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East Asian Art History

Degree Master of Arts
Application required  access-restricted
Course commences winter semester only
Standard course duration 4 semesters
Format options full-time and part-time
Language requirements English, another modern foreign language (on application);
Chinese or Japanese (on application);
Lehrsprache: German, partly English, French, Chinese or Japanese
Other features postgraduate / consecutive

Faculty of Philosophy


Course outline

The M.A. course on East Asian Art History investigates the art, archaeology and material culture of China and Japan and (to a lesser extent) Korea. The subject matter covers all genres from painting and archaeology to commercial art and all epochs from the Neolithic Age to the present. Alongside Berlin, Heidelberg is the only university in Germany where East Asian Art History can be studied in its full scope and depth.

Alongside seminars on theoretical foundations and the application of theory to concrete examples, there is also a wide range of classes focusing on the practicalities of the subject. Excursions take the students to interesting exhibitions and conferences, and visiting scholars are invited to deliver extra-curricular lectures on various topics.

Every semester, one or more visiting professors of international renown spend some time at the Institute, giving students a rare and invaluable opportunity for intensive discussion in small groups with leading specialists from a wide range of fields. Encounters of this kind are also valuable for the impression they convey of the traditions of higher education and scholarship operative in other countries. These visiting professors frequently teach in English or in Asian languages. For students of East Asian Art History as a subsidiary subject, their remarks are translated simultaneously and (frequently) elucidated.

In this M.A. programme, students engage with the challenging content and the scholarly methodologies discussed in class and learn how to utilise these methods in a way that accords with both academic and professional practice. The aim is to instil into the students specialist skills that satisfy highest professional standards and ensure that graduates from the course are internationally competitive.

Course structure

The M.A. course builds on broad foundational knowledge of East Asian art and culture acquired ideally in Heidelberg University’s B.A. programme of East Asian Studies. However, a B.A. degree in a neighbouring subject and evidence of attendance of classes with an adequately similar coursework profile to the Heidelberg B.A. may also qualify candidates to join the course. The M.A. programme in East Asian Art History can be studied as a main (major) course complete with M.A. thesis and a subsidiary (minor) subject or as a subsidiary subject with a different main subject. As a subsidiary, students can in principle choose any subject offering a suitable M.A.-level curriculum at the University.

The M.A. course is modular in structure and students are free to study at their own pace, provided they have acquired the requisite credit points by the end of the third semester. The modules are made up of different teaching/study formats including advanced seminars (Oberseminar), lectures and excursions. For more precise information, consult Appendix 1c of the Examination Regulations, which describes the various modules in detail.

To acquire early experience of studying abroad, students are encouraged to acquire the credit points for one of the first three semesters in another country.

To enhance their linguistic proficiency and facilitate optimum achievement of their study goals, students are urgently recommended to plan an extended sojourn in the East Asian country they have chosen to focus on. This is not however compulsory. Many students insert a one- or two-year period abroad between completion of their B.A. programme and commencement of the M.A. course, but this is usually an expensive undertaking. Frequently a grant or scholarship is indispensable in footing the bill. Information on this point can be obtained from the International Relations Office or the academic advisor (see below).

An integral part of the M.A. requirements is an internship of 3 hours per week with a (usually non-university) institution entertaining relations with Asia and/or working in the art field. The Institute runs frequent projects connected with focal research areas. Students are invited to take an active part in such projects during their studies. Conditional on the consent of the Examinations Board, active participation in such projects can be counted towards the total number of credit points awarded for internships.

The M.A. course ends with an oral examination and the completion of the M.A. thesis, an independent academic essay of approx. 60 pages.

After graduation, gifted students are invited to go on and work for a PhD, a qualification that is indispensable for many careers. Graduates from the M.A. course typically embark on careers in higher education, the museum sector, the art trade and art galleries. Other perhaps less obvious options are journalism, tourism and publishing.

Subsidiary (minor) subject

In this programme, M.A. students need to acquire 20 CP in a subsidiary (minor) subject. You will find a list of all the subsidiary subjects on offer here.

The M.A. in East Asian Art History can also be taken as a subsidiary (minor) subject accounting for 20 CP.

Research resources and main research interests

By international standards, Heidelberg University’s Institute of East Asian Art History has a superbly equipped library and slide collection with over 100,000 slides. Though not yet complete, a digital picture database linked to the University Library’s “HeidIcon” project is fully integrated into the ongoing work of teaching staff and students alike.

Traditional major research interests are Buddhist art, Chinese painting and calligraphy, and Japanese painting in the early modern age. Recently, modern and contemporary topics have figured more prominently. Research projects of the past few years, some of which are still under way, have been dedicated to the conception and academic supervision of international exhibition projects, the identification and cataloguing of Japanese cultural treasures in German collections, and the exploration of Buddhist stone inscriptions in China. The Institute is also involved in a number of projects and activities organised by the Cluster of Excellence “Europe and Asia in a Global Context”.

Dating back to 2006, the “Heidelberg Colloquies for East Asian Art History” take place every two years. This conference for international doctoral students is funded by the International Balzan Foundation.

Formal requirements


Access to the course is restricted. The current Admission Regulations are available here.

Prospective students from Germany

Prospective students from Germany can enrol without prior application at the Central University Administration building by the beginning of the lecture period. To matriculate, they are required to show a written statement of admission issued by the representative of the Master’s programme they wish to attend, confirming that the requirements set out in the Admission Regulations have been met. Please apply to the Institute of East Asian Art History for further information on how to proceed.

International prospective students

Prospective students from other countries must apply in writing, so that their previous academic record can be verified. The deadline for international applicants is 15 June. Applications must be addressed directly to the International Relations Office. Please use the M.A. application form here and enclose the necessary documents.

Further information

Current information on procedure

Study and examination regulations

Examination regulations M.A. (14 June 2007)

Module Handbook

Please click here to find the latest Module Handbook.

Examinations board

Issues arising in connection with examinations, credit transfer and academic credential recognition are dealt with by the relevant examinations board/office. For more information, consult the academic advisor(s) indicated below.


Tuition fees at Heidelberg University are payable at the beginning of each semester

Academic advisor

Lianming Wang
Seminarstr. 4, Office 307
Tuesdays 10 am – 12 noon
phone: +49 (0)6221 543387


Institute of East Asian Art History
Seminarstr. 4
D-69117 Heidelberg


phone: +49 (0)6221 542352
fax: +49 (0)6221 543384
e-mail: sekretariat-iko[at]



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