nl en

Asian Studies (60 EC): East Asian Studies

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 accomodations 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).

Courses (September start)

Vak EC Semester 1 Semester 2

First semester

Introduction to Asian Studies 10

Select language courses of your specialisation

Chinese (select two courses)

Advanced Mandarin: Listening & Speaking 1 5
Advanced Mandarin: Reading and Writing 1 5


Advanced Reading & Writing in Japanese 1 (60 EC) 10


Advanced Korean Reading 10

Elective courses (select 10 EC)

Advanced Readings in Classical Chinese 5
Anthropology of Japan 10
Art and Power in Asia 10
Art and Power in Asia (5 EC) 5
Asia through Consumption 10
Can the Subaltern Write? China’s Migrant Worker Culture 10
China-Africa Relations in a Changing Global Order 10
China's International Political Economy 10
Constructing Digital Language Toolkits 10
Critical Approaches to Heritage Studies 5
Democratizing Histories 10
Democratizing Histories 5
Lives on the Margins: Korean Peninsula Migration and Identity (10 EC) 10
Material Culture, Memory and Commemoration along the Silk Roads in Central Asia 10
Masters of Chinese Philosophy 10
The Politics of Digital East Asia 10
The Visual and Material Culture of Exchange in Asia and Europe, 1500-1800 10
Topical Readings in Classical Japanese 10
Topics in Chinese Linguistics 10
Topics in Modern Chinese History 10
Topics in Modern Chinese History (5 EC) 5

Second semester

MA thesis

MA Thesis Asian Studies (60 EC) 15


Chinese (select one of the following two courses)

Advanced Mandarin: Listening & Speaking 2 5
Advanced Mandarin: Reading & Writing 2 5


Advanced Reading & Writing in Japanese 2 (60 EC) 5


Topical Readings in Korean (5 EC) 5
Topical Readings in Korean (10 EC) 10

Electives (China & Japan track students select 10 EC; Korea-track students select 15 EC)

Approaches to East Asian Cinema (10 EC) 10
Approaches to East Asian Cinema (5 EC) 5
China and Global Cyberspace 10
Contemporary Japan’s Economy in Global Economic Crises 10
Creativity and Culture in Contemporary China 10
Culture and Conquest: the Impact of the Mongols and their Descendants 10
Human Rights Discourses on North Korea 10
Oral Traditions 10
Sinographics: Chinese writing and writing Chinese 10
Society, Economy and Politics in Contemporary China and India in a Comparative Perspective 10
The Politics of Destruction: Targeting World Heritage 10
Topical Readings in Historical and Literary Chinese Texts 10
Topics in Chinese Art History, Things and Paths: Approaches to Chinese Art and Material Culture 10
Word and Image in Premodern Japanese Culture: Reworking the Classics 10

Extracurricular Course:

The Societal Dimensions of Early Buddhism 5

February start

For students starting in February, the Spring Semester is your first semester. In the academic calendar however, this semester appears as the second semester, as the formal academic year starts in September. For Elective courses, please check the list of courses for the relevant semester under Courses (September start)

Vak EC Semester 1 Semester 2

Spring semester (your first semester)

Introduction to Asian Studies 10

compulsory courses

Electives (select 20 EC from 2020-2021 Spring semester - including compulsory Advanced Language course)

Fall semester ( your second semester)

MA Thesis Asian Studies (60 EC) 15

Electives (select 15 EC from 2021-2022 Fall semester Electives - including compulsory Advanced Language courses)

Critical Heritage Studies

MA focus Critical Heritage Studies of Asia and Europe

‘There is, really, no such thing as heritage’, states Laurajane Smith in her acclaimed book The Uses of Heritage (2006). According to her, heritage is an ‘inherently political and discordant’ practice used by different interest-groups with varying degrees of legitimacy. The MA focus on Critical Heritage Studies of Asia and Europe explores the politics of heritage and the questions of their legitimacy. Who controls heritage? What is the role of heritage in the constructed narratives of nationalism? How is heritage being used as a cultural practice to shape the discourses on nation-building and nation-branding?
The process of heritage-making entails various forms of conflict over the definition, ownership, and use of cultural attributes. Originally a concept coined by the nation-state, heritage has become the object of intellectual reclamation by academics, activists and associations. Institutional and non-institutional social actors in Asia and in Europe are increasingly involved in debating the legitimacy as well as the need to “safeguard” different expressions of heritage. Furthermore, heritage is being used as a marketable commodity for the sake of tourism.
Students enrolled in this focus will examine key issues, concepts, and international frameworks related to the disputed distinction between tangible and intangible heritage. The courses will also explore the genesis and working practices of international heritage administration, charters and conventions. Students will gain insight into the rights and responsibilities of organizations such as ICCROM, ICOMOS and UNESCO. Furthermore, the social impact of heritage themes such as diaspora, ethnicity, and nationalism will be analyzed. Current critiques of the heritage concepts of “authenticity” and “sustainability” will be provided. The courses will also elaborate on the notions of “collective” and “social” memory. In this context, special attention will be paid to the museum as a facilitating actor in the process of understanding and showcasing cultural identity. Students will review case studies of tangible and intangible heritage from Europe and Asia to see how heritage has taken on new and sometimes unintended meanings in the midst of social change, asserting religious identity and political upheaval. Students will be further encouraged to produce their own case studies and approach heritage as a growing interdisciplinary field. The course work will prepare them for careers as researchers, policy-makers, activists and practitioners.

