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Collections: Chinese Art


Number of objects: more than 10,000
Historical range: Neolithic–present
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detail, The Thatched Hut of Dreaming of an Immortal

The Freer and Sackler galleries boast one of the finest museum collections of Chinese art outside of China, with over ten thousand objects dating from Neolithic times (ca. 7000–ca. 2000 B.C.E.) to the present. While the sheer number of items is impressive, it is their variety and quality that is truly remarkable, with nearly every medium and category of Chinese art represented.

Highlights of the collection include:

  • One of the world's best collections of ancient metalwork, including an exceptional representation of bronze ritual vessels and weaponry from the Shang (ca. 1600–ca. 1050 B.C.E.) and Zhou (ca. 1050–ca. 221 B.C.E.) dynasties, as well as a small collection of exquisite Tang dynasty (618–907) gold and silver objects
  • An extremely rich collection of jade objects spanning 5,000 years, including several hundred ceremonial jades dating from 3500 B.C.E. to 200 C.E., and animal carvings from the 10th to the 16th century
  • Significant representation of early Buddhist sculpture, primarily from the 6th–8th century, in stone, gilt bronze, lacquer, and wood, including examples from famous cave-temples
  • A wide-ranging collection of ceramics, including celadon wares, Tang tomb figures, burial vessels, imperial Ming dynasty (1368–1644) porcelain, and monochrome and enameled Qing dynasty (1644–1911) pieces
  • An exceptional collection of lacquer, representing various decorating techniques
  • Small but distinguished collections of textiles, carvings, and cloisonné
  • A comprehensive, world-class collection of paintings from the 10th century to modern times, representing most major schools and many important individual artists, with particular strengths in: Song and Yuan dynasty paintings (10th–14th c.); paintings of the Ming dynasty Zhe School (15th–16th c.); early Qing dynasty paintings from the 17th century, including the largest and most significant collection in the West of works by Bada Shanren (1626–1705); and commemorative portraits (17th–19th c.)
  • A collection of calligraphy including more than 300 independent works by major artists dating from the 6th century to modern times, with strong representation from the late 18th to the 20th century
  • More than 200 seals in various media, including a small but important group from the Warring States period (475–221 B.C.E.) and Han dynasty (206 B.C.E.– 220 C.E.), and a second group used by various artists and collectors from the 19th and 20th centuries