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Combining different disciplines, Leiden University researchers work together to formulate innovative solutions to societal problems. Below is an example from the field of language and culture.

Overview research dossiers


From local expertise to knowledge of a continent

Engagement between Asia and Europe is increasing. If these continents want to build a lasting relationship, they need to understand each other better in the economic, socio-cultural, historical and legal arena. Researchers from Leiden have already contributed to the body of knowledge on past and present Asia for decades, making Leiden a leading centre of Asia Studies.

<p>King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima visit Leiden University</p>

King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima visit Leiden University

Understanding and improving relations and local situations

We trade with Asian countries, eat Asian food, watch Asian films, receive Asian tourists and even travel to Asia ourselves. We Europeans may not be aware of it, but we share many interests and concerns with Asians. For instance, national elections capture the public attention ‘there’ just as they do ‘here’. People often only notice the clashes between the two worlds: Europeans condemn the human rights situation in China or Singapore, and the Chinese and Singaporeans criticise what they see as unharnessed individualism or an absent sense of duty in Europe.

Researchers from various disciplines in Leiden acquire a profound knowledge about the Asian continent,  knowledge that serves not only academia but also the world outside. Academics from Leiden regularly advise the government, NGOs and industry. They even advised King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima before they led a trade mission to China in 2015. Our academics also use their knowledge of such areas as law and governance to help the people of Asia improve their standards of living. To be able to do this, it is essential to have a good understanding of the politics, culture and economy of the region.

History as a basis for researching the present

In Leiden, research into Asia is rooted in a profound knowledge of Asian languages and cultures. Our academics have studied written and pictorial material from numerous Asian countries, with an emphasis on China, Indonesia and Japan, for as long as we can remember. Knowledge of language and history provides a solid foundation for research into modern issues. After all, it is only possible to comprehend a society today if you understand what people are saying and which developments the inhabitants of a region have been through over the centuries. 

Leiden researchers also regularly conduct long-term fieldwork in the region in order to establish the local situations and relations and to understand what motivates people and how they deal with social change. These local situations can then be compared with other regions or levels: for instance, what is the relationship between a village administration and a city administration or central government? And finally: how does the situation in one Asian country relate to the situation in another?

Experts from Leiden in the Humanities, Social Sciences and Law join forces in their research on Asia. This enables them to acquire knowledge on broad themes: religion (what role does religious belief play in Asian societies?), culture (including language and visual art), migration (from and to Asia) and politics and citizenship (how do citizens relate to local and central government? How do Asian citizens define their identity?).

Leiden Asia Year
Leiden University Institute for Area Studies
Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies
Van Vollenhoven Institute for Law, Governance and Development
Leiden Asia Centre

Japanmuseum SieboldHuis Leiden
Museum for Ethnology Leiden
International Institute for Asian Studies (IIAS)

Citizenship: historiography and identity formation

People in Asia increasingly feel the need for a strong identity. This is the consequence of developments such as globalisation and the realisation that Asian countries such as China and India are becoming new world powers. Professor Hilde De Weerdt studies how political ideas and national identity spread in China over the centuries. She believes that the cultural elite played an important role in this.

Many Asian people see history and modernity as strongly interlinked. For instance, many traditional texts appear in today’s self-help books. These traditional texts are about universal principles, and people refer back to them frequently in various contexts. This is important to the Chinese, because they like to believe that they are influenced not only by Western ideas but by Chinese traditions too. It forges an identity for them as a ‘Chinese citizen’. History and tradition are also hugely important to modern governments in China. The government wants the people to see it as reliable, with policies that build on traditions and history. For instance, history is used to legitimise China’s claim to islands in the South China Sea. A territorial dispute about these islands has simmered with Japan for years.

Political ideas

One aspect of De Weerdt’s research is examining how, from the eighth century onwards, a dialogue between a warlike emperor and his ministers spread through East and Central Asia (China, Korea, Japan and Mongolia). ‘The political ideas in these dialogues argued for cooperation between various levels of administration, and they are very topical now. The Chinese Prime Minister and a former

Historian Sima Guang (image from Wikimedia Commons)

Historian Sima Guang (image from Wikimedia Commons)

minister of South Korea said that they used this text as a source for their policy.’

China: no continuous history

The development of modern China is politically sensitive. Modern governments like to create the impression that China has been a single state for as long as 5000 years. However, this is not actually correct: in the eighth century Sima Guang, one of the most important Chinese historians, had already ascertained that in the 1700 years that preceded, there had been a single China for only 500 of them. For the rest of the time the country was divided among multiple rulers.

