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Art and the City in the Song, Yuan, and Ming


Admission requirements

Prerequisite: preferably BA2: General Introduction to Art History of China


This course provides a broad coverage of visual and material culture in China during the Song, Yuan and Ming periods (960–1644), with a thematic focus of its role in relation to urban centres. Against the backdrop of the constantly changing yet ever-bustling city setting, we shall explore topics such as the role played by visual and material culture in urban sites of commerce and leisure, artistic and cartographic representations of cityscapes and lost capitals, and the visual and material practices of city-based workshops, religious institutions and art connoisseurship networks. On the way, we will consider a variety of objects and visual media from across this long stretch of time, ranging from paintings and religious statues to architectural motifs and woodblock-printed book illustrations. We will also explore the ways in which historical actors in pre-modern China engaged with visual and material culture, looking beyond emperors and scholar-officials to meet people from all walks of life: women, merchants, potters, craftsmen, missionaries, forgers, and booklovers. The course will involve hands-on museum visits and exposure to pre-modern books from the Leiden University Library Special Collections.

Course objectives

By the end of this course, students should be able to

  1. Become familiar with major artifacts from Song, Yuan, and Ming China;
  2. Gain hands-on experience in museum setting, and learn to analyze them with appropriate vocabularies, approaches, and theories;
  3. Understand arguments and debates relevant to major topics in the study of art and cities in China;
  4. Identify primary and secondary sources related to their essay topics, and read the most important scholarship in Chinese language;
  5. Write analytically and critically on topics in Chinese art and formulate coherent arguments.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction


Assessment method


  • Class assignments (participation, reports)

  • Research paper


  • Class assignments (participation, reports)

  • Research paper


Resit consists of the same subtests as the first opportunity. After the exam result is published on Brightspace, the student will have two weeks to prepare for their resit assignment.

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

The course readings will be announced on Brightspace at least one week in advance of each class.


Enrolment through My Studymap is mandatory.
Note: course titel in MyStudymap and uSis is Art in the Song-Yuan-Ming Transition.


  • For substantive questions, contact the lecturer listed in the right information bar.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Education Administration Office: OA De Vrieshof