SOAS University of London

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

MA History of Art and Archaeology of East Asia (2019 entry)

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This programme is an unrivalled opportunity to study the arts of China, Korea and Japan. Students consider a wide range of East Asian arts, from Chinese archaeology to Japanese prints, Korean installation works to Buddhist monuments, exploring their specificity and the links between them, in historical and contemporary periods. In many parts of East Asia archaeological evidence is key to understanding early societies. The programme therefore relates excavated materials to the history of art.

The Department of the History of Art and Archaeology contains some of the world’s leading experts in the art history and archaeology of East Asia, whose ground-breaking research informs and is informed by their teaching. Students benefit from the unparalleled knowledge and enthusiasm of staff. As members of the School of Arts, they profit from the insights of scholars and students working in other related fields, such as East Asian Music, Film and Media. They can also select from modules in other departments, taking advantage of SOAS’s unrivalled expertise in the languages, history, religions and cultures of East Asia.

A Masters from the Department of the History of Art and Archaeology provides students with expertise in the History of Art and/or Archaeology of Asia, Africa and the Middle East. Our postgraduates progress to work in arts, culture and heritage roles, including in galleries, museums, archives, conservation, publishing and arts administration. The large portfolio of transferable skills they acquire enables them to forge careers in a range of other fields across the world. Our Masters programmes are also an excellent foundation for MPhil/PhD research.

This MA can also be pursued over a two-year period combined with intensive language study in Japanese or Korean.

Venue: Russell Square: College Buildings

Start of programme: September intake only

Mode of Attendance: Full-time or Part-time

Entry requirements

  • The normal qualification for admission to the MA programme is an upper second class honours degree. Other qualifications, however, may be acceptable and the Department welcomes mature students. Students taking the MA degree may or may not have previous experience of our subjects. While knowledge of a relevant Asian or African language is not a requirement, for some modules it is an advantage for admission (see individual module descriptions for details). It is possible to include an element of language training within the MA programme by taking an Asian or African language as one of the two ‘minor’ modules. This option may be particularly desirable for those intending to progress to the PhD, who do not already have the necessary language skills.

Featured events

One year (full-time). Two or three years (part-time, daytime only)

Fees 2021/22

UK fees:
Overseas fees:

Fees for 2021/22 entrants. This is a Band 3 fee. The fees are per academic year. Please note that fees go up each year. Further details can be found in the Fees and Funding tab on this page or in the Registry Postgraduate Tuition Fees page



Introducing modules in Chinese Ceramics

Dr Stacey Pierson is Senior Lecturer in Chinese Ceramics in the Department of the History of Art and Archaeology.  She is convenor of the modules Ceramics in Chinese Culture: 10th-18th Centuries and Chinese Porcelain: Trade, Transfer and Reception, which can be studied on the MA History of Art and Archaeology of East Asia. 

How did you become interested in Chinese ceramics?

As an undergraduate studying Art History and Biochemistry, I was introduced to the making of ceramics during an elective course and realized that I could combine my knowledge of art and science in this one subject area.  I then visited the Percival David Collection in London and discovered that the finest ceramics were Chinese and so were all the glazes I prepared in my undergraduate class which was a revelation.

What does the module Ceramics in Chinese Culture involve?

This course examines Chinese ceramics made from the 10th to the 18th century and is based on the world-famous Percival David Collection in the British Museum.

What kind of students will the module appeal to? 

Anyone with an interest in ceramics and Chinese decorative art in general.  Students who take this course come from a wide range of backgrounds but most have an interest in developing their connoisseurship knowledge.

What facilities are available?

The course is taught both in class and in the Percival David Gallery at the British Museum. A ceramics-handling collection, which includes sherds, is also used for teaching.

What is special about the course at SOAS?

This course is unique and a version of it has been taught at SOAS since the Percival David Foundation museum opened at SOAS in the 1950s.  No other course in the world is based on this famous collection and very few universities teach the subject of Chinese ceramics as part of an MA degree in History of Art.

What do students do after graduating?

Many students have gone on to become auction house specialists, some have become curators in museums or for private collections and others have become academics or researchers. 

Can you recommend a good book to read on Chinese ceramics?

My book published by the V&A is a good introduction: Stacey Pierson, Chinese Ceramics: a Design History, London, 2009.

What is the most important piece of advice you’d give to a student considering a career in Chinese ceramics?

Learn how to make ceramics and learn the language.  Chinese ceramics can be appreciated without either of these skills but true understanding can only be achieved with them.


Occasionally the availability of optional modules changes as a result of staffing and other circumstances. Students who had signed up for such modules will be notified as soon as possible and given the opportunity to choose from available alternatives.

Students must complete 180 credits in total. 120 credits must be from MA taught modules and 60 credits are from the compulsory Dissertation.