In a recent book, Hilde De Weerdt studies how the idea of a continuous history in the country took hold, and concludes that this was primarily because the idea took root in the cultural elite. ‘From the twelfth century, the literate elite made use of the printing press to circulate news and maps that emphasised the unity of the nation. The cultural elite also offered to work with rulers with Mongolian and Manchu roots if they succeeded in bringing the Chinese territory under a single regime. It is possible to follow the spread of ideas and stories through time, because many notebooks, letters and other personal documents can be found in Chinese archives. In these latter-day ‘blogs’, people wrote about their conversations with others and about how they read newspapers, maps, posters and miscellaneous news and information about the administration of the empire.’ Hilde De Weerdt worked together with a computer scientist to develop a digital platform that speeded up the analysis of these sources.

India: militant nationalism

Identity based on history plays an important role in other Asian countries too. According to political scientist Ward Berenschot, India also claims 5000 years of history and emphasises the merit of this in its dealings with Europe. ‘In the history of India you see the growth of militant nationalism, with an ideal of a greater India. Hammering home the value of the Indian culture is a wider trend in the country. At the same time, this nationalism causes internal and external tensions. Not only does it stand in the way of better relations with neighbouring countries, it could also gradually undermine democracy in India, because alternative, critical voices are deemed “unpatriotic”.’

Citizenship: relationship between citizens and state

Leiden researchers study the extent to which Asian citizens can invoke the rights that they have on paper. This knowledge helps them advise the different levels of government and NGOs on how to improve the lot of poor citizens in particular.

Various countries in Asia are in the process of becoming a constitutional state democracy. This process is complex, because whereas on paper all citizens of a nation enjoy the same rights, the practice is altogether different. The poor in particular find it difficult to obtain what they are entitled to. This is true in various fields, such as health care, land ownership or divorce. The process is complicated because various different factors are at play, such as ethnic and religious diversity, poor law enforcement, a large distance between central government and the people, and big differences between regions within a country. NGOs and other donors pursue various initiatives to improve the constitutional state democracy and make people’s access to the law fairer and more transparent. In order to achieve this, you first need to be aware of the problems that are at play. Strengthening the constitutional state is a complex process. Not only does it entail increasing people’s knowledge and skills, it also entails addressing the power imbalance and the various interest structures.

Divorce in Indonesia

PhD candidate Stijn van Huis and Professor of Law and Society in Indonesia Adriaan Bedner investigated the legal status of Indonesian women who divorce and the extent to which these women invoke their rights. ‘Officially speaking, a divorce can only take place in court. The judge must ensure that women receive maintenance after a divorce, for instance. Many international donors consider access to the courts to be very important, because they assume that poor women in particular are most

The Supreme Court of Indonesia in Jakarta (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

The Supreme Court of Indonesia in Jakarta (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

dependent on the maintenance that their ex pays. We began by questioning the assumptions on which this model is based.’

They soon discovered that many women return to their parents after they divorce, because they are better off financially there. Bedner: ‘Many marriages are for economic reasons. Divorce occurs a lot – particularly in West Java where we conducted our research – and the reason is usually because the husband does not earn enough. In such a case, it does not make much sense for the woman to go to court, because the man cannot pay maintenance anyway.’

The next question was what it meant for women who had not divorced in court if they wanted to remarry at a later date. ‘If there are no children from the second marriage, people often do not consider it necessary to register it. As long as the marriage was concluded according to Islamic rules, the community sees it as valid. But if children are produced in the second marriage, the partners want it to be officially registered to prove that the child was not born out of wedlock. A birth certificate is becoming increasingly important for school places, opening a bank account, marrying, voting, finding a job and welfare and health care. Officially speaking, the Religious Affairs Office is not allowed to register a second marriage if the divorce was not filed in court. What often happens then is that the civil servant registers the new marriage anyway. But if other authorities discover that the registration was not according to the rules, for instance the civil registry office that issues birth certificates, you then have a problem. In that case, many women go to court after all. The court normally grants a retroactive divorce, at least if the official terms have been met. In practice, many problems are thus solved pragmatically.’

Encourage or force people to go to court

Many women’s rights activists in Indonesia believe that there should be stricter controls on divorce. Some have suggested that retroactive divorce should be banned altogether and that there should be fines for marriages that were not registered according to the rules. The women who call for this are usually middle class and an official divorce is in their interest. Their husbands generally do have an income and a bank account that can be frozen if they fail to pay the maintenance that has been fixed by the court. They also do not want their husbands to secretly enter into polygamous marriage. However, the greater majority of Indonesian women come from the lower classes. They do not need to go to court: the journey costs money, courts are often a long way away and they generally do not stand to gain from going to court.

