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Cultural Heritage in East Asia: dealing with the past in present and future


Admission requirements

MA Students of Asian Studies or related disciplines.


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


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction

Assessment method




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 booktitles and / or syllabi to be used in the course, where it can be purchased and how this literature should be studied beforehand.


Enrolment through MyStudyMap is mandatory.