• Introduction

    Leiden University runs world class research and unique teaching programmes in the field of Asian area studies. Leiden University is the only university in The Netherlands which offers a BA and MA in Chinese, Japanese or Korean Studies.


    Leiden University’s relationship with China
    Leiden nurtures its tradition of multidisciplinary research on China, Japan, India, Korea and Indonesia and has a long history of research and teaching in Asian traditions. In the last thirty years, Leiden University has built up an equally impressive track record in the study of modern and contemporary Asia. Additionally, The Asian Library, part of Leiden University Libraries, maintains one of the foremost Asia collections, including special and digital collections and materials inscribed in the UNESCO Memory of the World Register. The Asian Library sponsors the International Convention of Asia Scholars (ICAS) Book Prizes. The university’s world class research, teaching and information resources combined with a closely knit network of academic and cultural organizations makes Leiden University a major international knowledge hub on Asia.

    Leiden University’s Asia Research Dossier

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  • Asia

    Leiden forms a knowledge hub on Asia. Leiden University Libraries houses one of the largest Asian collections in the Western world. In the field of Asian area studies, Leiden University collaborates intensively with renowned research and heritage institutions here in Leiden.


    Leiden University maintains close links with the International Institute for Asian Studies (IIAS) and collaborates intensively with the National Museum of Antiquities (Rijksmuseum van Oudheden), the National Museum of Ethnology (Rijksmuseum Volkenkunde), Naturalis Biodiversity Centre and Japan Museum SieboldHuis. Amongst others, these institutions have in-depth expertise in the broad field of Asian area studies, including countries of interest like Tibet, Afghanistan, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Malaysia en many other countries in Asia featured in the Leiden Asia Year. The Leiden Asia Year programme therefore offers lectures and events considering Asia in general, a set of countries, and lectures and events concerning individual countries. For more information on China, India, Indonesia, Japan or Korea in specific, please consider the programme overview per country.

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  • China

    Building on the Netherlands’ uniquely long and intimate relations with East Asia, Leiden University is one of the oldest and most established centres of East Asian and Chinese Studies in the Western world. The Asian Library houses the largest Chinese collection in Europe.

    Leiden University’s relationship with China
    Leiden University’s interest in and cooperation with China has a long history. In 1857 the first two students from Leiden went to China to study the Chinese language. Leiden was the first university in the Netherlands to establish a Chair in Chinese Language in 1877, and the only Dutch university that developed a department of Sinology and a library for Chinese Studies. The University also hosts a Confucian Institute. During the last two decades, Leiden University has invested heavily in creating a strong research profile in modern East Asian Studies that rests on this solid and renowned foundation. Leiden University has also broadened its scope and now we see Dutch-Chinese relations in basically all disciplines that Leiden offers: Law, Social Sciences, Humanities, Medicine, Natural Sciences and Life Sciences. This has led to the establishment of formal partnerships with more than 20 Chinese universities. Currently the University is developing a long term programme for cooperation with China, covering collaborative activities in fields such as Data Science & Big Data, Law, Governance and International Relations, Sustainability, Drug Development and Art & Culture.

    Largest Chinese collection in Europe
    The Asian Library is one of the leading Chinese libraries in the Western world. It has the largest Chinese collection in Europe. This includes special collections, in-depth research collections and a vast collection of digital material. The Asian Library is also designated as a Taiwan Resource Centre for Chinese Studies by the National Central Library of Taiwan.
    > Special Chinese collections
    > Asian Library Chinese

    Studies unique in The Netherlands
    Today, Leiden is still the only Dutch university that offers a Bachelor’s programme and a Master’s programme in Chinese Studies. Leiden University offers a broad Bachelor’s programme on China in order to study this fascinating country in several disciplines: economy, filosophy, history, culture, language, the community and politics. Students also develop expertise in contemporary developments in the world’s most dynamic and fastest-growing region. It is one of the best programmes in Europe and has the finest collections on China within a hand’s reach. The Master’s programme in Asian Studies offers an outstanding qualification from one of the leading centres for Asian studies in Europe.
    > BA Chinese Studies (in Dutch)
    > MA Asian Studies specialization Chinese Studies

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  • India

    Leiden University is the only place in The Netherlands where you can study the languages and cultures of South and Southeast Asia at an academic level. The university has traditional strengths in Sanskrit and Buddhist Studies and is further advancing its expertise on modern India. The Asian Library houses one of the largest collections of South Asian materials in Europe.