Module Code Credits Term
Dissertation in History of Art and Archaeology: History of Art and Archaeology of East Asia 15PARC996 60 Full Year
Taught Component
Guided Options

Students choose:

  • 15 credits from List A: China
  • 15 credits from List B: Japan and Korea
  • 15 credits from List C: Trans-regional
  • 15 credits from List A or List B or List C
  • 15 credits from List D: Other Options in History of Art & Archaeology
  • 45 credits from List D OR List of Options from other Departments listed below
List of modules (subject to availability)
List A: China
Module Code Credits Term
Themes in the Visual Arts of Dynastic China (before 1800) 15PARH051 15 Term 1
Arts of Modern and Contemporary China (since 1800) 15PARH055 15 Term 2
Ceramics in Chinese Culture: 10th - 18th Centuries 15PARH046 15 Term 2
China and the Silk Road: Art and Archaeology 15PARH093 15 Term 2
The Silk Road and its Origins: Art and Archaeology 15PARH095 15 Term 1
Chinese Porcelain: Trade, Transfer and Reception 15PARH064 15 Term 2
List B: Japan and Korea
Module Code Credits Term
Popular Practice in the Edo Period Arts 15PARH008 15 Term 2
Arts of Goryeo and Joseon Korea 15PARH059 15 Term 1
Shogunal Iconography in the Edo Period 15PARH007 15 Term 1
Modern and Contemporary Korean Art 15PARH060 15 Term 2
List C: Transregional
Module Code Credits Term
Asia and Africa On Display 15PARH043 15 Term 1
Interpreting Visual Expressions of the Mandala 15PARH086 15 Term 2
Tibetan Buddhist Monuments in Context 15PARH075 15 Term 1
Issues in Contemporary Southeast Asian Art 15PARH083 15 Term 2
Collecting and Curating Buddhist Art in the Museum 15PARH069 15 Term 2
Buddhist and Hindu Art of the Maritime Silk Route 15PARH057 15 Term 1
Buddhist Art in a Cosmopolitan Environment: Gandharan Art and its Heritage 15PARH099 15 Term 1
List D: Other Options in History of Art & Archaeology
Module Code Credits Term
Arab Painting 15PARH054 15 Term 2
Architectural Boundaries and the Body 15PARH063 15 Term 1
Discourses on Modern and Contemporary Art of the Middle East 15PARH096 15 Term 2
Islam and the West: Artistic and Cultural Contacts 15PARH034 15 Term 1
Islamic Art and Architecture of Eastern Mediterranean of the Period of the Crusades (11th-14th centuries) 15PARH080 15 Term 2
Art and Architecture of the Seljuks and Ottomans (12th -15th centuries) 15PARH070 15 Term 1
Modern and Contemporary Arts in Africa 15PARH048 15 Term 2
Islamic Visual Culture 15PARH065 15 Term 1
The Figure of the Buddha: Theory, Practice and the Making of Buddhist Art History 15PARH076 15 Term 2
The Indian Temple 15PARC034 30 Full Year
Theory and Method in Art History 15PARH097 15 Term 1
Tibetan Buddhist Monuments in Context 15PARH075 15 Term 1
Options in Other Departments
Module Code Credits Term
Culture and Society of China 15PANH062 15 Term 2
Culture and Society of Japan 15PANH065 15 Term 1
Module Code Credits Term
Modern and Contemporary Japan 15PJKH042 15 Term 2
Gender and Empire in Early Modern China 15PHIH024 15 Term 2
Nationhood and Competing Identities in Modern China 15PHIH022 15 Term 1
Media Studies
Module Code Credits Term
Media Spectacle and Urban Space in East Asia 15PMSH026 15 Term 2
Module Code Credits Term
Musical Traditions of East Asia (Masters) 15PMUH016 15 Term 2
Study of Religions
Module Code Credits Term
Buddhist Meditation in India and Tibet 15PSRC172 30 Full Year
Chinese Religious Texts: A Reading Seminar 15PSRH038 0.5
East Asian Buddhist Thought 15PSRH018 15 Term 2
Imag(in)ing Buddhahood in South Asia, Part 2 15PSRH051 0.5
Religious Practice in Japan: Texts, Rituals and Believers 15PSRC071 30 Full Year
China and Asia
Module Code Credits Term
Modern Chinese Film and Theatre (PG) 15PCHH001 15 Term 1
New Taiwan Cinema and Beyond (PG) 15PCHH002 15 Term 2
Chinese 1 A (PG) 15PCHH031 15 Term 1
Chinese 1 B (PG) 15PCHH032 15 Term 2
Chinese 2 (PG) 15PCHC011 30 Full Year
Chinese 3 (PG) 15PCHC009 30 Full Year
Chinese 4 (PG) 15PCHC012 30 Full Year
Japan and Korea
Module Code Credits Term
Japanese 1 A (PG) 15PJKH035 15 Term 1
Japanese 1 B (PG) 15PJKH036 15 Term 2
Korean 1 A (PG) 15PJKH037 15 Term 1
Korean 1 B (PG) 15PJKH038 15 Term 2
Japanese Post-War Film Genres and the Avant-Garde 15PJKH008 15 Term 2
Japanese Transnational Cinema: From Kurosawa to Asia Extreme and Studio Ghibli 15PJKH007 15 Term 1
Trajectories of Modernity in Korean Literature and Film (PG) 15PJKH006 15 Term 1
Reading Pre-modern Japanese Texts 1 (PG) 15PJKH028 15 Term 2


Programme Specification

Important notice

The information on the programme page reflects the intended programme structure against the given academic session. If you are a current student you can find structure information on the previous year link at the top of the page or through your Department. Please read the important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules.

