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ARTHIST 4C03 Art/Visual Culture 900-1400

Academic Year: Fall 2017

Term: Fall

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Dr. Angela Sheng

Email: shenga@mcmaster.ca

Office: Togo Salmon Hall 425

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 23156


Office Hours: Wednesdays, 10:30- 11:30 am or by appointment

Course Objectives:

This seminar aims to familiarize students with critical readings on some selected issues concerning art and visual culture from 900 to 1400 CE in China and the borderlands in Central Asia and northern South Asia. Two fundamentally different worldviews underlie the sedentary agriculturalist and mobile nomadic cultures. China was ruled by the sedentary Han Chinese during the Five Dynasties period (900-960) and the Song dynasty (960-1279) but then by Mongols of nomadic origin during the Yuan dynasty (1279-1367) and again by the Han Chinese during the Ming dynasty (1368-1644). In northeastern India, the people there were governed by the largely sedentary Pãla and Sena dynasties (750-1200) and the Delhi Sultanate (1206-1526). When peoples of nomadic origin ruled China, India and the borderlands, they adapted the sedentary ways of life and they also brought their own conception of art and visual culture, giving rise to new, enriched intercultural manifestations.

Informed by recent archaeological finds, the seminar aims to address the historiography and selected art works of both the sedentary and mobile nomadic peoples across Eurasia into northern South Asia. The seminar also aims to empower students to work together and undertake independent research projects, and then present them with confidence.

Please note that this seminar will be taught by two instructors with some overlap. Dr. Monolina Ray will teach the first section focusing on South Asia, from September 5 until October 3, 2017. After the midterm break, Dr. Sheng will start teaching on October 17 until December 5, 2017. Dr. Sheng will introduce Dr. Ray on September 5, 2017.

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:

Lopez, Jr., Donald S. (ed.). 1999. Asian Religions in Practice. Princeton University Press.

As much as possible, readings will be selected from articles that can be accessed through JSTOR and from books made available on 2-hour reserve at Mills Library. This is to save students from buying many expensive books some of which are also not easily available now.

Students will need to consult all the readings to start on all assignments.

Method of Assessment:

Students in this course will have received 10% of their grade in this course by November 10th.

  1. Written summary on relevant religions, due September 15, 2017                 10%
  2. Essay on two South/Central Asian works, due October 6, 2017                   15%
  3. Weekly written reports on readings for weeks 6-13                                        30%
  4. A research paper comparing two major works, one from the two discussed in the essay handed in on October 6 and the other, selected from readings assigned for weeks 6-13:                                                 
  • title due October 24, 2% of the overall grade
  • bibliography due November 7, 5%
  • detailed outline due November 21, 10%
  • presentation on December 5, 5%
  • and paper due December 12,  13%      

sub-total 35%

        5. class participation, 5%

        6. peer evaluation due December 12                  5%

Students will work in small groups throughout the semester and self-evaluate on Group Performance Tasks, Group Maintenance Tasks, and Self-Centered Tasks, based on a detailed guideline from the McMaster Centre for Leadership Learning that will be given out in class.

To get A+ requires correct spelling and grammar on all written work.

Grading Scale:

A+ 90-100      B+  77-79        C+  67-69        D+       57-59

A   85-89         B    73-76        C    63-66        D         53-56

A-  80-84        B-   70-72        C-   60-62        D-       50-52

                                                                        F           0-49


Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

The course is designed so that all students must read and work on schedule. Handing in anything late does not help the progress of the ongoing discussion. If a student misses the class for which the student has signed up to lead the discussion, the student will not get any marks for that opportunity.


If for a valid reason (if sick, with medical note) a student must be absent for the class when the student has signed up to lead the discussion, it is the student’s responsibility to 1) email the instructor the written report on the reading before class and to another student for the latter to read in class, or 2) switch the reading material and date with another student and inform the instructor in advance by email.

A late penalty of 10% of the grade of the assignment will be deducted for each assignment handed in late each day after the due date.

No extensions for the final written report without a timely medical certificate.

