Department of Asia
The Department of Asia covers the material and visual cultures of Asia – a vast geographical area embracing Japan, Korea, China, Central Asia, Afghanistan, South Asia and South-East Asia. The collection spans the Neolithic, from about 4000 BCE, to the present day.
The societies and groups represented by the department’s collection range from complex urban civilisations that produced monumental remains and predominantly text-based traditions, through largely rural communities with their own versions of these traditions. It also represents the distinctive cultures and ways of life of tribal people and other minority groups.
Key areas include a large and comprehensive collection of sculpture from the Indian subcontinent, including the celebrated Buddhist limestone reliefs from Amaravati. The department also houses an outstanding range of early Japanese antiquities and an encyclopaedic collection of Japanese graphic art.
The Chinese collection is most famous for the Buddhist paintings from the Dunhuang caves in Central Asia and the ‘Admonitions of the Governess’, widely regarded as the most important scroll-painting in the history of Chinese art. The Chinese collections also include examples of lacquer, bronze, jade and definitive holdings of Chinese ceramics and porcelain. The department also has one of the earliest and largest ethnographic collections of textiles and everyday objects from South East Asia.
Elsewhere in the Museum, Near Eastern archaeology and Islam are covered by the Department of the Middle East, the pre-Neolithic by the Department of Prehistory and Europe, while coins from the region are kept in the Department of Coins and Medals.