    Research on modernities and traditions
    eiden University’s expertise on India is located in the Faculty of Humanities and the Faculty of Social Sciences (Anthropology). The study of India is also included in one of the University’s research profiles: Asian Modernities and Traditions. The University has traditional strengths in Sanskrit and Buddhist Studies and is further advancing its expertise on modern India. The ICCR Chair for the Study of Contemporary India has an important role in this. Chairholders from Indian universities visit Leiden University for a two year term to teach and conduct research on modern India. The chair is made possible by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations and is embedded in the Leiden Institute of Area Studies.

    South and Southeast Asian Studies unique in The Netherlands
    South and Southeast Asian Studies is the only Bachelor’s progamme in Europe that expressly integrates the study of South and Southeast Asia. The teaching in this programme is based on top level scientific research and stands in a long and venerable tradition of Leiden scholarship of the region. Leiden University offers various Master’s programmes that follow after finishing the Bachelor’s programme..
    > BA South and Southeast Asian Studies
    > MA South and Southeast Asian Studies

    One of the largest collections of South Asian materials in Europe
    The South and Central Asia special collections include manuscripts and block prints, photographs, archival materials, miniatures and drawings, rubbings and estampages, maps as well as rare printed books. A considerable part of the collected materials consists of the special collections of the former library of Kern Institute which was merged in 2010 with the central Leiden University Library. The Kern collection offers excellent resources for a broad range of approaches to the study of India and neighboring countries. The Kern collection, available in The Asian Library, is one of the largest collections on Indology in Europe.
    > South and Central Asia Collections
    > The Asian Library
    > Kern Institute

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  • Indonesia

    Indonesia is, and has long been, an important object of study for academics in Leiden. Together with colleagues from KITLV (Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies), IIAS and other partners, researchers from Leiden University have always had a genuine and broad interest in Indonesia.

    Leiden University’s relationship with Indonesia

    The largest collection worldwide on Indonesia is situated in The Asian Library of Leiden University. This includes the collection of the Royal Tropical Institute (KIT), which has been transferred to Leiden University Libraries in 2013, and the KITLV collection since 2014. The Asian Library collects Indonesian materials through the KITLV-Jakarta office. Leiden University Libraries is also designated as a Malaysian Resource Centre by the National Library of Malaysia. Together with the collections of the National Museum of Ethnology, Leiden truly forms a unique center on Indonesian art and material culture in the world. There has been a long tradition of studies in history, language and culture of Indonesia and parts of the archipelago (e.g. Javanese language and culture, Austronesian languages) by researchers from the Leiden Institute of Area Studies, the Institute of History, the Leiden University Center for Linguistics and other parts of the Faculty of Humanities. In the fields of anthropology and sociology, Leiden’s social scientists have since long had a special interest in Indonesia’s cultural and religious diversity and pluralist society. The fact that Indonesian Law has its roots in Dutch Law makes the Indonesian legal system an interesting topic for Leiden’s legal scholars at the Van Vollenhoven Institute. Scientists of Leiden University’s Medical Center share an interest in Indonesia because it enables them to study specific diseases and infections. Indonesia’s unique ecological diversity has triggered the interest of environmental scientists and biologists. Clearly, Leiden’s wide range of disciplines provides many opportunities to study Indonesia, its society, people and environment.

    Development of a Leiden-Indonesia Programme

    Leiden University recently developed a Leiden-Indonesia Programme. The objective of this programme is to strengthen long term cooperation between Leiden University and its Indonesian partner universities, and to intensify the relation with Indonesian governmental organizations and the Embassies in Jakarta and The Hague. The programme coordinates collaborative activities in research, education, student mobility, library collections and alumni relations.

    Largest Indonesian collection in the world

    The Asian Library has the largest and most in-depth collection on Indonesia in the world. It now also includes all the important Dutch collections on Indonesia: the heritage collections formerly of the Royal Tropical Institute (KIT) in Amsterdam and the collections of the Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies (KITLV). The Asian Library owes its worldwide fame partly to the Indonesian and Southeast Asian special collections. With the support of and in collaboration with external partners, Leiden University Libraries will create an Indonesian Digital Library that will bring together extensive digital collections on Indonesia. Many thousands of books, journals and magazines, as well as many kilometers worth of digital files of dailies and grey literature are acquired, catalogued and sent to The Asian Library by our KITLV office in Jakarta. KITLV-Jakarta is part of Leiden University Libraries and has a staff of 10 fte working on collection development, publishing and facilitating research.