Focus courses

The MA focus Critical Heritage Studies of Asia and Europe consists of compulsory and elective courses. Besides the general MA Asian Studies compulsory courses, the focus offers two compulsory heritage courses – “Critical Approaches to Heritage Studies” (e-Prospectus 5174KHER) at the Faculty of Humanities, and “Heritage and Museum Studies 2” (e-Prospectus 1044M08Y) at the Faculty of Archaeology. Elective courses are offered at the Faculty of Humanities and at the Faculty of Archaeology.


The focus Critical Heritage Studies of Asia and Europe, jointly initiated by the International Institute for Asian Studies (IIAS) and the Leiden University Institute for Area Studies (LIAS), considers Asia as a fertile source of both theoretical and methodological insights in this highly contested arena.
Since colonial times, European-based concepts and technical approaches to conservation have dominated the understanding of heritage in Asia, in most cases through top-down imposition of ideas and processes. It is this hegemonic discourse, usually promoted by developmentalist states in Asia and elsewhere, as well as various processes of indigenous response, that this focus area is intended to highlight.

Double Degree Programme

The focus on Critical Heritage Studies of Asia and Europe forms part of a wider ambition to decentralize the production of knowledge and social agency by establishing a network of partner universities located in Asia and Europe. The contributing institutions have already established a fruitful collaboration in research and teaching. In this context, the study of heritage is re-configured as a means of reconceptualising relations between Asia and Europe in terms of mutual respect and exchange, and the creative exploration of cultural forms and practices.
Within this wider ambition, apart from the MA degree from Leiden University (within the one-year MA Asian Studies Programme, 60 EC), students can also engage in a Double Degree Programme, offered by Leiden University, the IIAS and one of the Asian partner universities, including National Taiwan University (Taiwan) and Yonsei University (South Korea). In order to attend courses at the National Taiwan University, which are partially given in English and Chinese, students are required to have HSK Level 4 in Chinese. All courses at the Yonsei University are given in English.
As far as certification in the Double Degree Programme is concerned, upon successful completion students will obtain three certificates in total: the Leiden University MA diploma, the partner university MA diploma (two-year programme, of which the Leiden MA qualifies as one year) and a separate certificate for the Double MA Degree in Critical Heritage Studies of Asia and Europe, issued by IIAS. The focus on Critical Heritage Studies of Asia and Europe prepares students to work in the following areas: academic research, planning, museum management, tourism industries, and heritage conservation.


For more information, please contact Dr. Elena Paskaleva at:

More info

1-year Master Asian Studies


In the one-year Master’s program in Asian Studies you will be able to deepen and broaden your knowledge of Asia as a whole or one of the regions within Asia. The different specialisations offered within this program cater for students both with and without prior proficiency in one or more Asian languages. In Asian Studies, you may focus on a specific region, choosing between China, Japan, Korea, South Asia or Southeast Asia. Alternatively, you may opt for an interregional, disciplinary emphasis, focusing on History, Arts, and Culture topics in the HAC specialisation, or on issues in Politics, Society and Economy in the PSE specialisation. The MA also has a special track Critical Heritage Studies that can be taken as part of one of the tracks. The rich collections of the University Libraries in Asian Studies incorporate both the long textual tradition of Leiden University and the most up-to-date theories and approaches of history, literature, linguistics and the social sciences. Museums and other long-standing institutions in Leiden related to Asia provide much material for study. The one-year Master Asian Studies specifically encourages in-situ internships as part of the curriculum.

Programme Structure

The master’s program in the one-year Asian Studies Master is divided into two semesters (each subdivided into two periods for some courses). Each semester consists of 30 EC. Students take the compulsory course Introduction to Asian Studies (10 EC) in their first semester. Students in the East Asia track also take compulsory language courses (total 15 EC) in their first and second semester. For students outside the East Asia track, a maximum of 15 EC beginner or intermediate language course credits can be applied toward degree requirements. MA East Asia Students can only count the Advanced Language credits that are a compulsory part of their program (15 EC) toward graduation.

In addition to this, students take Elective courses that are specific to their specialisation – Core Electives. Students are permitted to choose one of the Electives outside their own specialisation, but within the Asian Studies Master, to a maximum of 10 EC. In their second semester students take again one or two Core Electives for a minimum of 15 EC, or fulfill this partially by an internship, and write their MA-Thesis (15 EC).

Master’s thesis and requirements for graduation

In order to graduate, students must have successfully completed the 60 EC programme, including the MA thesis. The thesis is written in English and up to 15,000 words in length, including footnotes and bibliography. More details on the procedures regarding the MA-Thesis can be found in the course description and the thesis protocol.


The 1-year MA programme in Asian Studies offers the following specialisations:
History Arts and Culture
Politics, Society and Economy
East Asian Studies
South Asian Studies
Southeast Asian Studies