nl en

First year

Course EC Semester 1 Semester 2

Fall Semester

Introduction to Asian Studies 10

Advanced Chinese Language

Advanced Mandarin: Listening & Speaking 1 5
Advanced Mandarin: Reading & Writing 1 5

Elective (select 10 EC):

Topics in Chinese Linguistics 10
China-Africa Relations in a Changing Global Order 10
China's International Political Economy 10
Masters of Chinese Philosophy 10
Can the Subaltern Write? China’s Migrant Worker Culture 10
Advanced Readings in Classical Chinese 5
Topics in Modern Chinese History 10
Topics in Modern Chinese History (5 EC) 5
The Politics of Digital East Asia 10
Approaches to East Asian Cinema (10 EC) 10
Approaches to East Asian Cinema (5 EC) 5
Critical Approaches to Heritage Studies 5
Art and Power in Asia 10
Art and Power in Asia (5 EC) 5
Democratizing Histories 10
Democratizing Histories 5
Constructing Digital Language Toolkits 10
The Visual and Material Culture of Exchange in Asia and Europe, 1500-1800 10
Lives on the Margins: Korean Peninsula Migration and Identity (10 EC) 10
Lives on the Margins: Korean Peninsula Migration and Identity (5 EC) 5
Asia through Consumption 10
Material Culture, Memory and Commemoration along the Silk Roads in Central Asia 10

Spring Semester

Year in China A 30

Second year

Course EC Semester 1 Semester 2

Fall Semester:

Year in China B 30

Spring Semester:

MA Thesis Asian Studies (120 EC) 15

Language Elective (select one of the following two courses):

Advanced Mandarin: Listening & Speaking 3 5
Advanced Mandarin: Reading & Writing 3 5

Elective (select 10 EC):

Creativity and Culture in Contemporary China 10
China and Global Cyberspace 10
Sinographics: Chinese writing and writing Chinese 10
Topical Readings in Historical and Literary Chinese Texts 10
Approaches to East Asian Cinema (10 EC) 10
Approaches to East Asian Cinema (5 EC) 5
Culture and Conquest: the Impact of the Mongols and their Descendants 10
Society, Economy and Politics in Contemporary China and India in a Comparative Perspective 10
Topics in Chinese Art History, Things and Paths: Approaches to Chinese Art and Material Culture 10
The Politics of Destruction: Targeting World Heritage 10

Extracurricular Course:

The Societal Dimensions of Early Buddhism 5

Critical Heritage Studies

MA focus Critical Heritage Studies of Asia and Europe

‘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 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 MA Asian Studies compulsory courses, the focus offers two compulsory heritage courses – “Critical Approaches to Heritage Studies” (e-Prospectus 5174KHER) at the Faculty of Humanities, and “Heritage and Museum Studies 2” (e-Prospectus 1044M08Y) at the Faculty of Archaeology. Elective courses are offered at the Faculty of Humanities and at the Faculty of Archaeology.


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.

Double 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, students can also engage in a Double 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 Double Degree Programme is concerned, upon successful completion students will obtain three certificates 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 Double MA Degree 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:

Information on the year in China

due to the current COVID-19 outbreak this part of the programme may be cancelled or modified

Students spend a total of one year at Shandong University (Jinan, People’s Republic of China) as part of their Master’s program. The focus of the year at Shandong University is on language acquisition, in order to obtain at least HSK level 5 upon returning to Leiden. During their year in China, the students are also expected to do preparatory research for their Master’s Thesis.