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Asian Studies (60 EC): History, Arts and Culture of Asia

Students of Asian Studies track History, Arts and Culture, can opt for a focus on “Critical Heritage Studies of Asia and Europe” per September this year.

More information: click on the tab ‘Critical Heritage Studies’ below.

Courses (September start)

Course EC Semester 1 Semester 2

First semester (Fall semester)

Compulsory courses:

Introduction to Asian Studies 10

Core Electives (choose 10-20 EC)

China's New Workers and the Politics of Culture 10
Comparative Asian Linguistics 10
Critical Approaches to Heritage Studies 10EC 10
Cultural Heritage in East Asia: Dealing with the Past in Present and Future 10
Democratizing Histories (5 EC) 5
Democratizing Histories (10 EC) 10
Histories of Southeast Asia (5 EC) 5
Histories of Southeast Asia (10 EC) 10
Oral Traditions 10
Pilgrimage and Holy Places 10
Pure Land Buddhism 5
Sound as Heritage in Asia 10
The Premodern in the Modern: Historicizing Gender and Sexuality 10
Topical Readings in Historical and Literary Chinese Texts 10
Urbanism and Digitality Across Asia 10

Language Electives at beginners or intermediate level to a max of 15 EC can count toward your degree.

Hindi 1 10
Indonesian 1 10
Sanskrit 1 10
Tibetan 1 10

Second semester (Spring semester)

Compulsory courses:

MA Thesis Asian Studies (60 EC) 15

Electives (select 10EC)

Art and Power in China 10
Buddhism seminar 10
China and Global Cyberspace 10
Culture and Conquest: the Impact of the Mongols and their Descendants 10
Cultures of Resistance: South Asia and the World (10 EC) 5
Cultures of Resistance: South Asia and the World (10 EC) 10
Ecofeminism in Island Asia and Oceania 10
Material Culture, Heritage and Memory along the Silk Roads in Central Asia 10
Sinographics: Chinese Writing and Writing Chinese 10
The Past in the Present: Nation-building in Modern China (5 EC) 5
The Past in the Present: Nation-building in Modern China (10 EC) 10
The Politics of Destruction: Targeting World Heritage 10
Word and Image in Premodern Japanese Culture: Reworking the Classics 10

Language Electives at beginners or intermediate level to a max of 15 EC can count toward your degree.

Hindi 2 10
Indonesian 2 10
Sanskrit 2 10
Tibetan 2 10

Non curricular courses (10EC)

Internship MA Asian Studies 10

February Start

Students who start in February, the Spring Semester, take the compulsory Introduction to Asian Studies (10 EC) and write their MA-thesis (15 EC) in the second (fall) semester. In the spring semester they take 30 EC Courses and Electives and 5 EC Core Course in the fall semester.

First semester (Spring semester)

Electives (select 30 EC from Spring selection of Electives, see first tab, September start)

Second semester (Fall semester)

Introduction to Asian Studies 10 EC
MA Thesis Asian Studies 15 EC
Electives (select 5 EC Fall selection of Electives, see first tab, for the next academic year starting in September.) (the new programme is published around May of your first semester)

Critical Heritage Studies

MA focus Critical Heritage Studies of Asia and Europe

Part of MA Asian Studies specialization History, Arts and Culture

‘There is, really, no such thing as heritage’, states Laurajane Smith in her acclaimed book The Uses of Heritage (2006). According to her, heritage is an ‘inherently political and discordant’ practice used by different interest-groups with varying degrees of legitimacy. The MA focus on Critical Heritage Studies of Asia and Europe explores the politics of heritage and the questions of their legitimacy. Who controls heritage? What is the role of heritage in the constructed narratives of nationalism? How is heritage being used as a cultural practice to shape the discourses on nation-building and nation-branding?
The process of heritage-making entails various forms of conflict over the definition, ownership, and use of cultural attributes. Originally a concept coined by the nation-state, heritage has become the object of intellectual reclamation by academics, activists and associations. Institutional and non-institutional social actors in Asia and in Europe are increasingly involved in debating the legitimacy as well as the need to “safeguard” different expressions of heritage. Furthermore, heritage is being used as a marketable commodity for the sake of tourism.
Students enrolled in this focus as part of the specialization History, Arts and Culture will examine key issues, concepts, and international frameworks related to the disputed distinction between tangible and intangible heritage. The courses will also explore the genesis and working practices of international heritage administration, charters and conventions. Students will gain insight into the rights and responsibilities of organizations such as ICCROM, ICOMOS and UNESCO. Furthermore, the social impact of heritage themes such as diaspora, ethnicity, and nationalism will be analyzed. Current critiques of the heritage concepts of “authenticity” and “sustainability” will be provided. The courses will also elaborate on the notions of “collective” and “social” memory. In this context, special attention will be paid to the museum as a facilitating actor in the process of understanding and showcasing cultural identity. Students will review case studies of tangible and intangible heritage from Europe and Asia to see how heritage has taken on new and sometimes unintended meanings in the midst of social change, asserting religious identity and political upheaval. Students will be further encouraged to produce their own case studies and approach heritage as a growing interdisciplinary field. The course work will prepare them for careers as researchers, policy-makers, activists and practitioners.

Focus courses

The MA focus Critical Heritage Studies of Asia and Europe consists of compulsory and elective courses. Besides the general compulsory courses for the MA Asian Studies specialization History, Arts and Culture, the focus offers two compulsory heritage courses – “Critical Approaches to Heritage Studies” (e-Prospectus 5174KHER) in the Fall Semester and The Politics of Destruction: Targeting World Heritage (5174KASWH) in the Spring Semester.