Please Note the Following Policies and Statements:

Academic Dishonesty

You are expected to exhibit honesty and use ethical behaviour in all aspects of the learning process. Academic credentials you earn are rooted in principles of honesty and academic integrity.

Academic dishonesty is to knowingly act or fail to act in a way that results or could result in unearned academic credit or advantage. This behaviour can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: "Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty"), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university.

It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty. For information on the various types of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, located at www.mcmaster.ca/academicintegrity

The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty:

  1. Plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one’s own or for which other credit has been obtained.
  2. Improper collaboration in group work.
  3. Copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations.

Email correspondence policy

It is the policy of the Faculty of Humanities that all email communication sent from students to instructors (including TAs), and from students to staff, must originate from each student’s own McMaster University email account. This policy protects confidentiality and confirms the identity of the student.  Instructors will delete emails that do not originate from a McMaster email account.

Modification of course outlines

The University reserves the right to change dates and/or deadlines etc. for any or all courses in the case of an emergency situation or labour disruption or civil unrest/disobedience, etc. If a modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with an explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. Any significant changes should be made in consultation with the Department Chair.

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

In the event of an absence for medical or other reasons, students should review and follow the Academic Regulation in the Undergraduate Calendar Requests for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work. Please note these regulations have changed beginning Fall 2015. You can find information at mcmaster.ca/msaf/. If you have any questions about the MSAF, please contact your Associate Dean's office.

Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities

Students who require academic accommodation must contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) to make arrangements with a Program Coordinator. Academic accommodations must be arranged for each term of study. Student Accessibility Services can be contacted by phone 905-525-9140 ext. 28652 or e-mail sas@mcmaster.ca. For further information, consult McMaster University's Policy for Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities.

Academic Accommodation for Religious, Indigenous and Spiritual Observances

Students requiring academic accommodation based on religion and spiritual observances should follow the procedures set out in the Course Calendar or by their respective Faculty. In most cases, the student should contact his or her professor or academic advisor as soon as possible to arrange accommodations for classes, assignments, tests and examinations that might be affected by a religious holiday or spiritual observance.

Topics and Readings:

The first five weeks will cover northern South Asia and bordering Nepal, Kashmir, and Tibet. After the midterm break, the seven weeks will cover some aspects of art and visual culture in China and some bordering cultures: Khitan, Tangut, and Mongol.

Week 1 September 5  Introduction: History, geography, religions and architecture of South Asia 900-1400

BL 1032.A85 1999 Davies, Richard H. 1999. Religions of India in Practice in Asian Religions in Practice ed. by -Donald S. Lopez, Jr. Princeton University Press: pp. 8-55.

N 7301 .C7 1976. Craven, Roy C. 1976. Indian Art: A Concise History. New York; Toronto: Oxford University Press. Chapters 9 and 10.

Week 2 September 12  The Development of Temple Architecture

NA 6002 .M52 1977. Mitchell, George. 1977. The Hindu Temple: An Introduction to Its Meaning and Forms. Elek: pp. 117-123. 

NA 6001 .A84 NO. 5  2 vols Deva, Krishna. 1990. Temples of Khajuraho. Archaeological Survey of India. No. 5: pp. 1-8, 14-20, 38-55, 146-192.

Week 3 September 19  The Art of the Himalayan Region: Art in Nepal and Tibet

N 7310.8 .N4 M32 1979 Macdonald, Alexander W. 1979. Newar Art: Nepalese Art during the Malla Period. Aris & Phillips.  

ND 1046 .T5 K67 2010. Kossak, Steven. 2010. Painted Images of Enlightenment: Early Tibetan Thankas, 1050-1450. Mārg Publications: pp. 11-35, 115-129.

Week 4 September 26  Islamic Influence in the Delhi Sultanate

CB 253 .H23 SECT.2 V.20. Burton-Page John. 2008. Indian Islamic Architecture: Forms and Typologies, Sites and Monuments. Brill: pp. 3-10; 43-61; 116-132 (section on Delhi)

Online. Crane, Howard and Welch, Anthony. 1983. “The Tughluqs: Master Builders of the Delhi Sultanate” in Muqarnas. Volume 1(1983). pp 123-166.

