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Asian Art

Asian

The collection of Asian art at the Metropolitan Museum—more than 35,000 objects, ranging in date from the third millennium B.C. to the twenty-first century—is one of the largest and is the most comprehensive in the West. Each of the many civilizations of Asia is represented by outstanding works, providing an unrivaled experience of the artistic traditions of nearly half the world.

Now at the Met

Hokusai and Debussy's Evocations of the Sea

Michael Cirigliano II, Website Editor, Digital Media Department

Posted: Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Numerous representations of the sea are woven into the work of Claude Debussy (1862–1918). The French composer regularly referenced his awe of the sea and its power, and even noted that he had "intended for the noble career of a sailor" in a 1912 letter to close friend and composer André Messager. Although the sea had already played a recurring character throughout much of his piano music, the first appearance of this subject in Debussy's orchestral output was the final movement of his 1899 work Trois Nocturnes, "Sirènes," in which he gave life to the deadly mythological seductresses by adding a wordless female choir to the standard orchestral forces.

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In Pursuit of Authenticity: The Epigraphic School of Chinese Calligraphy

Shi-yee Liu, Assistant Research Curator of Chinese Art, Department of Asian Art

Posted: Wednesday, July 16, 2014

"The Administrator of Kuaiji [Wang Xizhi, ca. 303–ca. 361] is all mannerist cliché.
As the study of calligraphy declines, I enjoy a free rein with a laugh.
Scornful of following known calligraphers like a maid,
I take the stone tablet of Mount Hua as my master."

In 1736, leading artist Jin Nong (1687–1773) wrote this iconoclastic quatrain that reflects a momentous turning point in the development of Chinese calligraphy during his time. Abandoning the venerated tradition defined by the classic elegance of its patriarch, Wang Xizhi, Jin Nong turned to an earlier, less-sophisticated model—stone inscriptions of the ancient Han dynasty (206 b.c.–a.d. 220)—for guidance.

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Hokusai's Iconic "Great Wave"

John Carpenter, Curator, Department of Asian Art

Posted: Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The world-renowned landscape print "Under the Wave off Kanagawa"—also known as "the Great Wave"—is now on view in Gallery 231, complementing paintings by Katsushika Hokusai (1760–1849) and his pupils that are currently on display as part of the exhibition The Flowering of Edo Period Painting: Japanese Masterworks from the Feinberg Collection.

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Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month at the Met

Donna Williams, Chief Audience Development Officer

Posted: Friday, May 23, 2014

May is Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month, a celebration of Asians and Pacific Islanders in the United States. This month affords us the opportunity to reflect on the various achievements and traditions of so many of our neighbors, friends, and family members. The Metropolitan's permanent collection and current exhibitions offer a calm and reflective setting for appreciating the art from this part of the world.

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Find the Chinese Treasury—if You Dare

Denise Patry Leidy, Curator, Department of Asian Art

Posted: Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Florence and Herbert Irving Galleries for Chinese Decorative Arts, located on the mezzanine at the north end of the Museum, are filled with extraordinary objects made in materials that include silk, lacquer, and jade. These galleries can only be reached by an elevator or a staircase from the Chinese painting galleries, however, so finding the artworks displayed there can be categorized as "extreme" museum-going: It takes true commitment.

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Journeys to Divinity: A Preview

Kurt Behrendt, Assistant Curator, Department of Asian Art

Posted: Thursday, May 15, 2014

The upcoming Met Museum Presents talk Journeys to Divinity, along with the current exhibition Tibet and India: Buddhist Traditions and Transformations, touch on how imagery functions to convey complex social and religious meanings—a concept occurring today in a myriad of contexts, as the Internet penetrates deeper into our communal experience. Gonkar Gyatso considers just such media in his construction Dissected Buddha, which draws from fragments of pop culture, mass media, and advertising in a way that appeals to a broad audience and breaks down both language and geographic boundaries.

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Toward Transcendent Enlightenment: Buddhist Sites in Central Tibet

Kurt Behrendt, Assistant Curator, Department of Asian Art

Posted: Thursday, May 15, 2014

As mentioned in a previous post, I conducted two survey trips in preparation for the exhibition Tibet and India: Buddhist Traditions and Transformations (on view through June 8), which focuses on eleventh- and twelfth-century connections and interactions between the Buddhist communities of Tibet and India. My trip to central Tibet in September 2010 allowed me to visit and study many of the extant Buddhist monasteries there, and to survey the wall painting preserved in monastic sacred structures.

