SOAS University of London

History of Art and Archaeology

Japanese Art

Module Code:
Module Not Running 2022/2023
FHEQ Level:
Year of study:
Year 2, Year 3 or Year 4
Taught in:
Full Year

Selected works of Japanese art are discussed in relation to religious, literary, historical and social contexts, and the intention is to introduce students to the major works and movements in the history of Japanese visual culture. The course divides broadly into two sections: 

  1. the first deals with the history of religious art in Japan - principally painting, sculpture and architecture of Buddhism; 
  2. the second address the secular arts.

Chronologically the course runs up to the 20th century.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

At the end of the course students:

  • will have gained advanced knowledge and understanding of the themes, issues and debates of japanese art relating to: social contexts; processes of representation; and ways in which meaning is constituted, through in depth examples
  • will be able to compare and evaluate different approaches to understanding art traditions in Japan
  • will be able to assess critically the materials and themes explored in the course through the use of particular examples from Japan.
  • will have gained knowledge and understanding of the range of skills used in art history and to have developed independent study and research and presentation skills.
  • will be able to provide a basis for further study at a PG research level for advanced students.

Method of assessment

  • One 750 word discussion paper (worth 10%)
  • One 1,500 word essay (worth 20%)
  • One 1,700-1,900 word essay (worth 20%)
  • One three hour exam (worth 50%)
  • One 1,000 word discussion paper (worth 10%)
  • One 1,800 word essay (worth 20%)
  • One 2,000-2,200 word essay (worth 20%)
  • One three hour exam (worth 50%)

Suggested reading

  • Terukazu A, Japanese Painting (Geneva, 1977)
  • Coaldrake W H, Architecture and Authority in Japan (London, 1996)
  • Guth C, Japanese Art of the Edo Period (London, 1996)
  • Mason P, History of Japanese Art (New York, 1993)
  • Stanley-Baker J, Japanese Art (London, revised ed. 2000)
  • Varley P H, Japanese Culture (New York, 1984, 4th ed., 2000)


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules