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Sharing the Tales of Buddha: Narrative Art in Asia


Admission requirements

Admission to the MA Asian Studies (60 EC), MA Asian Studies (120 EC) or MA Asian Studies (research). Students who are interested in this course and, preferably, have some knowledge of Art History, Asian Studies, and/or Buddhism, but who are not admitted to one of the above-mentioned MAs should contact one of the convenors, Dr. M.J. Klokke, in advance.


In this course we examine visual expressions of Buddhist narratives, such as the previous lives of the Buddha, his biography, his miracles, and the pilgrimages of Buddhist lay people. Materials include reliefs and wall paintings on Buddhist temples and stupas, mainly from South Asia (India, Pakistan) and Southeast Asia (Myanmar, Thailand and Indonesia). Topics to be discussed are: image-text relationships; various modes of visual narration; relationships between visual narratives and architectural space; the meaningful selection of episodes; the various historical and cultural contexts of the visual narratives; their inter-cultural relationships and culturally defined differences.

Course objectives

  • Knowledge of the history of Buddhist art in South and Southeast Asia

  • Ability to describe and analyse narrative themes in Asian art and interpret them in their art historical context

  • Insight into some of the problems and debates in the study of Asian art



Mode of instruction


Assessment method

  • Participation (20 %)

  • Two papers (each 40%)



Reading list

Articles will be made available through a reader and/or blackboard.


Registration through uSis is mandatory.

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


Dr. M.J. Klokke