The focus Critical Heritage Studies of Asia and Europe, jointly initiated by the International Institute for Asian Studies (IIAS) and the Leiden University Institute for Area Studies (LIAS), considers Asia as a fertile source of both theoretical and methodological insights in this highly contested arena.
Since colonial times, European-based concepts and technical approaches to conservation have dominated the understanding of heritage in Asia, in most cases through top-down imposition of ideas and processes. It is this hegemonic discourse, usually promoted by developmentalist states in Asia and elsewhere, as well as various processes of indigenous response, that this focus area is intended to highlight.

Dual Degree Programme

The focus on Critical Heritage Studies of Asia and Europe forms part of a wider ambition to decentralize the production of knowledge and social agency by establishing a network of partner universities located in Asia and Europe. The contributing institutions have already established a fruitful collaboration in research and teaching. In this context, the study of heritage is re-configured as a means of reconceptualising relations between Asia and Europe in terms of mutual respect and exchange, and the creative exploration of cultural forms and practices.
Within this wider ambition, apart from the MA degree from Leiden University (within the one-year MA Asian Studies Programme, 60 EC), students can also engage in a Dual Degree Programme, offered by Leiden University, the IIAS and one of the Asian partner universities, including National Taiwan University (Taiwan) and Yonsei University (South Korea). In order to attend courses at the National Taiwan University, which are partially given in English and Chinese, students are required to have HSK Level 4 in Chinese. All courses at the Yonsei University are given in English.
As far as certification in the Dual Degree Programme is concerned, upon successful completion students will obtain two diplomas in total: the Leiden University MA diploma, the partner university MA diploma (two-year programme, of which the Leiden MA qualifies as one year) and a separate certificate for the programme in Critical Heritage Studies of Asia and Europe, issued by IIAS. The focus on Critical Heritage Studies of Asia and Europe prepares students to work in the following areas: academic research, planning, museum management, tourism industries, and heritage conservation.


For more information, please contact Dr. Elena Paskaleva at:

Course EC Semester 1 Semester 2

Compulsory Courses for Critical Heritage Studies

More info

1-year Master Asian Studies


In the one-year Master’s program in Asian Studies you will be able to deepen and broaden your knowledge of Asia as a whole or one of the regions within Asia. The different specialisations offered within this program cater for students both with and without prior proficiency in one or more Asian languages. In Asian Studies, you may focus on a specific region, choosing between China, Japan, Korea, South Asia or Southeast Asia. Alternatively, you may opt for an interregional, disciplinary emphasis, focusing on History, Arts, and Culture topics in the HAC specialisation, or on issues in Politics, Society and Economy in the PSE specialisation. The MA also has a special track Critical Heritage Studies that can be taken as part of one of the tracks. The rich collections of the University Libraries in Asian Studies incorporate both the long textual tradition of Leiden University and the most up-to-date theories and approaches of history, literature, linguistics and the social sciences. Museums and other long-standing institutions in Leiden related to Asia provide much material for study. The one-year Master Asian Studies specifically encourages in-situ internships as part of the curriculum.

Programme Structure

The master’s program in the one-year Asian Studies Master is divided into two semesters (each subdivided into two periods for some courses). Each semester consists of 30 EC. Students take the compulsory course Introduction to Asian Studies (10 EC) in their first semester. Students in the East Asia track also take compulsory language courses (total 15 EC) in their first and second semester. For students outside the East Asia track, a maximum of 15 EC beginner or intermediate language course credits can be applied toward degree requirements. MA East Asia Students can only count the Advanced Language credits that are a compulsory part of their program (15 EC) toward graduation.

In addition to this, students take Elective courses that are specific to their specialisation – Core Electives. Students are permitted to choose one of the Electives outside their own specialisation, but within the Asian Studies Master, to a maximum of 10 EC. In their second semester students take again one or two Core Electives for a minimum of 15 EC, or fulfill this partially by an internship, and write their MA-Thesis (15 EC).

Master’s thesis and requirements for graduation

In order to graduate, students must have successfully completed the 60 EC programme, including the MA thesis. The thesis is written in English and up to 15,000 words in length, including footnotes and bibliography. More details on the procedures regarding the MA-Thesis can be found in the course description and the thesis protocol.


The 1-year MA programme in Asian Studies offers the following specialisations:
History Arts and Culture
Politics, Society and Economy
East Asian Studies
South Asian Studies
Southeast Asian Studies

Career Preparation

Important events and sites to develop future career skills

Master’s Open Day (Leiden University)

Skills that improve your employability are also known as:

Transferable skills

Future employers are interested not only in the subject-related knowledge that you acquired during your study programme, but also in ‘transferable skills’. These include cognitive skills, such as critical thinking, reasoning and argumentation and innovation; intrapersonal skills, such as flexibility, initiative, appreciating diversity and metacognition; and interpersonal skills, such as communication, accountability and conflict resolution. In short, they are skills that all professionals need in order to perform well.
It is therefore important that during your study programme you not only acquire as much knowledge as possible about your subject, but also are aware of the skills you have gained and the further skills you still want to learn. The course descriptions in the Prospectus of MA Asian Studies include, in addition to the courses’ learning objectives, a list of the skills that they aim to develop.

The skills we want you to acquire and that you may encounter in the various courses, perhaps in different terms, are:

  • Collaboration

  • Persuasion

  • Research

  • Self-directed learning

  • Creative thinking