One of the questions that the government is currently struggling with is whether it should make it more attractive to go to court or whether it should force people to go. To ensure that the discussion is not hijacked, you must be fully aware of the situation, people’s motives and the advantages and disadvantages of the various systems. By collaborating with Indonesian researchers, NGOs and the Indonesian government, the researchers ensure that the results of this kind of research are shared and discussed. Bedner: ‘The women’s rights activists that we work with often have very different ideas about the situation at first. We try to use our findings to convince them to seek alternatives.’

Citizenship: consequences for democratisation

Many Asian countries are in a process of democratisation. The expectation was that citizens would gradually gain more control over the functioning of their elites. Experts from Leiden have concluded that this process often fails to improve the quality of the administration. They researched the nature of citizenship in Indonesia in order to further their understanding of the obstacles to democratisation.

Indonesia: emphasise your roots

Indonesia has experienced significant change in recent decades. There is greater democracy and the government has undergone an intensive decentralisation process. These changes have affected the relationship between citizen and state. Researchers from Leiden have concluded that democratisation and decentralisation are often associated with a strengthening of ethnic and religious identities. Rather than more equality, there is thus a greater emphasis on differences.

Indonesian voters feel that their children’s school opportunities increase if they vote for a politician who belongs to their own ethnic group.

Indonesian voters feel that their children’s school opportunities increase if they vote for a politician who belongs to their own ethnic group.

By appealing to the voter’s ethnic or religious background, political leaders hope to secure voter loyalty, and the voter hopes that the leader will get things done. ‘Voters in turn feel that their children’s school opportunities or the opportunity for hospital care or protection from migrants increases if they present themselves in this manner,’ says Professor of Indonesian History Henk Schulte Nordholt. ‘It is therefore important to ensure that a high-ranking civil servant or politician who belongs to your own ethnic group is elected.’

Indonesia: informal administration and clientelism

A second topic that Leiden researchers are considering, with regard to citizenship in Indonesia, is what is known as informal governance. ‘There are official rules and laws, but in practice the implementation of these is determined by clientelism – providing services in exchange for political support. Politicians and civil servants are inclined to do something if there is something in it for them. Citizens accept the existence of this kind of process,’ says Schulte Nordholt. The researchers want to find out how formal democracy and informal clientelism affect each other. 

In order to investigate what citizenship means for ordinary villagers, Indonesian PhD candidate Prio Sambodho spent a year living in a poor village. He learned the local language and became familiar with the local balance of power. He gradually discovered that governance and politics are very personal and that formal rules and procedures are more or less irrelevant. Poor villagers are formally entitled to certain benefits, but they only receive these following the intervention of richer intermediaries. In exchange for their help, these intermediaries are entitled to a small amount of the money. He also discovered that a local leader is allowed to be slightly corrupt, but that the local population does not accept greater transgressions.
What was surprising in the village that he researched was the important role that middle-class women played. They ensured that government money was shared out and felt responsible for this. Now in particular with more government money available at village level, the status of these women is increasing and they dare to be more assertive towards the village leader, who can no longer pocket government money unnoticed. With a group of women watching his every move, the village leader was feeling the pressure.
This means that forms of citizenship arise that may not be similar to Western patterns, but are no less important. Ward Berenschot: ‘It is often frightening and difficult for poor people to go directly to a doctor or hospital, because from bitter experience they know that they are ignored or do not understand what is going on. This is why the contact between citizen and government is often through intermediaries (for instance the village leader or one of the wealthier women). The outcome is that the right of every citizen to health care is transformed into a personal favour between elites and the poor. The elite promises medical help and in exchange for this service the citizen must vote for a certain candidate or support a village leader. However, these intermediaries do ensure that bureaucrats make more effort to observe the rights of the citizens.’

From Indonesia to larger areas

Experts from Leiden also compare different parts of Asia. Schulte Nordholt: ‘We see general trends. Elections are often accompanied with doling out large sums of money, which means that only the affluent can stand for election. It also means that candidates need the support of rich entrepreneurs in exchange for favours that they must grant once they are elected. Ironically enough, democratisation goes hand in hand with the exclusion of many people from standing for election.’

