Arts of the Buddhist World (Postgraduate Diploma in Asian Art)

Key information

Start date
End date
Year of study
Term 3
FHEQ Level
Department of History of Art and Archaeology

Module overview

Module synopsis

The Arts of the Buddhist World module introduces you to the religious, historical and geographic context for the spread of Buddhism and Buddhist art across Asia: from Buddhism’s origins two and a half millennia ago in Northern India, to its current status as a global religion. The course begins with a brief overview of the life and teachings of the Buddha and considers the earliest Buddhist images in South Asia. We then trace the movement of Buddhist images, ideas and beliefs across the deserts and mountains of Central Asia into China. Exploring the adaptations and developments of Buddhism in China, we go on to examine how these iterations of Buddhist art and culture acted as a catalyst for subsequent developments; first in Korea and Japan, and later in Southeast Asia, Vietnam, Java and Cambodia. The course also explores the distinctive expressions of Esoteric Buddhism developed in Tibet, and the distinctive forms of Buddhist art engendered by the tradition in Burma, Thailand and Cambodia.

In exploring the diverse incarnations of Buddhist art across Asia, this course offers a broad and immersive introduction to the visual and material manifestations of one of the world’s most significant religions.

Module delivery

  • In-person lectures given by SOAS academic staff, leading national and international scholars, museum curators, and art market professionals, generally taking place between 10.00 and 13.00 Monday through Thursday
  • Exclusive contributions from the British Museum and Victoria and Albert Museum
  • Visits and object study sessions at a variety of museums, galleries and auction houses
  • A series of asynchronous online lectures exploring critical thinking and current methods
  • Recommended weekly readings
  • Weekly review sessions
  • Weekly one-to-one tutorials with your module convenors


  • One object analysis of 1,500 words (20%)
  • One written assignment 2,500 words per module (40%)
  • One 48-hour, take-home exam per module (40%)