Chinese Art Collection
New Chinese Galleries
Ancestors, Ritual, and the Tomb: the Ancient Chinese Art Galleries
Galleries 231 & 232
The ancient Chinese believed fervently in ancestors, spirits and the afterlife. In these two new galleries, you can explore this mysterious world through the artifacts these beliefs inspired.
Stunning bronze ritual vessels displayed in gallery 232 were used for offering grain wine and food to the ancestors, axes were used to decapitate human victims, and musical bells were used to communicate the harmony of the world to the spirits.
In gallery 231 you will encounter stunning luxuries—jade, gilt bronze, and lacquer—as well as ceramic models that symbolically perpetuated the wealth and social status of the elite in the afterlife.
Since it opened in 1933, The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art has actively collected, preserved, studied and exhibited works of Chinese art. Even before the Museum was built, its benefactors planned to include in it the first major gallery in America devoted solely to Chinese art. As early as 1930, the focus was to build a collection that would represent China’s highest achievements in every medium and from every historical period. As a result, the Chinese collection is one of the finest in the world.
With more than 7,500 works of high quality, the Chinese collection comprises masterpieces from every historical stage and in every medium of China’s artistic activity – from Neolithic times to the 20th century.
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The collection of Chinese paintings is one of the best outside Asia particularly in the rarest and desirable period of early Chinese landscapes, the 10th through 13th centuries C.E. The richness of nature’s nuances can be seen in Xu Daoning’s Fisherman’s Evening Song, arguably the greatest surviving Northern Song landscape handscroll. Later period works include exceptional Ming and Qing paintings, such as Shitao’s A Landscape Album for Liu Shitou (K'u-kua miao-t'i).
As a pioneer in collecting Ming furniture, the Museum’s collection is virtually unrivaled outside of China. The comprehensive ceramics collection spans 5,000 years and includes both sculptures and wares that chronicle the great epochs of Chinese ceramic innovations.
Buddhist sculpture and wall paintings range from the Northern Dynasties to the Qing period and offer some of the best examples of Buddhist art in the west. A jewel of the Museum is the Chinese Temple Gallery (Gallery 230). Among Buddhist statues exhibited here is an 11th/12th-century C.E. polychrome wooden Avalokiteshvara, Seated Guanyin Bodhisattva, internationally heralded as the finest sculpture of its kind outside China.