For Asia as a whole, the researchers conclude that democratisation processes make the existing clientelistic political system less hierarchical: citizens have more choice in intermediaries and can thus choose not to vote for certain people. At the same time, more democracy has banished clientelism altogether. On the contrary: the relationship between politics and business has become closer. ‘The middle class in particular must promote democratisation,’ says Adriaan Bedner. ‘This group is less susceptible to the interests of authorities or business, and it is less dependent on the state than poorer citizens are.’

Religion: Buddhism in Asia

Many people in Asia and the West are attracted to Buddhism. This is because of this religion’s ‘image’ of being exotic and authentic.

Buddhism originated in India and spread to Tibet from the year 700 AD onwards. Tibetan Buddhism attracted many people and it still does. Westerners are also very interested in this variant. ‘It is seen as exotic and authentic,’ explains Professor Frank Pieke. ‘Furthermore, Buddhism is extra attractive for China and other Asian countries because it is supressed by the government.’
‘And Buddhism is safe for Westerners,’ adds Jonathan Silk. ‘People see it less as a religion than as a philosophy, which means that Buddhism is also attractive to people with no religious affinity. But people who are religious feel safe learning more about Buddhism because they do not feel that they are rejecting their own religion.’

Professor Jonathan Silk studies Buddhist manuscripts and their dissemination, in order to learn more about the attraction and meaning of Buddhism in Asia, in both the past and the present. ‘Few of the original Sanskrit manuscripts remain. The texts that we now study are mainly Chinese and Tibetan translations. What is more, Buddhism has developed over time in all these countries.’

Tibetan translations of Chinese Buddhist manuscripts

Silk is currently studying Tibetan translations of Chinese Buddhist manuscripts. The manuscripts were translated into Tibetan after Buddhism spread from India to Tibet in the seventh and eighth centuries. Chinese Buddhism also reached Tibet at the same time. ‘This was in Dunhuang, on the border with China, and in Lhasa (the former capital of Tibet and now the capital of the Tibetan Autonomous Region in China). In Dunhuang, there was a lot of trading with the Chinese, and a large group of Tibetans were very interested in Chinese Buddhism. Numerous written sources have been found in a cave in Dunhuang, and these are Chinese translations of Sanskrit and Tibetan translations of the Chinese. These documents give a huge insight into Tibetan perceptions of Chinese Buddhism.’

Buddhism in China (photo: LIAS)

Buddhism in China (photo: LIAS)

Culture: text and images in Japan

One of the ways of understanding another culture better is to examine what people experience when they read a text, or look at an image. Leiden experts have a lot of knowledge in this field, for example on culture in ancient Japan.


Literature and identity

Professor Ivo Smits is fascinated by Japanese culture and how this culture was experienced in previous centuries by the Japanese themselves. He conducts extensive research on Japanese authors between 1000 and 1300 who wrote in Chinese, and how their works were received in their own country.

‘It’s an exciting episode in Japanese history because this was when people first started to think about what it meant to be Japanese. On the one hand the Japanese felt part of East Asia (they shared Chinese 


Handwriting "Japanese and Chinese poems for recitation", ca 1200, an anthology of Chinese and Japanese poems collected by a member of the Japanese royal court at the beginning of the eleventh century.

as a literary language with neighbouring countries), while on the other hand they were also seeking their own identity. The works that were produced at that time also play an important role in modern-day Japan because people are looking to ideas from this period in the current discussion about Japanese identity.’

The Japanese continued to write in Chinese until the twentieth century. These works in Chinese tell us a lot about the ideas and feelings of Japanese authors throughout history because they permitted themselves greater freedom in the literature written in Chinese than in literature written in Japanese. ‘In poetry, for example, authors wrote about all kinds of weird subjects. There are 19th-century poems, for example, about a Dutch ship entering the harbour, or the new medium of photography. Japanese authors writing in Chinese were also freer in how they described emotions.’

The study of Chinese works by Japanese authors is, moreover, important from a cultural-historic perspective. Many Japanese people today are in danger of forgetting that the standardised national language was not introduced until the end of the 19th century and that literature before then was written in Chinese.
Smits also conducted research on works in Chinese that were written by the Japanese. “They read in Chinese but had to present in Japanese. School pupils still do the same today.”

A second area that Smits is interested in relates to the social customs relating to literature: How do people attach meaning and value to a literary work? Why did Japanese politicians in the Middle Ages, for instance, devote so much attention to poetry? 