    > KITLV-Jakarta

    > The Southeast Asian Collections of Leiden University

    > The Asian Library

    Study Indonesia in the programme South and Southeast Asian Studies

    The Bachelor’s programme South and Southeast Asian Studies integrates the study of South and Southeast Asia. The programme offers the possibility to study Indonesia and/or neighboring countries and specialize in the parts and aspects of the region that interest you most. The teaching in this programme is based on top level scientific research and stands in a long and venerable tradition of Leiden scholarship of the region.

    > BA South and Southeast Asian Studies

    > MA South and Southeast Asian Studies

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  • Japan

    For centuries the Netherlands has a special diplomatic and commercial relationship with Japan. This has resulted in a unique collection of books, art and other objects that have been brought to The Netherlands. The majority of these collections are within one’s reach in Leiden due to the special Japanese collection at The Asian Library of Leiden University, and the Japanese collections at Japan Museum SieboldHuis, National Museum of Ethnology and the National Museum of Natural History.

    Leiden University & Japan
    Due to the long and close relationship between the Netherlands and Japan, Leiden University is one of the oldest and most famous centers for Japanese Studies in the Western world. Research on Japan takes place within the profile area Asian modernities and traditions. The main focus within this profile is the interaction between modernity and tradition, viewed from various regions, disciplines and faculties. Leiden researchers are regularly asked for their expertise and to comment on (current) events in Japan. Topics range from politics, the 3/11 tsunami and earthquake disaster, Manga (Japanese comics) and subcultures, Japanese cuisine, film and religions. In addition to investigating traditional and modern Japan, Leiden University cooperates with Japanese universities in several other scientific fields. University Hospital LUMC for example has good relations with the University of Nagasaki.

    Japanese Studies at Leiden University
    Leiden University is the only university in the Netherlands that offers Japanese Studies. Education in Japanese language en culture is being offered since 1855. During the Bachelor’s programme many students have the opportunity to stay in Japan for about three months up to a year. The two-year Master's programme is internationally oriented and attracts students from all over the world.
    > BA Japanstudies
    > MA Asian Studies specialization Japanese Studies

    Japan Museum SieboldHuis
    Von Siebold studied the flora and fauna of Japan. Siebold not only collected many plants, animals and artifacts, but also came into the possession of maps of Japan. The maps were discovered by the Japanese authorities and Siebold was subsequently accused of high treason and for being a spy for Russia. The possession of maps was strictly forbidden, so in 1829 Siebold was expelled from Japan. After leaving Japan Siebold decided to move to Leiden and settled in a canal house on Rapenburg 19. Since 1837, the house of Siebold in Leiden was the place where he showed his collection of objects and artifacts to the public.. The Japan Museum SieboldHuis opened in this same house on the Rapenburg street and it became the first official Japanese center in the Netherlands. Leiden University cooperates closely with the SieboldHuis. The majority of the Japanese collections that are housed at several academic institutions were originally brought to Leiden by Siebold or were compiled by him later.
    > Japan Museum SieboldHuis
    > Treasures Japan Museum SieboldHuis

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  • Korea

    Leiden University is a leading center of teaching and research in Korean Studies in Europe. Confronted with a politically divided research area, Leiden-based scholars study Korea in the longue durée, reading Korea beyond the division. The large and growing collection of The Asian Library of Leiden University Libraries is a crucial asset in the continued development of Korean studies expertise.

    Research excellence and expanding Korean collections at The Asian Library.

    The leading position of Leiden University in the field of Korean studies is exemplified by Prof. Dr. Remco Breuker’s ERC project on the uses and abuses of Northeast Asian history in both South and North Korea. The University further initiated major research projects in North Korean poster art, and North Korean history writing and human rights. Such research would not be possible without the sizable Korean collections at The Asian Library consisting of a large body of rare Korean books, journals, DVD’s, digital newspapers and images. The Asian Library prides itself in its extensive South and North Korean collections. Acquiring and making available rare North Korean publications gives this library a particularly unique position outside of the Korean peninsula, drawing international North Korea experts to Leiden. A flagship project is a fully digitalized and searchable North Korean printed poster collection.

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