Leiden University, Faculty of Humanities
Human beings desire beautiful things, and when those things come from far away, they become even more desirable. Unsurprisingly, then, today’s museum collections are full of objects that have travelled long distances to satisfy the desires of human beings. But it wasn’t just objects that travelled: materials, design ideas, and technologies also travelled, especially within regions and during periods in which contacts intensified. The objects that emerge from the exchange between Asia and Europe we call ‘transcultural objects’.
For some years now, the Chair of Asian Art at the University of Leiden has offered an MA course to students who are interested in the material culture of exchange between Asia and Europe, especially in the period 1500 to 1800. They visit various Dutch museum collections and find those objects that can be described as transcultural. Often such objects are classified as either Japanese or Chinese or as European, when they have far more interesting stories to tell.
The students have made their own selections, and have worked together on eliciting the stories from these objects. By bringing these objects together in a single zone, we are not trying to create a new category, but to bring together objects that bear the traces of interactions and exchange in similar ways. We hope you enjoy them!