Finally, Smits studied the imagination of the Japanese people. ‘Take the period around 1800, when the Japanese started to see paintings and drawings from Europe. In the first instance, they were impressed by techniques that they themselves had not yet mastered, like copper etching or applying perspective. At the same time, they were at a loss to know how to interpret some of the images they were seeing, such as angels, for example. They understood that Europeans did not have wings on their backs and that these images could therefore not be true to life. But what did they mean, then? And were the Japanese able to replicate the techniques needed to produce such images?

A further subject within the theme of imagination was the representation of gardens in Japanese poetry. These were mostly a non-realistic portrayal of a landscape where the characteristics of nature, as these were understood by the Japanese, were magnified.

The research on literature, images and the imagination offers common ground for better understanding Japan’s cultural development in the past and the present. But, Smits stresses, this is not the only reason for exploring these sources. ‘That would not do justice to the amazing thoughts and emotions that authors recorded with their words and images. What really matters is getting into the heads of the Japanese who lived centuries ago, which is in itself a fantastic experience.’

Copy of a copper etching of a Dutch image picturing Ceres/Demeter, by Aōdō Denzen (1748-1822). An example of the Japanese interest in European symbolic imagery.

Copy of a copper etching of a Dutch image picturing Ceres/Demeter, by Aōdō Denzen (1748-1822). An example of the Japanese interest in European symbolic imagery.

Politics: Chinese migration

Chinese organisations increasingly operate across the borders of China, and growing numbers of people from outside China are coming to live there. Professor Frank Pieke believes these movements have a significant effect on central and local government policy in China.

With globalisation, China has been confronted with developments in the area of migration and transnationalism. Chinese students and tourists travel abroad, and Chinese businesses are often active beyond the borders of China. The opposite is also true with increasing numbers of non-Chinese migrating to China.

The people who enter China are a particular problem for the central government, the

The Chinese trading city Yiwu encourages the presence of foreigners (photo via Wikimedia Commons)

The Chinese trading city Yiwu encourages the presence of foreigners (photo via Wikimedia Commons)

Communist Party. On the one hand, new citizens with skills and valuable contacts are welcome. On the other hand, ethnic minorities and Western influences are a dissonant force in the image that the Chinese government wants to convey of a homogenous country.

Local authorities deal with immigrants in very different ways. ‘The city of Yiwu, the biggest market in the world for factory goods for export, greatly encourages the presence of foreigners and helps them as much as possible. It grants them privileges. It does this because it needs these people to keep the market alive. The city of Shanghai, which is a bit further away, only encourages very selective migration. Migrants are welcome if they can find a job and bring money. Everything in the city has to be organised and streamlined.’
‘What was formerly known as Canton has a much larger population of foreigners, tens of thousands of immigrant workers or traders from Africa, South America, the Middle East and Southeast Asia. They are increasingly seen as a problem by the province: they need them as workers but they are poor, difficult to govern, enter the country illegally, escape the clutches of the police and marry Chinese women, creating half-blood children. The local government does not want any of this.’

Chinese migrants in Europe

Pieke also researches Chinese migrants in Europe, including Chinese people in the Netherlands. ‘Students are the fastest growing population. What characterises them is that they do not feel ties with earlier immigrants who ended up in restaurants and other shops. They often return to China, or the Netherlands is an interim stop on the way to a career in another country.’


Scientists working in this multidisciplinary research area

  • Frank  Pieke
  • Ivo Smits
  • Jonathan Silk
  • Hilde De Weerdt
  • Henk Schulte Nordholt
  • Adriaan Bedner
  • Ben Arps
  • Peter Bisschop
  • Maghiel van Crevel
  • Katarina Cwiertka
  • David Henley
  • Florian Schneider
  • Rint Sybesma
  • Nira Wickramasinghe Samarasinghe
  • Koen de Ceuster
  • Anne Gerritsen
  • Lindsay Black
  • Bryce Wakefield
  • Wang Jue
  • Jos Gommans
  • Jeroen Duindam
  • Alicia Schrikker

Frank PiekeAcademic Director / Professor of Chinese Studies

Topics: The Chinese Communist Party, transnationalism and cultural diversity, Chinese migration and ethnicity in Europe, international immigrant groups in China.

