Faculty of PhilosophyEast Asian Art History

The East Asian Art History academic programme focuses on the art, archaeology, and material culture of China, Japan and, to a lesser extent, Korea. All art forms will be studied, from painting and calligraphy to sculpture and architecture to ceramics, handiwork, and photography, as represented in all epochs, from the Neolithic Age to the present.

The academic programme prepares students to be able to work independently and to be able to convey the results of their work, with particular competence in the use of both historical and modern media in the area of East Asian Art History. With its interdisciplinary learning approach to both subject-area expertise and career-oriented competencies, including intercultural competency and the routine use of modern media, the East Asian Art History academic programme emphasises the practical application of linguistic and art-historical studies. Along with theoretical principles of the academic discipline of East Asian Art History, at Heidelberg, great value is placed upon a practice-oriented education, including first-hand observation of actual art objects. For this purpose, every semester, the Institute of East Asian Art History organises both brief and longer-term excursions to exhibitions and museums as well as to international centres for East Asian Art History. In addition, the Institute holds regular lectures from researchers as well as faculty specialists with professional experience. These include museum curators, art restorers/conservators, art collectors, and gallery owners.

Special Features and Characteristics

The Heidelberg University Institute of East Asian Art History is, next to the Freie Universität Berlin, the only university in Germany to offer a comprehensive, in-depth academic programme in East Asian Art History. The Institute currently includes one professorship each for Chinese Art History and Japanese Art History as well as two positions for research assistants. The faculty is also enriched by a guest professorship in Chinese Art History and one in Japanese Art History (Ishibashi Foundation Guest Professorship).  

The Institute’s library possesses an internationally-comparable collection that includes a historically-expanded slide collection of over 100,000 slides. In addition, the University Library’s ever-expanding “Heidlcon” database currently contains over 50,325 digitalised representations of artefacts. 

The academic programme at the Institute is also enriched through collaboration with museums such as the Berlin Asian Art Museum, the Stuttgart Linden Museum and the Heidelberg Ethnological Museum. 

In addition, the Institute regularly offers lectures by researchers who present a broad, regional, methodological, and practice-oriented perspective, providing a valuable and comprehensive rounding-out of the courses offered in the academic programme. 


Research at the Institute primarily focuses on:  

  • Buddhist art, with an emphasis on stone sutras 
  • Chinese painting and calligraphy 
  • Japanese painting from the fourteenth to the nineteenth century. 
  • Early Chinese and Japanese photography 
  • Transcultural approaches in all areas  
  • Modern and contemporary research topics  

In Winter Semester 2013, under the sponsorship of the “Connecting Art Histories” programme of the Getty Foundation in Los Angeles, the Institute launched a teaching and research project to study Chinese art from the 1930s and 1940s. In addition, several other research projects to study Japanese works of calligraphy and painting were conducted. 

Occupational Areas

Traditionally, students of East Asian Art History work in positions at universities and museums, as art dealers, and in galleries. Other career options are found in the areas of journalism, tourism, and publishing.


Studierende Kunstgeschichte Ostasiens Uni Heidelberg

I decided to study East Asian Art History because of my passion for art – and Heidelberg has the best reputation for this subject. I find it extremely interesting to approach East Asian art from a European research perspective.

Tao Wu, 28, East Asian Art History, PhD