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Glimpses of Joy and Sorrow in Chen Hongshou's Calligraphy Album

Shi-yee Liu, Assistant Research Curator of Chinese Art, Department of Asian Art

Posted: Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Calligraphy is considered the premier art form in Chinese culture because it so directly reflects an artist's character and mentality. Sequences of lines and dots trace the creative process with utmost immediacy, and one can envision the movements of the calligrapher's hand and sense his mood, while the words—especially poetry of one's own composition—convey his thoughts. The calligraphy album of Chen Hongshou (1599–1652), currently featured in the exhibition Out of Character: Decoding Chinese Calligraphy—Selections from the Collection of Akiko Yamazaki and Jerry Yang, exemplifies this unique union of visual and verbal arts.

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Now at the Met

Decoding Chinese Calligraphy

Joseph Scheier-Dolberg, Assistant Curator, Department of Asian Art

Posted: Tuesday, May 6, 2014

In the year 1561, the scholar, painter, and calligrapher Wen Peng sat down at his desk to write out the Thousand-Character Classic, a sixth-century poem often used by Chinese calligraphers to build or maintain their brush skills. The sixty-three-year-old Wen Peng was no stranger to the Thousand-Character Classic—he had likely written it several hundred times during his life, and no doubt knew the text by heart. But this time he did something unusual: He transcribed the text in a form of writing known as "clerical script," an archaic script used primarily for commemorative purposes; and he wrote the characters larger than normal, filling oversized sheets of paper with just twelve characters each.

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Cross-Departmental Dialogue: The Rock and the Revolution

Xin Wang, Research Assistant, Department of Asian Art

Posted: Friday, April 4, 2014

At the moment, we have on two different sides of the Museum great examples of contemporary artists who have created works that deal with history, politics, and social realities in their respective regions using stop-motion animation: The Refusal of Time (2012), an installation by William Kentridge (b. 1955) currently on view in the Modern and Contemporary Art galleries, and a selection of videos in the exhibition Ink Art: Past as Present in Contemporary China by artists Chen Shaoxiong (b. 1962), Qiu Anxiong (b. 1972) and Sun Xun (b. 1980). Qiu and Sun in particular have acknowledged Kentridge as a source of inspiration. I spoke with Ian Alteveer, associate curator in the Department of Modern and Contemporary Art, about the connections between Kentridge's film and several videos in Ink Art.

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On Pots, Poets, and Poetry

Denise Patry Leidy, Curator, Department of Asian Art

Posted: Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The shadowy, newly blossomed plum tree and crescent moon painted on the interior of a black-glazed tea bowl (fig. 1) and delicately incised into the center of a green-glazed bowl (fig.2), both of which are now on view in the Great Hall Balcony, illustrate a complex web of cultural allusions. Understood as references to the ephemeral nature of life, plum blossoms also symbolize hope and endurance: They are the first flowers to bloom in early spring as winter begins to fade.

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Tibetan Buddhist Art in the Twenty-First Century

Kurt Behrendt, Assistant Curator, Department of Asian Art

Posted: Wednesday, March 12, 2014

A rapidly evolving contemporary art movement has emerged both in Tibet and across the world in conjunction with the Tibetan diaspora, offering a wide range of perspectives on Buddhism and modern Buddhist practice. Two contemporary Tibetan artists currently featured in the exhibition Tibet and India: Buddhist Traditions and Transformations, Tenzing Rigdol and Gonkar Gyatso, both address Buddhist themes, but their intended audiences are global in scope, and their works are primarily vehicles of artistic expression and vision rather than objects of devotion. Nonetheless, merely presenting a Buddha or bodhisattva in a work of art charges it with a certain meaning, regardless of artistic intent. Buddhist ideas, traditional texts, and the current monastic tradition ground these images historically in a religious context, even if a contemporary viewer might not necessarily read them as "Buddhist art."

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Now at the Met

In the Footsteps of Buddhist Pilgrims: Sites in North India

Kurt Behrendt, Assistant Curator, Department of Asian Art

Posted: Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Last year, in preparation for the exhibition Tibet and India: Buddhist Traditions and Transformations (on view through June 8), I traveled to India to see about a dozen major museum collections. (In 2010 I conducted a similar survey in Tibet, which will be the subject of my next post.) While I was in India I also had the opportunity to study many of the major tenth- to twelfth-century Buddhist sites in the northern part of the country—sites made sacred by the actions of the Buddha. I spent most of my time in Bihar, but I also visited Buddhist centers in Odisha on the east coast.