Week 5 October 3 Key monuments of the Sultanate rule

Online. Welch, Anthony, Keshani, Hussain and Bain, Alexandra. 2008. “Epigraphs, Scripture, and Architecture in the Early Delhi Sultanate” in Muqarnas Vol. 19 (2002), pp. 12-43

DS 436 .N44 V.1 PT.4. Asher, Catherine B. 1992. “Precedents of Mughal Architecture” in New Cambridge History of India: Architecture of Mughal India. Cambridge University Press:  pp. 1-18.

Midterm Break October 9-13

Week 6 October 17    Religions in China and Chinese Painting Methods

Teiser, Stephen F. 1999. “Religions of China in Practice.” Asian Religions in Practice ed. by Donald S. Lopez, Jr. Princeton University Press: pp. 88-122.

ND 1040 .R6 1959 Rowley, George. 1959 (1947). Principles of Chinese Painting. Princeton University Press.

ND 1040 .S47 1982 Silbergeld, Jerome. 1982. Chinese Painting Style: Media, Methods and Principles of Form. University of Washington Press.

Week 7 October 24    Chinese paintings from 907 to 1279

ND 1040 .T48 1997 Barnhart, Richard M. 1997. “The Five dynasties and the Song period (907-1279) in Three Thousand Years of Chinese Painting, ed. by Barnhart et al. (eds). Yale University Press and Beijing: Foreign Language Press: pp. 87-137.

Fong, Wen C. 2003. “Why Chinese Painting is History,” The Art Bulletin, 85, 2: pp. 258-280.

Week 8 October 31    Khitan architecture and painting

Nancy Shatzman Steinhardt. 1994. Liao: An Architectural Tradition in the Making.

Artibus Asiae, 54, No. 1/2 (1994): pp. 5-39

Some Liao Tomb Murals and Images of Nomads in Chinese Paintings of the Wen-Chi Story

Robert Albright Rorex

Artibus Asiae, 45, 2/3 (1984), pp. 174-198


The Wedding Ceremony for an Imperial Liao Princess. Wall Paintings from a Liao Dynasty Tomb in Jilin

Linda Cooke Johnson

Artibus Asiae, 44, 2/3 (1983), pp. 107-136

Week 9 November 7  Tangut Xi-Xia Buddhist Art


Rob Linrothe

Monumenta Serica, 43 (1995), pp. 235-262

Xia Renzong and the Patronage of Tangut Buddhist Art: The Stūpa and Ushnīshavijayā Cult

Rob Linrothe

Journal of Song-Yuan Studies, No. 28 (1998), pp. 91-121

The "Kesi Thangka" of Vighnāntaka

Anne E. Wardwell

The Bulletin of the Cleveland Museum of Art, 80, 4 (Apr. 1993), pp. 136-139

Tangut Fragments in the British Museum

E. D. Grinstead

The British Museum Quarterly, 24, 3/4 (Dec., 1961), pp. 82-87.

Week 10 November 14          Mongol Yuan Art and Visual Culture

N 7283 .L44 2002 Rossabi, Morris. 2002. “The Mongols and Their Legacy.” In The Legacy of Genghis Khan: Courtly Art and Cutlure in Western Asia, 1256-1353, ed. by Linda Komaroff and Stefano Carboni: pp. 13-35. The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Yale University Press.

N7283.L44 2002

Melville, Charles. 2002. “The Mongols in Iran.” In The Legacy of Genghis Khan: pp. 36-61.

Week 11 November 21          Mongol Yuan Art and Visual Culture

Watt, James C. Y. 2002. “A Note on the Artistic Exchanges in the Mongol Empire.” In The Legacy of Genghis Khan: pp. 62-73.

