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Material Culture in Late Imperial China


Admission requirements

There are no prerequisites for this course, but successful completion of a course in Chinese history or literature at the BA1 or BA2 level is highly recommended. Familiarity with Chinese art (via courses followed in BA1 and BA2), art history (of any region/period) will also enhance paritipation in the course. Students are expected to exert critical thinking, and to plan their individual engagement/production (final project) with good strategy and originality. Evaluation will be based on class discussion, familiarity with the material and the elaboration of a workable approach in the assessment of texts and specific issues as elements of a larger social /cultural context for the writing of a final paper.


This course focuses mainly on the mid-Ming to the late Qing period, approximately 1550-1850.
Drawing upon material objects, historical texts, and ethnographic studies, we will examine how values, beliefs, and identities have been shaped by the use and production of material artifacts, and how the interactions of China with the rest of the world have been mediated by the travel of material objects. Readings and discussions will cover the following topics: urbanization; commercialization; internationalization; gender; and aesthetics. We will explore these issues through a number of specific aspects of material culture, including maritime trade, printing and publishing; court culture; textiles, clothing and fashion; art, including collecting and connoisseurship; architecture and gardens. This course also includes field trips to museums around the Leiden area.

Course objectives

  • Introduce students to some of the scholarships on material culture and consumption;

  • Provide students with a deep knowledge of Chinese social and cultural practices during this period;

  • Develop sudents’ ability to critically analyse the social and cultural values and processes embodied in material objetcs, as well as their skills to present their ideas in an exhibition project and a research paper


See the collegerooster the website of China Studies for day, time and location

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

Course Load

5 EC x 28 h = approx 140 hours total

  • 12 × 2 contact hours = 24 hours

  • about 4 hours preparation for each session of 2 hours = approx 48 hours

  • approximately 16 hours preparation for oral presentations = approx 16 hours

  • approximately 16 hours preparation for exhibition project = approx 16 hours

  • approximately 36 hours for writing paper = approximately 36 hours

Assessment method

  • Short writing assignments, 20% of the final grade

  • Attendance and active participation, 20% of the final grade

  • Exhibition project, 20% of the final grade

  • Final essay, 40% of the final grade

The final grade consists of the weighted average of all course components. A resit for the final essay is allowed if a student scores a non-passing grade (5,49 or lower) on the first attempt.


Yes, Blackboard

Reading list

Articles will be posted on Blackboard. Books will be available on a reserve shelf in East Asian Library


Registration through uSis. Not registered, means no permission to attend this course. See also the ‘Registrationprocedures for classes and examinations’ for registration deadlines and more information on how to register.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Registration Studeren à la carte via:
Registration Contractonderwijs via:


For further information about the content of this course, please contact the lecturer Wu Yinghui