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Seminar World Art Studies: China and the Museum.


Admission requirements

First Year Seminar III: Writing and Lecturing.


This course will give an introduction to museum history reaching back to the Kunst- und Wunderkammern of the Renaissance with the particular case study of Chinese material culture. It follows a chronological order starting with readings on how Chinese material culture was collected and put on display in China and Europe from the 16th century onward. The course material includes readings that analyze collections as frameworks of cultural and social representation, as well as it introduces concrete case studies of artifacts that travel between cultures to be collected and displayed as ‘exotica’ in Europe and China. The class’s focus lies on the early modern period, but it touches upon aspects of 19th century collecting and concludes with three sessions on the museum display of Chinese objects within 20th century China and Europe.

Course objectives

The student:

  • Gets a deeper understanding of the relationship between art and cultural exchange throughout the centuries;

  • acquires factual knowledge on the specific case study of Chinese material culture;

  • learns to recognize patterns of collecting and display in historic as well as contemporary contexts;

  • will be equipped with the methodological tools to discuss an object in order to explain bigger structures in relation to culture, art or history.


Provisional timetable: Wedensday 19.00 – 20.30 uur. Final timetable on:

Mode of instruction

Discussion-driven seminar, based on readings that are mandatory for preparation. For each session every student is asked to deduct one over-arching question from the assigned readings, flesh it out, put it in writing (circa one page) and bring it to class. This small assignment is mandatory and will be collected at the end of each class. It serves to enable an informed and prepared class room discussion.

One student at a time gives a presentation on the assigned readings. Part of this assignment is the preparation of a glossary that lists and briefly explains names, terms or concepts that were previously unfamiliar to the student and that he/she had to look up. The glossary is sent to the instructor in advance and made available to the group via blackboard.

Depending on the number of students people might be picked to give reports on optional readings or in relation to the planed excursion to the Volkenkunde Museum (so that everyone gets the chance to give a short presentation either on a text or within the museum context).

The presentations are intended to enhance the understanding of the course’s subject matter, stimulate group discussion and serve to prepare the final assignment, an essay of circa 1500 words.

In seminars attendance is obligatory. Non-attendance should be reported (with reasons) in advance. Missing seminar sessions more than twice will have as a consequence that this course cannot be completed. Only in exceptional cases the Examination Board will consider the option of an alternative assignment. Refer to the “Onderwijs- en examenreglement” (OER) for further details.

Assessment method

  1. Weekly assignment of a well fleshed out question based on the readings (20%).
  2. Every student gives a presentation (30%).
  3. Final essay (1500 words; 50%).



Reading list

  • An overview of all sessions and the reading list will be posted on blackboard.

  • All reading materials will be made available on blackboard one week in advance to the session that they are assigned for.


Via uSis.

Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the Study in Leiden website for information on how to apply.

Contact information

Email: A.K. Grasskamp, MPhil


Along with Second Year Bachelor students from the Art History department Bachelor students from the department of Chinese Languages and Cultures are encouraged to join this seminar.