N 7283 .L44 2002 Masuya, Tomoko. 2002. “Ilkhanid Courtly Life.” In The Legacy of Genghis Khan: pp. 74-103.

Week 12 November 28          Islamic “Chinoiserie”

N 7283.K33 2009 Kadoi, Yuka. 2009. Islamic Chinoiserie: the Art of Mongol Iran. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. N 7283.K33 2009

Chapters 1-3: Introduction, Textiles, Ceramics

Week 13 December 5 Presentations

Other Course Information:

Please note that Dr. Monolina Ray's office is located TSH 432 and her email bhattacm@mcmaster.ca

REFERENCES, useful for the essay due on October 6 and for the final research paper.

on 2-hour reserve at Mills Library:

Weeks 1-5

General Reading:

N 5300 .P4 V. Z49 1986 Harle, J.C.. The Art & Architecture of the Indian Subcontinent Harmondsworth, England: Penguin Books.

BL 1032.A85 1999 Donald S. Lopez, Jr. (ed.), Asian Religions in Practice. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

N 7301 .H86 1985 Huntington, Susan. The Art of Ancient India: Buddhist, Hindu, Jain. New York: Weatherhill.

N 7301 .C7 1976. Craven, Roy C. A Concise History of Indian Art. New York: Oxford University Press.

Weekly Topics:

Hindu Architecture

NA 6002 .M52 1977. Michell, George. The Hindu Temple: an introduction to its meaning and forms. New York: Harper & Row.

Nepal and Tibet

N 7310.8 .N4 P35 1975. Pal, Pratapaditya. Nepal: Where the Gods are Young. Plates in the Buddhist Section. New York: Asia Society.
ND 1046 .T5 K67 2010 Kossak, Steven. Painted Images of Enlightenment. Early Tibetan Thankas, 1050-1450. Bombay: Marg Publications.

Islamic Architecture of the Sultanate Period

NA 1502 .G76 1981 Satish Grover. The Architecture of India: Islamic (727-1707 A.D). New Delhi: Vikas Pub. House.

NA 1502 .M45 2005 Elizabeth Schotten Merklinger. Sultanate architecture of pre-Mughal India. New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers Pvt. Ltd.


Weeks 6-13

Central Asia:

Golden, Peter B. 2011. Central Asia in World History. Oxford University Press. (requisitioned)

N 7291 .R49 Rice, Tamara. Ancient Arts of Central Asia. New York : Praeger, 1965.

ND 991 .B813 Bussagli, Mario. Painting of Central Asia. Geneva: Skira, 1963.


DS 706.E37 1996 Ebrey, Patircia. The Cambridge Illustrated History of China.


New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996.

N 5300.P4 v. Z10 1971 Sickman and Soper. The Art and Architecture of China.


Harmondsworth, England. Penguin Books. 1956.

ND 1040 .T48 1997 Barnhart, R. et al. Three Thousand Years of Chinese Painting. New Haven: Yale University Press and Beijing: Foreign Languages Press.


Khitan Art and Architecture:

N 7343.4 .S69 2004 So, Jenny F. Song mo feng hua: Qidan yishu yu wenhua. Chinese University of Hong Kong. Art Museum.

NA 6046 .L5 S74 1997 Steinhardt, Nancy S. Liao Architecutre. Honolulu : University of Hawaii Press.


Tangut Art and Empire:

N 7343 .S32 Salmony, Alfred. Sino-Siberian Art in the Collection of C. T. Loo. Paris: C.T. Loo, 1933.

GN 387 .N6115 2001 International Institute for Asian Studies. Nomads in the Sedentary World. Curzon.

Mongol and Islamic Arts:

N 7342 .L37 Lee, Sherman. Chinese Art under the Mongols. Cleveland Museum of Art; distributed by the Press of Case Western Reserve University, 1968.

N 7283 .L44 2002 The Legacy of Genghis Khan: Courtly Art and Culture in Western Asia, 1256-1353, ed. by Linda Komaroff and Stefano Carboni. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Yale University Press.

When necessary, additional information and references will be posted on Avenue to Learn.