China and South Asia (Room 33)

The Sir Joseph Hotung Gallery

Prehistory – present

Reopening after a major refurbishment, this beautiful gallery explores the cultures of China and South Asia through a range of magnificent objects.



One half of the gallery presents the histories of China from 5000 BC to the present.

From iconic Ming dynasty blue-and-white porcelain to delicate handscrolls, from magnificent Tang dynasty tomb figurines to modern works of art, the displays feature the richness of art and material culture in China, including painting, prints, jade, bronze, lacquer and ceramics.

South Asia


The other half of the gallery presents South Asia’s many histories chronologically and by region, from early human occupation to the present.

Highlights include seals from the Indus civilisation, superb south Indian sculptures of Shiva and one of the finest statues of the goddess Tara from Sri Lanka. Sophisticated paintings and objects from the courts of the Mughal emperors can be seen alongside 20th-century paintings, including by the Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore.

Taking India to the world


One of Ravi Shankar’s sitars was donated to the British Museum and is now on display in the Sir Joseph Hotung Gallery of China and South Asia.

In this video, Shankar’s daughter Anoushka Shankar plays extracts from two compositions on the sitar that was owned by her father. The first is a composition by her father based on the Carnatic raga Charu Keshi, in the rhythmic cycle of teental (16 beats). The second is Anoushka’s own improvisation on the raga Manj Khamaj.

Find out more about this instrument in this video: