SOAS University of London

History of Art and Archaeology

MA Religious Arts of Asia (2018 entry)

  • Structure
  • Teaching and Learning
  • Employment



This is the only history of art and archaeology degree in Europe focused on the great religious traditions of Asia. It includes within its scope diverse countries, regions and time periods from antiquity to the present, with a particular emphasis on Buddhism in South, Central and Southeast Asia, the Himalayas, China, Korea and Japan. Hinduism, Shinto and animistic and syncretic practices are also studied. Students consider iconography, ritual, faith and pilgrimage in their multiple regional and historical guises. They study temple buildings, statues and paintings, formal, informal and popular.

The Department of the History of Art and Archaeology contains some of the world’s leading experts in the art history and archaeology of Asia, many of whom are principally concerned with religious art. Their 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 music and religion in Asia, historically and in the present. They can also select from modules in other departments, taking advantage of SOAS’s unrivalled expertise in the religions, languages, history and cultures of 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.

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)


Please note that modules need a minimum number of students to run. Should the module not run, students will be notified of an alternative.

Students must complete 120 credits of MA taught modules in addition to the compulsory dissertation (60 credits).


Taught Component

Choose modules to the value of 60 credits in the department related to Religious Arts of Asia listed below.


Choose a module to the value of 15 credits from MA modules in the department - not limited to Religious Arts of Asia, listed below.


Choose modules to the value of 45 credits from the list of recommended options from other SOAS departments, also listed below.


Choose modules from Postgraduate Open Options to the value of 45 credits.

List of modules (subject to availability)
Options in Religious Arts of Asia
Module Code Credits Term
Arts of the Tamil Temple 15PARH067 15 credits - 0.5 unit
Buddhist and Hindu Art of the Maritime Silk Route 15PARH057 15 Term 2
Curating the Sacred: Buddhism and Hinduism on display 15PARH069 15 Term 1
Interpreting Visual Expressions of the Mandala 15PARH086 15 Term 2
Shogunal Iconography in the Edo Period 15PARH007 15 Term 1
Southeast Asia's Art Histories I 15PARH087 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 credits - 1.0 unit
Tibetan Buddhist Monuments in Context 15PARH075 15 Term 2
Other Options in the History of Art and Archaeology
Module Code Credits Term
Arab Painting 15PARH054 15 Term 1
Architectural Boundaries and the Body 15PARH063 15 Term 2
Arts of Goryeo and Joseon Korea 15PARH059 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 1
China and the Silk Road: Art and Archaeology 15PARH093 15 Term 2
Chinese Porcelain: Trade, Transfer and Reception 15PARH064 15 Term 2
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 2
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
Issues in Contemporary Southeast Asian Art 15PARH083 15 Term 2
Modern and Contemporary Arts in Africa 15PARH048 15 Term 1
Modern and Contemporary Korean Art 15PARH060 15 Term 2
Islamic Visual Culture 15PARH065 15 Term 1
Popular Practice in the Edo Period Arts 15PARH008 15 Term 2
The Silk Road and its Origins: Art and Archaeology 15PARH095 15 Term 1
Themes in the Visual Arts of Dynastic China (before 1800) 15PARH051 15 Term 1
Options in Other Departments
Module Code Credits Term
Culture and Society of South Asia 15PANH064 15 Term 2
Culture and Society of South East Asia 15PANH066 15 Term 1
Media Studies
Study of Religions
Module Code Credits Term
Avestan I 15PSRC033 30 Full Year
Buddhist Meditation in India and Tibet 15PSRC172 30 Full Year
Middle Persian 15PSRC034 30 Full Year
The Origins and Development of Yoga in Ancient India 15PSRC173 30 Full Year
Zoroastrianism: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives 15PSRC052 30 Full Year
Module Code Credits Term
Aspects of Music and Religion in South East Asia 15PMUH017 15 Term 2
South Asia
Module Code Credits Term
Bengali Language 2 (PG) 15PSAC304 30 Full Year
Culture and Conflict in Nepal 15PSAH017 15 Term 1
Hindi Language 1 A (PG) 15PSAH022 15 Term 1
Hindi Language 1 B (PG) 15PSAH023 15 Term 2
Hindi Language 2 (PG) 15PSAC296 30 Full Year
Hindi Language 3 (PG) 15PSAC297 30 Full Year
Indian Cinema: Its History and Social Context 15PSAH001 15 Term 1
Indian Cinema: Key Issues 15PSAH002 15 Term 2
Literature & Colonialism in North India (Masters) 15PSAH005 15 Term 1
Literatures of Resistance in South Asia 15PSAC284 15
Nepali Language 2 (PG) 15PSAC299 30 Full Year
Sanskrit Language 2 (Postgraduate) 15PSAC306 30 Credits
The Politics of Culture in Contemporary South Asia 15PSAC314 30 Credits
Urdu Language 2 (PG) 15PSAC301 30 Full Year
Southeast Asia
Module Code Credits Term
Burmese Language 2 (PG) 15PSEC045 30 Full Year
Genders and Sexualities in South East Asian Film 15PSEH011 15 Term 1
Indonesian Language 2 (PG) 15PSEC033 30 Full Year
Jawi and the Malay Manuscript Tradition (Masters) 15PSEH006 15 Term 1
Thai Language 2 (PG) 15PSEC041 30 Full Year
Vietnamese Language 2 (PG) 15PSEC037 30 Full Year


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 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.


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.

Find out more