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Sugoi! Start of Leiden Asia Year

Throughout the coming year, all attention in Leiden will be on Asia. This special year, featuring numerous Asian events, conferences, exhibitions and concerts, celebrates the new Asian Library at Leiden University. Come and read, watch, listen, taste or dance Bollywood style.

Opening Asian Library

It's no coincidence that the Asian Library - a brand-new storey on top of the University Library - is located here. For centuries Leiden has been the international hub for knowledge and culture on Asia, due at least in part to the collaboration with Asia experts throughout the world. Leiden is the only university in the Netherlands to offer programmes in Korean, Chinese and Japanese. Over the years, extensive special collections have been amassed on such regions as Indonesia, China, Japan and Korea, and these collections are housed under one roof. The existing diverse collections have now been extended to include the rich collections from the KITLV and the KIT. 

The Asian Library on the roof of the University Library.

World's largest collection on Indonesia

The Asian Library includes more than 30 kilometres of rare books, prints, letters, photos and newspapers. 'We have one of the largest collections on Asia in the western world, and we even have the biggest collection on Indonesia,' commented Kurt de Belder, director of the Leiden University Libraries. The new library will be open for use on 30 March and the official opening is on 14 September.

One of the prime exhibits from the KITLV collection: the autobiography of Prince Diponegoro of Java (1785-1855).

Asian Year

The Asian Library is the impetus for the Leiden Asia Year that starts officially on the Dies Natalis on 8 February. During the celebrations, historian Frank Dikötter, professor a the University of Hongkong, will be awarded an honorary doctorate for his work on the People's Republic of China under Mao. In his lecture, Jan Michiel Otto, Leiden Professor of Law in Developing Countries, will analyse developments in the legal systems of Asian Muslim countries. In the second lecture, Maria Yazdanbakhsh, Professor of Parasitology in Leiden, will talk about the increasingly intensive cooperation between the Netherlands and Indonesia.

Healthcare in Indonesia is one of the focal areas during the Dies Natalis.  

Cool Japan and other exhibitions

With more than 30 partners, including Leiden museums, the University is organising a broad range of events, conferences and exhibitions. Asia as a source of inspiration is the theme of the A Buddha in the Backyard exhibition in the University Library (until 9 May). This will be followed by an exhibitions on 18 May about Sanskrit, and 14 September will see the start of Mapping Asia. Leiden'sHortus botanicus is devoting an exhibition to special Asian plants: Crown jewels of Asia (14 April to 7 October). Hello Kitty, samurai, films, robots, high-tech gadgets and cartoons that are sugoi (crazy!): all these will be on show in the Cool Japan  exhibition at the National Museum of Ethnicity  (14 April to 17 September). The Von Sieboldhuis Japan Museum exhibits special collections throughout the year, including antique tools, clothing and art.

Cool Japan exhibition. Photo: Museum Volkenkunde.  


Many more Asia researchers than usual will be coming to Leiden this year because of the many academic conferences being held here. There will be the opening conference on 9 February on China and the country's relationship with the Netherlands and Europe, a congress on Vietnam and Korea (3 - 4 March), a symposium on the decolonisation war in Netherlands Indonesia (13 May) and a congress on the decolonisation of Congo and Netherlands Indonesia (20 October).  


Even more lectures will be given on such topics as living and working in China (12 February), Daoism (17 February) Buddhism (24 February) and a series of lectures for the University of the Third Age in collaboration with Leiden's Hortus Botanicus on the biogeography of Indonesia (31 March - 28 April. This year's Van Vollenhoven lecture will be on Indonesian law (18 May). 


Films from Asia will also be in the spotlight. ‘Framing Asia’ is a monthly film evening throughout the Asia year, organised by KITLV in collaboration with Leiden's Studium Generale and the Institute of Anthropology. The first film (7 February) is about transgenders in Indonesia. The showing of the film will be followed by a discussioin with the film-makers and Leiden researchers. Short Asian films can be seen at the CinemaAsia Film Festival (14 September). The Leiden International Film Festival (26 October - 5 November) will also show a range of films by leading Asian directors.


Students are closely involved in the Leiden Asia Year. The Sinoloogy study association is organising a careers congress (1 - 3 March) on career possibilities for Sinologists. Eighty students of the minor in Journalism and New Media are writing a blog called Reistafel in which they analyse all conceivable aspects of meals, such as the cultural-historical significance of food in different cultures. 


Colourful kimonos, bonsai trees and of course fresh sushi: all these can be seen on 4 June at the 400-metre long Japan market along the Rapenburg.  This year, the international cultural festival Europalia Indonesia (10 October 2017 to 21 January 2018) will be held for the first time in Leiden, presenting a mix of Indonesian traditions and contemporary culture, including literature and music. The exact programme has not yet been decided. More information will follow via: LeidenAsiaYear.nl 

The LAK theatre will give a worskhop on Bollywood dancing. 

Workshops on haikus and Bollywood dancing

Azia lovers can do much more than just listen and watch: how about writing haikus, Chinese calligraphy, Bollywood dancing or maybe Indonesian dancing. It's all possible in the workshops on Asian art and culture organised by the LAK theatre (25 and 26 March). If you like walking, the Asia walking tour published by Brill takes in all Leiden's Asian hot spots. The KITLV will be making the Envisioning Asia app available, that shows visitors to Leiden similar memorable spots in Indonesia. 


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