SOAS University of London

Department of the History of Art and Archaeology, School of Arts

Art and Archaeology of Medieval China

Module Code:
Unit value:
Year of study:
Year 2 or Year 3
Taught in:
Term 2

The course will provide an overview of the development of the Chinese empire from its formation in the late 3rd century BC to about 900 AD. It will examine architecture (both mortuary and urban), painting, sculpture and other art forms to give an understanding of the development of China during the Qin and Han dynasties, the period of political division between the 3rd and the 6th centuries, and the Tang dynasty.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

The course will provide an overview of developments in the material culture of China from its first unification in the 3rd cent. BC to the Middle ages around 900 AD, and will relate them to changes in the broader culture. At the end of the course, students will:

  • demonstrate knowledge of the chronological framework for the arts of China from c. 300 BC -900 AD.
  • evaluate the political, social and religious contexts for the production and use of art in China from c. 300 BC -900 AD.
  • understand key themes in the study of arts in East Asia.
  • analyse paintings, sculptures, architecture and mortuary structures from China using the appropriate vocabulary.
  • research a topic and construct a bibliography
  • constructively criticise the approaches and methods of art historians
  • construct a coherent argument in both oral and written form 

Method of assessment

One 2 500 words essay (worth 30%);one exam (worth 70%)

Suggested reading

  • Stanley K Abe, 2002. Ordinary Images. University of Chicago Press.
  • Lothar Ledderose, 2000. Ten Thousand Things: Module and Mass Production in Chinese Art. New York: Princeton University Press (the chapters on atchitecture and on the army of the First Emperor).
  • Martin J. Powers, 1992. Art and Political Expression in Early China. New Haven/London: Yale University Press.
  • Yang Xiaoneng ed. New Perspectives on China's Past: Chinese Archaeology in the Twentieth Century. New Haven/London: Yale University Press.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules