Arts of China: Ancient to Early Modern

Online course

+44 (0)20 7942 2000

From ancient tombs to the Forbidden City in Beijing, this Chinese art course maps the evolution of Chinese material and visual culture. Jades, bronzes, textiles and ceramics in addition to paintings and manuscripts illuminate our understanding of diverse artistic traditions across time and space.

You can learn from our world-class experts wherever you are, whenever suits you: watch lectures live or view the recording later in your own time. You can experience the full breadth and depth of the V&A's collections with more than 40 hours of study over 12 weeks. Learn at your own pace: lecture recordings and study materials, lecture notes, copies of the presentations, and additional study materials are available in our secure Microsoft Teams environment for up to 12 weeks after the course ends, so you'll never miss a thing. And finally, join the conversation: share your perspective with your fellow students, and support each other in your further enquiries outside of class time.

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course photo
Portrait of Course Director Dr Helen Glaister

Course Director
Dr Helen Glaister

Dr Helen Glaister is an art historian specializing in Chinese Ceramics and Decorative Arts. Helen previously worked at the British Museum, and is Senior Teaching Fellow at SOAS. Research interests include Chinese export porcelain, collections history and cultural interactions between China and Europe in the long 18th century.

For me the whole thing has been a revelation Previous Arts of China Course Attendee

Course overview

From ancient jade and bronze age China, this course follows the development of Chinese art up to the early modern period. Early tomb architecture and burial goods offer insights into diverse practices and beliefs, shedding light on the emergence of Daoism and Confucianism.

The flourishing Silk Routes opened trade through land and sea, facilitating the influx of luxury items to China - silver, glass and precious stones - and the export of silk and ceramics prized as rare commodities abroad. Buddhism travelled the same routes bringing a fresh religious approach and introducing a new artistic language from the Indic and distant Hellenistic world.

By the Ming dynasty, Chinese ceramics had become a global commodity and were unsurpassed for their skillful decoration and fine porcelain bodies. The visual arts reflected a highly sophisticated civil society for which collecting Chinese art was an important leisurely pursuit.


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V&A Academy Online courses are built using the latest Microsoft software. Tune in to expert lectures live, or catch up later on demand. Download handouts and presentations. Join the discussion in a secure, closed class environment, wherever you are.

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Online course: Arts of China: Ancient to Early Modern

18 September 2023 - 4 December 2023


Call to book +44 (0)20 7942 2000

Need help enrolling? Talk to the admissions team:

+44 (0)20 7942 2000

Open 10.00 - 13.00, Monday to Sunday (closed 24-26 December)

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Header image: Visiting a friend in the mountains, Painting, ink and colours on paper, China, Ming dynasty, ca. 1550-1600, © Victoria and Albert Museum, London