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Architecture: the Temple and the Stupa


Admission requirements

Having successfully finished Propaedeutics SSEAS or equivalent knowledge of South and Southeast Asian history and society. Please, contact the student advisor, Nicole A.N.M. van Os 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 temples different from those that were built in earlier times? What were important criteria for the building of a Buddhist stūpa? In which ways did sculpture and painting contribute to the meaning and function of typically South and Southeast Asian sacred architecture?

In this lecture series 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. Student 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 series, the students write a short paper related to the themes discussed (20 % of total mark).

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 handling digital image databases

  • Developing skills in reporting in writing on the results of research

Time table


Mode of instruction

  • Seminar
    Participation is obligatory.

Course Load

  • Seminar (12×2): 24h

  • Reading for and preparing the home writing assignments: 50h

  • Intermediate exam (tussentoets): 20h

  • Preparing the presentation: 16 h

  • Writing the short paper: 30h

  • Total studieload: 140 hours

Assessment method

Practical exercises:

  • Participation and home assignments: 20%

  • Presentation: 20%

  • Short paper: 20%

Final exam:

  • Final 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 fullfil these requirements cannot sit in the final exam and will automatically fail the course.

There will be a resit of the written exam for those who did not achieve an average of minimum 5.50 (=6) for the exam and practical exercises together. The grade for this resit will replace the grade of the first final exam and have a weight of 40%. A resit is not possible for those students who will not have participated in the practical exercises.

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

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


Blackboard### Reading list

  • Selected reading materials (offered via BB).


Students are requested to register through uSis, the registration system of Leiden University for this course. General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch.

Registration Contractonderwijs

Registration as Contractonderwijs


Mw. Dr. E.M. Raven