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Architecture: The Temple and the Stupa


Admission requirements

Successfully completion of Premodern Histories of SSEA or Introduction to Hinduism or Introduction to Buddhism or equivalent knowledge of South and Southeast Asian history and society. Please, contact the student advisor or Mw. Dr. E.M. Raven, if you are interested in taking this course, but do NOT fulfill the above mentioned requirement.


How can you tell a Hindu from a Buddhist or a Jain temple? Are modern stupas different from those that were built in earlier times? What were important criteria for the building of a site of worship? How did ritual behavior inform the architecture? And how could sculpture and painting contribute to the meaning and function of South and Southeast Asian sacred architecture?

In this class we study specific features of monuments that visually co-define the South and Southeast Asian architectural landscape. We examine to what extent a well-considered placement of imagery of deities, world protectors, Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, narratives and auspicious motives optimize the architectural and ritual functionality of built space.

This course is a vital component in a BA-programme of students focusing on arts and material culture of South and/or Southeast Asia, but may be equally relevant for those studying Asian religions, cultural history, history or archaeology. Students of western art and architecture may consider to join and focus on a comparative approach. Students from other departments and a-la-carte students are most welcome to join as well.

Students are expected to engage with thematically chosen literature by short-essay writing assignments related to the literature read (graded, 40 % of total mark). Most of the literature is made digitally available. Several image databases are also used frequently, including the Digital Special Collections of the University Library.
The classes are offered in a thematic sequence.

The reading materials of the first half of the course are the subject of the first ‘tussentoets (20 % of the total mark). Early in the second half of the semester the students present a case study (selected from a pre-arranged list of subjects, 20 % of total mark). To round off the course, the students write a short paper related to the themes discussed (20 % of total mark; the paper grade is a passing grade, so Version 2 of the paper serves as a resit and needs to achieve >5.4 in order to pass the course.

Course objectives

  • Deepening the student’s knowledge of Asia’s religious architecture;

  • Creating an awareness of the application of specific visual and ritually relevant formats

  • Creating an awareness of the relevance of iconographic programmes

  • Creating insight into inherent symbolism and ritual relevance of architectural design of temples and stupas

  • Capacity building in the presentation of a case study by means of Powerpoint

  • Developing skills in using digital image databases

  • Developing skills in reporting on the results of research



Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

Attendance and participation are obligatory. Classes missed for a good reason (to the discretion of the convener and to be discussed BEFORE the class takes place) will have to be ‘repaired’ through an extra assignment. Being absent without notification can result in a lower grade or failing the course.

Course Load

  • Seminar (12×2): 24h

  • Reading for and preparing the home writing assignments: 40h

  • Intermediate exam (tussentoets): 20h

  • Preparing the presentation: 16 h

  • Writing the short paper: 40h

  • Total study load: 140 hours

Assessment method

Practical exercises:

  • Participation and home assignments: 20%

  • Presentation: 20%

  • Short paper (passing grade): 20%. The paper is written in two stages: a first version (V1) which will be commented on and a final version (V2), which serves as a re-sit for V1. Students who do not meet the deadline for the first version will lose the right to get feedback and will only be graded based on their final version.


  • Intermediate exam: 40%

Participation in classes is obligatory. Students are required to submit all parts of the practical exercises as listed above. Students who do not fulfill these requirements cannot submit the final paper and will thus automatically fail the course.

There will be a re-sit of the written exam. The grade for this re-sit will replace the grade of the first final exam and have a weight of 40%. A re-sit is not possible for those students who did not participate in all practical exercises.

Students who pass the course (obtain an overall mark of 5.50 (=6) or higher) are not allowed to take the re-sit.

The course is an integrated whole. The intermediate examination, the assignments and the paper must be completed in the same academic year. No partial marks can be carried over into following years.



Reading list

  • Selected reading materials (offered via BB).


Students of the BA program South and South East Asia Studies are required to register through uSis before August/January 15. To avoid mistakes and problems, students are strongly advised to register in uSis through the activity number which can be found in the timetable in the column under the heading “Act.nbr.”.

Other students are requested to send an email to the study co-ordinator including their name, student ID number, course title and prospectus or catalog number. Depending on the availability of places, the study co-ordinator will register these students after August/January 15. By September/February 1 at the latest the student will be able to see in uSis whether (s)he is registered or not.

Not registered, means no permission to attend this course. See also the ‘Registration procedures for classes and examinations’ for registration deadlines and more information on how to register.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

(Studeren à la carte is not possible for this course.)


Mw. E.A. Cecil


All Buddhism related courses

At BA-level
Fall Semester
Buddhist Art
Introduction to Buddhism
Japanse religies en boeddhisme
Iconography of South and Southeast Asia

Spring Semester
Architecture: The Temple and the Stupa
Chinese Buddhism
Tibetan Buddhism
Tibet: State and Society
Indian Philosophy
Buddhism and Modern Chinese Literature
Elective: Buddhism and Violence

At MA-level
Reading Buddhist Scriptures

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 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).