Does the department have an introductory programme?

The introductory meeting of this programme will take place on Tuesday, September 1st, and start at 13 hrs (no endtime determined yet) in room Lipsius/028.

Directions and map

Directions on how to get from Leiden Central Station to the Faculty of Humanities.

Most class rooms are situated at the Witte Singel Doelen-Complex, the location of the Faculties of Humanities.

How do I get hold of my prospectus and lecture timetable?

You can find the courses for the academic year 2020-2021 and the detailed course descriptions in the Prospectus. Find your programme under Asian Studies (research) to view all courses on offer. The timetables are available on the programme website.

For information on the exam periods, (official) holidays, etc see the Academic Calendar 2020-2021.

Is there anything more I need to do to complete my enrolment?

Make sure to complete your enrolment no later than 31 August. For this you need to:

  • pay the tuition fees;

  • accept the offer in the online application portal;

  • hand in all required documents at the Admissions Office as per the instructions in your admission statement.

Registration for courses

Once your registration with Leiden University is complete and you have received your Student Identity Number, log in name and password, you will be able to enroll online for all courses (and later for exams) through uSis. See for more information the item "Course registration" in the course descriptions. You may also want to have a look at this tutorial video.

Where can I buy my study books and study material?

To find out what books you will need for next year, you can visit the Prospectus. Here you will find the course descriptions of the courses you will be taking, with the required literature.

Where do I go for any further information I may need?

General information on the programme is available at the Asian Studies (research) (MA) website. You will have to log in the first time you visit this page. Once you have done this your cookies will enable you to enter this page further without problems.

A special page is dedicated to the answers and questions on Covid-19 related issues.

For questions related to more general issues of registration, housing and other practicalities around your coming to Leiden and Leiden University, please, refer to the university's FAQ base.

For any other questions you may contact the student advisor, Ms. Nicole van Os.