The Asian Art Museum is one of the largest museums in the Western world devoted exclusively to Asian art and culture. Home to more than 18,000 works of art from over 40 Asian countries, we strive to be a catalyst for discovery, dialogue, and inspiration. With Asia as our lens and art as our cornerstone, we spark connections across cultures and through time, igniting curiosity, conversation, and creativity.
Community Questions

Introduction

“Asia” is a term invented by the Greeks and Romans and developed by Western geographers. Culturally, no “Asia” exists, and the peoples who inhabit “Asia” often have little in common with each other. Recognizing the diversity of the huge area conventionally designated “Asia,” the Asian Art Museum has arranged its collections into seven general groupings.

South Asia

What are often thought of as “Indian” art and culture spread not only throughout the modern nation of India but also through Pakistan and Bangladesh. This huge area was never politically unified except under British colonial rule (1858–1947). Earlier, various kingdoms and principalities controlled large or small areas, and occasionally a conqueror created a vast empire.

Southeast Asia

Only in the past sixty years has “Southeast Asia” been used to refer to the region comprising modern-day Burma (Myanmar), Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Brunei, and the Philippines. These ten countries cover an area more than three times that of Great Britain, France, and Germany combined, and they have a population about twice as great.

The Himalayas and the Tibetan Buddhist World

The Himalayas are the highest mountain ranges in the world, and from them flow the major rivers of Asia. The kingdoms of Nepal and Bhutan are located along the Himalayan ranges, and the Tibetan plateau lies to their north. Although the Himalayas are nearly impassible, many peoples have managed the crossing and left traces of their cultures.

China

Many products and technologies that were first developed in China—silk, porcelain, gunpowder, tea, paper, and woodblock printing—were much sought after by cultures far beyond its borders.

Korea

Few people are aware that the name Korea is derived from the name of the Goryeo (previously transliterated as Koryo) dynasty. It was during this period (918–1392) that Korea became known to the world outside East Asia.

Japan

Part of a long archipelago off the eastern rim of the Asian continent, the island country of Japan has four main islands: Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyushu.

Hinduism

Hinduism has no historical founder, and no central authority. It includes enormously diverse beliefs and practices, which vary over time and among individuals, communities, and regional areas. Its authority—its beliefs and practices—rests on a large body of sacred texts that may date back more than 3,000 years.

Buddhism

Buddhism has deeply influenced the character and evolution of Asian civilization over the past 2,500 years. It is based on the teachings of a historical figure, Siddhartha Gautama, who lived around the fifth century B.C.E. As it moved across Asia, Buddhism absorbed indigenous beliefs and incorporated a wide range of imagery, both local and foreign, into its art and religious practices. Buddhism continues to evolve as a religion in many parts of the world.

Islam

Islam has been an important cultural force in much of Asia for more than five hundred years, and in some parts for more than a thousand. Today, far more Muslims live in other parts of Asia than in the Arab areas of Asia such as Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Syria.

Art Conservation

Art conservation work includes treatment and preventive care, scholarly research on materials and techniques, and development of new conservation methods to address the changing needs of a growing museum. The Conservation Center at the Asian Art Museum shares the mandate of the museum to create a deeper level of understanding of Asian cultures by our visitors. Through cooperative exchanges, joint projects, and public outreach, art conservation can provide a unique window into shared traditions of art preservation, restoration and fabrication.