Department of Asia
+44 (0)20 7323 8457
The Department of Asia covers the material and visual cultures of Asia, a vast geographical area embracing East, South and Southeast Asia, parts of Central Asia, and extending to Siberia. The collection spans the Neolithic, from about 5000 BC, to the present day. Represented societies and groups range from complex urban civilisations to largely rural communities; they also include the distinctive cultures and ways of life of indigenous people and other minority groups. Contemporary art and artefacts, in addition to strategic acquisitions of important historic works, fit in exciting ways into the Department’s active collecting programme.
Key areas include a large and comprehensive collection of sculpture from the Indian subcontinent, including the celebrated limestone Buddhist reliefs from Amaravati, and an outstanding range of early Japanese antiquities and graphic art.
The Chinese collection includes the Buddhist paintings from the Dunhuang caves in Central Asia and the Admonitions of the Court Instructress (also called the Admonitions scroll), widely regarded as the most important scroll-painting in the history of Chinese art. It also includes examples of lacquer, bronze, jade and Chinese ceramics and porcelain. The department also has one of the earliest and largest ethnographic collections of textiles and everyday objects from Southeast 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 Britain, Europe and Prehistory , while coins from the region are kept in the Department of Coins and Medals.
Department of Asia study room
The study room is open by appointment on Wednesdays.
Please contact us for further details.
China, India, South Asia and Southeast Asia (Room
The Joseph E Hotung Gallery
Chinese Ceramics (Room 95)
Sir Joseph Hotung Centre for Ceramic Studies
India: Amaravati (Room 33a)
The Asahi Shimbun Gallery
Chinese jade (Room 33b)
The Selwyn and Ellie Alleyne Gallery
Korea (Room 67)
The Korea Foundation Gallery
Japan (Rooms 92-4)
The Mitsubishi Corporation Japanese Galleries
16 December 2014
Sascha Priewe, curator, and Ellie Miles, Interpretation Officer, British Museum
8 December 2014
Jin Xian Qiu, Senior Conservator of Chinese Paintings and Carol Weiss, Conservator of Chinese Paintings, British Museum
1 December 2014
Dr Caroline Campbell, interim head of the Curatorial Department and Curator of Italian Paintings before 1500, National Gallery, London
Exhibitions and events
British Sign Language (BSL) videos
Publications and bibliography
This list aims to provide an introduction to publications on the cultures of Asia represented in the British Museum collection:
- Jane Portal
Keeper - Asia with speciality in China and Korea
T. Richard Blurton
Curator - South and South East Asian Collections
Curator - Japanese Collections
- Robert Cowlin
Curator - Chinese Ceramics and Vietnam
- Eleanor Hyun
Curator - Korean Collections
Project Curator - Chinese Jade
Clarissa von Spee
Curator - Chinese Collections
Curator - South Asian Collections