Teaching and Learning

Teaching & Learning

Contact Hours

All Masters programmes consist of 180 credits, made up of taught modules of 30 or 15 credits, taught over 10 or 20 weeks, and a dissertation of 60 credits. The programme structure shows which modules are compulsory and which optional. 

As a rough guide, 1 credit equals approximately 10 hours of work. Most of this will be independent study, including reading and research, preparing coursework, revising for examinations and so on. It will also include class time, which may include lectures, seminars and other classes. Some subjects, such as learning a language, have more class time than others. At SOAS, most postgraduate modules have a one hour lecture and a one hour seminar every week, but this does vary.

More information is on the page for each module.


Teaching consists of a combination of lectures and seminars. Classes are normally between two and three hours per week for each course. Teaching methods include lectures with discussion, seminars (at which students present papers) and museum visits. Students at all levels are expected to take an active part in class presentations. A particularly important element is the training of the student's visual memory.

In addition to their studies on the MA programme, students at SOAS can participate in a wide range of research seminars, lectures and conferences that regularly take place in the School and in the University of London.


For each of the three taught modules, the student will be expected to submit two or three pieces of written work usually around 3,000 to 4,500 words – for a total of 9,000 words per module. The emphasis is on developing essay skills during the session in preparation for the dissertation. In some modules the assessment is 100% on written work. On other modules, assessed course work forms 75% of the student’s final grade and an additional 25% is determined by slide quizzes, projects or other forms of assessment. The 10,000 word dissertation is submitted in September.

Learning Resources

SOAS Library is one of the world's most important academic libraries for the study of Africa, Asia and the Middle East, attracting scholars from all over the world. The Library houses over 1.2 million volumes, together with significant archival holdings, special collections and a growing network of electronic resources.

Fees and funding

Tuition Fees

Full details of postgraduate tuition fees can be found on the Registry's Postgraduate Tuition Fees page.

This is a Band 3 tuition fee.

Fees for 2021/22 entrants. The fees below are per academic year. Fees go up each year, therefore, your tuition fee in your second & subsequent years of study will be higher. Our continuing students, on the same degree programme, are protected from annual increases higher than 5%.

Full-time Part-time 2 Years Part-time 3 Years Part-time 4 Years
Intensive Language only
£11,520 £22,500 £5,760 £11,250 £3,840 £7,500 £5,760 £11,250

For further details and information on external scholarships visit the Scholarships section


A Masters from the Department of the History of Art and Archaeology provides students with expertise in the History of Art and/or Archaeology of Asia, Africa and the Middle East. Our postgraduates progress to work in arts, culture and heritage roles, including in galleries, museums, archives, conservation, publishing and arts administration. The large portfolio of transferable skills they acquire enables them to forge careers in a range of other fields across the world. Our Masters programmes are also an excellent foundation for MPhil/PhD research.

Graduates have gone on to work for a range of organisations including:
  • Asia House
  • Bonhams
  • British Museum
  • Christie's Hong Kong
  • Design Museum
  • Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Mumbai City Museum
  • Hong Kong Museum Of Art
  • India Foundation For The Arts
  • Museum of East Asian Art
  • National Gallery National Museum of Singapore
  • People Projects Culture & Change
  • Schoeni Art Gallery
  • Sotheby's
  • Taiwan Embassy
  • The Alliance for Global Education
  • The British Embassy
  • The Chester Beatty Library
  • The National Museum Of Korea
  • The Royal Collection
Types of roles that graduates have gone on to do include:
  • Manager of Communications
  • Culture Programme Coordinator
  • Research Assistant
  • Social Anthropology Lecturer
  • Specialist - Indian Art
  • Architect
  • Art Historian
  • Development Specialist
  • Archivist
  • Gallery Director Innovation Programmes Learning Manager
  • Creative Director
  • Organisational Consultant
  • Travel writer
  • Art Collector
  • Chinese Painting Specialist
  • Professor of Silk Road History
  • Rights and Reproductions Officer
  • Public Education Coordinator
  • Senior Curator of Photographs

For more information about Graduate Destinations from this department, please visit the Careers Service website.

A Student's Perspective

When I heard about SOAS I immediately knew it was the school for me. An institution like SOAS is the ideal platform for students who want to learn a language and gain insight into a culture. It is also a leading school in Tibetan studies.

Beatriz Cifuentes


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