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Iconography of South and Southeast Asia


Admission requirements

Successful completion of 5481VS112 Classical Cultures of SSEA: Seminar I. Please, contact the Coordinator of Studies or Mw. Dr. E.M. Raven, if you are interested in taking this course, but do NOT fulfill the abovementioned requirement.


Asia’s religious art derives much of its distinctive visual presence from an intricate iconographic vocabulary. Message and meaning are expressed through systems of gestures, postures and attributes that manage to capture the essence of Hindu, Buddhist and Jain beliefs and practices.

This class focuses on developing skills to ‘read’ this iconography by carefully looking at, describing and understanding selected works of art from South and Southeast Asia. These skills are trained by means of assignments related to selected literature dealing with iconography as a traditional science in ancient India) and with specific iconographies. Students are also introduced to a number of important digital image databases. A guided visit to a Dutch museum collection with Asian art is part of the programme.
This course is a vital component in a BA-programme of students focusing on the arts and material culture of South and Southeast Asia, but may be equally relevant for those studying Asian religions, cultural history, history or archaeology. Students of western art may consider to join and focus on a comparative approach. Students from other departments and contractstudents are most welcome to participate as well.

Students are expected to prepare each week’s classes via readings and/or written assignments related to the literature read (graded, 40% of total mark). Most of the literature is made digitally available. The classes are offered in a thematic sequence. At the start of the second half of the semester the students present an iconographic case study selected for their paper , 20% of total mark). To round off the series, the students write a concise paper focusing on the iconography of a work of art in a Dutch museum collection (40%).

Course objectives

  • Knowledge of the basic principles of Hindu, Buddhist and Jain iconographic language;

  • Awareness of the conceptual iconographic links between the arts of the various religious systems in South and Southeast Asia

  • Developing skills in describing and analysing Hindu, Buddhist and Jain art

  • Developing skills in presenting an iconographic analysis with the help of Powerpoint

  • Overseeing the landscape of digital resources for iconographic studies of Asian art

  • Developing skills to put the results of research into writing



Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

  • Excursion

Course Load

  • Seminar, 12×2: 24h

  • Preparing for the mid-term exam: 20h

  • Preparing the presentation: 20h

  • Writing the final paper: 36h

  • Reading for and preparing home assignments: 40h

  • Total study load: 140 hours

Assessment method


  • Participation and home assignments

  • Written mid-term exam with open questions

  • Presentation

  • Paper


  • Participation and home assignments: 25%

  • Mid-term exam 25 %

  • Presentation: 20%

  • Paper: 30% (a passing grade of 5.50 or higher for this part is required).


Students submit a version 1 of their paper, which will be graded. After receiving feedback, they may submit a final version for final grading. This arrangement is a form of ‘resit’. Students are allowed to skip version 1 and submit only a (final) version of their paper for grading (concise explanation for grade is provided afterwards).
In order to pass the course, students must achieve a passing grade for the final version of their paper and obtain an overall mark of “5.50” (=6) or higher.

The course is an integrated whole. All assessments must be completed in the same academic year. No partial marks can be carried over into following years.


Blackboard will be used for:

  • Course info

  • Course documents, including pdfs of Powerpoints used in class

  • Supportive materials

  • Home assignments and upload links for the home assignments

  • Instructions for the mid-term exam

  • Instructions for the presentation

  • Instructions for the paper and upload links for the paper version 1 and version 2

Reading list

Reading list

  • Selections from J. Guy, Indian Temple Sculpture. London, 2007 (or later edition).

  • Selected reading materials (offered via BB).


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available on the website

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Registration Studeren à la carte
Registration Contractonderwijs


Mw Dr. E.M. Raven