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Cultural Heritage in East Asia: Dealing with the Past in Present and Future


Admission requirements

Students of the MA Asian Studies (60 EC, 120 EC or research) or other relevant programmes.


This course aims to provide students with a multidimensional and diverse understanding of national and global preservation of tangible and intangible cultural heritage (ICH) – customs, rituals, festivals, and other intangible cultural expressions – and its impact on the cultural landscape of local communities in East Asia. Furthermore, we shall look at recent developments and possible futures of the current preservation frameworks.
During the first part of the course, we shall establish some baseline understanding of several themes related to the preservation of culture, such as the distinction between high and low culture, the definition and significance of folk culture in present times, notions of tradition and nostalgia, and the sense and non-sense of cultural authenticity. We shall then shift focus to concrete processes of heritage preservation in East Asia both in situ and through institutions such as ethnographic museums, conflicts that arise from these practices, and conclude with a critical assessment of where heritage ‘belongs’ and what shape it will take in the future. Themes touched upon will include the relation between local systems of cultural property preservation and changes brought about by the global frameworks of UNESCO, the implications of “ranking” various cultural expressions on heritage lists, and the impact of national and international tourism on local (folk) cultures.
The regional focus of the lectures will be on East Asia (in no particular order: China, Japan, Korea), but comparison with other regions (Europe and North America in particular) is always within reach, and students are free to explore other regions as well. The aim is to obtain a broad but critical perspective on processes regarding the objectification of cultural practice and the preservation of intangible cultural expressions in East Asia and throughout the world.

Course objectives

  • Development of insight into the larger governing principles and backgrounds of the study of (in)tangible cultural heritage in East Asia.

  • Development of critical reading and reviewing skills through the analysis of existing research.

  • Practice in designing and applying complex analysis at an empirical and a theoretical level.

  • Expansion of organizing skills to combine primary and secondary sources into a piece of research output.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

The deadline(s) in MyTimetable is/are set for administrative purposes only. The actual date(s) will be communicated by the lecturer(s) in Brightspace.

Mode of instruction


Attendance is compulsory for all sessions. Students must prepare well and contribute to in-class discussion. If a student cannot attend because of illness or misadventure, they should promptly inform the convener. Extra assignments may be set to make up for missed class time, at the convener’s discretion. Absence without notification may result in lower grades or exclusion from assessment components and a failing grade for the course.

Assessment method

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. Students may not substantially reuse texts they have previously submitted in this or other courses. Minor overlap with previous work is allowed as long as it is duly noted in citation.

Students must submit their assignment(s) to Brightspace through Turnitin, so they can be checked for plagiarism. Submission via email is not accepted.

ChatGPT: What is possible and what is allowed? Dos and Don'ts.

Assessment and weighing

Partial Assessment Weighing
Weekly preparation (10 x 1.5%) 15%
Midterm essay 35%
Final paper 50%

Weekly preparation
Prepare your thoughts and questions on the reading materials for that week in a short and critical reading response. Each week, one team of students will prepare discussion based on their response to the readings + extra materials and examples. This assessment is graded with a pass/fail.

Midterm essay
Exploratory short academic essay (2500 words ± 10%) that reflects on the statement: “Cultural heritage in East Asia needs to be protected.”

Final paper
Research paper into a case study related to the course materials. Length 5000 words (± 10%). Inclusion of at least one academic article in a source language (CJK) is required.

Assignments may be submitted before the deadline, but not after. Late submission may result in a deduction of 0.5 grade point per day for the grade of that assignment.

The final mark for this course is formed by the weighted average.

To pass the course students must receive an overall mark of 5.50 (=6) or higher and/or a passing grade for the Final Essay assignment (5.5 or higher).

All categories of assessment must be completed in the same academic year. No partial marks can be carried over into following years.


Only if the total weighted average is 5.49 or lower and this is the result of a paper graded 5.49 or lower, a re-sit of the paper is possible (50%). In that case the convener of the course may decide to assign a (new) topic. The deadline for this version will be determined by the course convener, after consultation with the student. A re-sit for other course components is not possible.

All categories of assessment must be completed in the same academic year. No partial marks can be carried over into following years.

Inspection and feedback

Feedback will be supplied primarily through Brightspace. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the assessment results, a review will be organized.

Reading list

There is no required course text. Readings are listed in the course syllabus, which will be distributed in the period immediately preceding the beginning of the class.


Enrolment through MyStudyMap is mandatory.