SOAS University of London

History of Art and Archaeology

Themes in the Art and Archaeology of East Asia

Module Code:
Module Not Running 2022/2023
FHEQ Level:
Year of study:
Year 1
Taught in:
Term 2

As in other first year introductions, the intention is to provide a basic framework to the art and archaeology of East Asia, comprising the cultures of China, Korea and Japan, to enable students who so wish to continue further in this area. The course will cover material from the Neolithic period to the twentieth century, including archaeological sites such as tombs, the images and architecture of Buddhism, the technology of ceramic making, and the issue of modernity in East Asian art.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

On successful completion of the course, a student will be able to demonstrate:

  • Knowledge of key themes in the chronological development of the visual cultures of China, Korea and Japan.
  • The ability to evaluate critically innovation and continuation of regional artistic traditions, and to understand such developments within a wider East Asian context.
  • Awareness of the political, social and historical contexts for artistic production in East Asia.
  • Facility in research skills and methodologies required for students majoring in the study of the history of art and archaeology.

Scope and syllabus

This half-unit course presents key aspects of the art and archaeology of East Asia over a wide historical span, from prehistoric times to the present day. Archaeological approaches focus on tomb cultures of China and Korea. Buddhist arts, including sculpture and architecture, of the entire region are introduced with an eye to cross-cultural exchange. A survey of the arts of painting and calligraphy, both religious and secular, is a connecting theme of many sections of the course. The importance of applied arts of metalwork, ceramics and jade in the East Asian tradition is emphasized.


Method of assessment

  • 500-word object analysis (worth 10% of marks)
  • 1,500-word essay (worth 30%)
  • Participation in lectures and tutorials (worth 10%)
  • Exam (in term 3): 2 hours (worth 50%)

Suggested reading

  • Craig Clunas, Art in China (Oxford, 1997)
  • Robert L. Thorp & Richard Ellis Vinograd, Chinese Art and Culture (New York, 2001)
  • Judith G. Smith ed., Arts of Korea, The Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York 1998)
  • Youngsook Pak and Roderick Whitfield, Buddhist Sculpture. Handbook of Korean Art. Seoul and London: Laurence King, 2002.
  • Robert E. Fisher, Buddhist Art and Architecture (London, 1993)
  • Joan Stanley Baker, Japanese Art (London, 2000; rev. and expanded ed)


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules