SOAS University of London

Department of Religions and Philosophies

Buddhist Arts in Context

Module Code:
Module Not Running 2016/2017
Unit value:
Year of study:
Taught in:
Term 1

This course offers students of South, Southeast and East Asia the opportunity to look at the significance of Buddhist art in those regions and to conceptualise it in relationship to the religious and political developments concerning Buddhism of neighboring regions.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

The aim of the course is to introduce students to:

  • a range of Buddhist arts in their religious context;
  • a variety of art forms, mainly focusing on visual arts, but possibly including others, such as the role of drama and narrative performance;
  • specific examples Buddhist art and manuscripts collections of museums and research libaries in London.

By the end of the course students should be able to do most or even all of the following:

  • describe key areas and forms of Buddhist artistic work;
  • identify and explain key iconography features;
  • contextualise Buddhist art forms in their religious, cultural and political milieu;
  • explain indigenous and academic theories regarding various art forms;
  • describe the processes involved in the creation of |Buddhist art, including relevant social and purity restrictions;
  • demonstrate familiarity with primary and secondary sources concerning Buddhist art
  • apply religious myths to the contextualisation of art forms;
  • apply concepts of power to the interpretations of art forms;
  • discuss how religious beliefs and practices make use of and inform Buddhist arts
  • explain the role of arts in conveying religious values;
  • demonstrate awareness of regional and historical distinctions and developments;
  • discuss issues of past and present threats to Buddhist art as sell as factors pertaining to preservation and conservation
  • analyse Buddhist responses to iconoclasm and sacrilege;
  • discuss the development and significance of film in the modern portrayal of Buddhism

Method of assessment

Coursework: one 4,000 word essay, one learning journal (11 sides), two oral presentations (10-15 minutes each). Assessment: essay 60%, journal 20%, oral presentations 20%.


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