+31 (0)71 527 2216

Ivo SmitsProfessor of Japanese Studies

Topics: Early medieval classical Japanese and Chinese texts , bilinguism, poet-patron networks, concepts of imagination and representation

+31 (0)71 527 2545

Jonathan SilkProfessor of Buddhist Studies

Topics: Oldest Buddhist primary sources, the rise of Buddhist communities in Asia

+31 (0)71 527 2510

Hilde De WeerdtProfessor of Chinese Studies

Topics: Imperial Chinese intellectual and political history, elite networks

+31 (0)71 527 6505

Henk Schulte NordholtProfessor of Indonesian History

Topics: Southeast Asian history, contemporary politics in Indonesia, political violence, colonialism

+31 (0)71 527 2727

Adriaan BednerProfessor of Law and Society in Indonesia

Topics: Indonesian Ombudsman, legal education, Indonesian law

+31 (0)71 527 7252

Ben ArpsProfessor of Indonesian and Javanese Language and Culture

Topics: Religion, promotion and propaganda, cultural policy, language

+31 (0)71 527 2222

Peter BisschopProfessor of Sanskrit and Ancient Cultures of South Asia

Topics: Historical development and spread of classical Hinduism

+31 (0)71 527 2980

Maghiel van CrevelProfessor of Chinese Language and Literature

Topics: Literature, culture and language, language acquisition, translation, contemporary Chinese poetry

+31 (0)71 527 2145

Katarina CwiertkaProfessor of Modern Japan Studies

Topics: Material Culture and Consumption, History and Anthropology of Food, Anthropology of Colonialism and War, Globalisation Japan/Korea/East Asia

+31 (0)71 527 2599

David HenleyProfessor of Contemporary Indonesia Studies

Topics: Politics, history and geography of Southeast Asia, particularly Indonesia

+31 (0)71 527 2226

Florian SchneiderUniversity Lecturer

Topics: Governance and public administration in China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong, political communication strategies and political content of popular Chinese entertainment, recent Chinese economic developments, Chinese foreign policy.

+31 (0)71 527 2544

Rint SybesmaProfessor of Chinese Linguistics

Topics: Sinitic and non-Sinitic languages of China

+31 (0)71 527 2529

Nira Wickramasinghe SamarasingheProfessor of Modern South Asian Studies

Topics: Identity politics, everyday life under colonialism, the relationship between state and society in modern South Asia

+31 (0)71 527 2982

Koen de CeusterUniversity Lecturer

Topics: History of modern Korea, history of colonial Korea, historiography and the politics of memory in contemporary Korea, Inter-Korean affairs, North Korean art

+31 (0)71 527 2603

Anne GerritsenProfessor of Asia-Europe Intercultural Dynamics

Topics: Food and foodcultures of early modern Asia and Europe, Late imperial Chinese history and culture, Global history, Material culture and global connections, porcelain

+31 (0)71 527 4692

Lindsay BlackUniversity Lecturer

Topics: East Asian Studies, international relations, international relations of East Asia, Japan’s response to pirates, terrorists and rogue states

+31 (0)71 527 2218

Bryce WakefieldUniversity Lecturer

Topics: Foreign and defence policies of Japan, domestic Japanese political discourse, political marketing in Japan, international relations, comparative politics East Asia, esp. Japan

+31 (0)71 527 6176

Wang JueUniversity Lecturer

Topics: Chinese economy, China’s role in the global political economy, China’s relationship with other emerging economies, China’s outward investment, International organizations, especially the IMF, World Bank and Asian Development Bank

+31 (0)71 527 7947

Jos GommansProfessor of Colonial and Global History

Topics: Global history, colonial history, early-modern history, Indian Ocean, Mughal India, early-modern Islamic empires, South Asian Islam, military history, history of globalization, diasporas, Dutch orientalism and Enlightenment

+31 (0)71 527 2167

Jeroen DuindamProfessor of Early Modern History, Comparative History

Topics: Comparative study of courts, rulers, and elites, dynastic courts in Europe (mostly France, the Holy Roman Empire and the Austrian Habsburg lands) and the world (focus on Ottoman empire, Late Imperial China and Africa). Principal investigator NWO-Horizon programme Eurasian Empires (2011-2016)

+31 (0)71 527 2759

Alicia SchrikkerUniversity Lecturer

Topics: Asian history, colonial history, disasters, Dutch East India Company, global history

+31 (0)71 527 2769


Language as a basis

Learning a language forms the basis of learning about Asia in Leiden. Only when you have mastered a language can you talk to the people from the country in which you are conducting your research and learn about their life and the lives of those around them. Furnished with this knowledge, master’s students and PhD candidates are encouraged to travel to a country and conduct research there. Leiden University thus has a long tradition of language acquisition and teaching.

Professor of Korea Studies Remco Breuker with students Professor of Korea Studies Remco Breuker with students

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