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Now at the Met

What Beautiful Dreams Are Made Of

Xin Wang, Research Assistant, Department of Asian Art

Posted: Friday, February 14, 2014

Duan Jianyu's Beautiful Dream series (2008), currently displayed in the exhibition Ink Art: Past as Present in Contemporary China, showcases clichéd renderings of tourist attractions and scenic Chinese landscapes on flattened cardboard boxes. The charming naiveté of the silhouetted forms belies her witty treatment of the banal subjects and materials: soda-can rings reinforce the Great Wall's bulk, and an exposed area of corrugation simulates rippling water, animating an otherwise bland Guilin representation where the distinct Karst mountain forms are typically shown with reflections in the Li River. By playing with these surface particularities, the artist seems to celebrate the cardboard's well-worn materiality rather than merely exploiting its symbolism to critique consumer culture.

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Ten Reasons to Visit Silla: Korea's Golden Kingdom

Denise Patry Leidy, Curator, Department of Asian Art; and Soyoung Lee, Associate Curator, Department of Asian Art

Posted: Friday, February 14, 2014

With just ten days remaining until the special exhibition Silla: Korea's Golden Kingdom closes on February 23, here are our top ten reasons to visit (or revisit) these exquisite treasures.

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Modern Technology Meets Ancient Art in Silla: Korea's Golden Kingdom

Soyoung Lee, Associate Curator, Department of Asian Art; and Denise Patry Leidy, Curator, Department of Asian Art

Posted: Friday, January 31, 2014

Do you like the digital media in the exhibition Silla: Korea's Golden Kingdom? Ranging from an eye-catching, wide-screen projection of a majestic burial site to a 3D animation of a famous monument, the technology in the exhibition is there to enhance a visitor's experience of the art on display.

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Celestial Steeds: A Celebration of the Year of the Horse

Zhixin Jason Sun, Curator, Department of Asian Art

Posted: Tuesday, January 28, 2014

To celebrate the Year of the Horse, the Metropolitan Museum is presenting a selection of exceptional works in Gallery 207 for a limited period.

Since its domestication in prehistoric times, the horse has played an essential role in Chinese life. During the Shang and Zhou dynasties (ca. 1600–256 B.C.) horse-drawn chariots were a sign of high social status and the premier weapon of war. By the fourth century B.C., increasing encounters with nomadic horsemen led to the adoption of mounted cavalry as a dominant force in the battles between rival states that culminated with the unification of the country and establishment of the first Chinese empire—the Qin dynasty (221–206 B.C.).

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Small Delights: Chinese Snuff Bottles

Zhixin Jason Sun, Curator, Department of Asian Art

Posted: Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The current exhibition Small Delights: Chinese Snuff Bottles (on view through June 15, 2014) is drawn entirely from the Museum's extensive collection, and features many works that haven't been shown in decades. These exquisite miniatures not only illustrate the extraordinary technical virtuosity and refined aesthetic sensibility achieved by Qing craftsmen, but also provide a window on life and culture in late imperial China.

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Peacocks and Dragons, Oh My!

Denise Patry Leidy, Curator, Department of Asian Art

Posted: Friday, January 3, 2014

The lush green hue of this Chinese court robe was created using peacock feathers, which were twisted onto silk threads before weaving the garment. The use of such peacock-feather threads is thought to have begun in China in the fifth century. However, the first preserved examples date to the early seventeenth century, and costumes woven with peacock feathers are extremely rare. This robe, which has not been displayed for more than fifty years, is now on view in Power and Prestige: Chinese Dragon Robes, 18th–21st Century.

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Precious Punctuation?

Soyoung Lee, Associate Curator, Department of Asian Art; and Denise Patry Leidy, Curator, Department of Asian Art

Posted: Friday, December 27, 2013

Dragons? Cashews? Crescent moons? What are those comma-shaped ornaments seen in the exhibition Silla: Korea's Golden Kingdom?

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Now at the Met offers in-depth articles and multimedia features about the Museum's current exhibitions, events, research, announcements, behind-the-scenes activities, and more.