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 Governess’, 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 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 Britain, Europe and Prehistory , while coins from the region are kept in the Department of Coins and Medals.

Research facilities

Kitagawa Utamaro, Women sewing, a triptych of colour woodblock prints

Department of Asia study room

The study room is open by appointment on Wednesdays.


Please contact us for further details.


More about public research facilities 

Publications and bibliography

Asante Gold Regalia

Publications by staff in the Department of Asia 

Reading list

This list aims to provide an introduction to publications on the cultures of Asia represented in the British Museum collection:

Curatorial staff

See all