Significant works of art from China and Japan are displayed in the lower-level Art of East Asia gallery. Dating from the Neolithic period through to the late 20th century, sculptures, ceramics, textiles, prints and paintings introduce visitors to subjects ranging from Buddhist practices, Daoist philosophies and Chinese burial traditions to Japanese literature and theatre. Many of these superb objects have been generously donated to the national collection.
A pair of magnificent six-fold screens forms a dramatic backdrop to the East Asian gallery. Fine Buddhist sculptures and large Chinese funerary ceramics from the Han and Tang dynasties are major features of the permanent display. From China, Pixie and Tianlu, a pair of fierce protective Tang–dynasty guardian figures, a powerful terracotta saddled horse from the Han dynasty and a radiant gold image of Tara created in the Ming dynasty are highlights. An elegant Kamakura-period Amida Buddha and a striking roughly hewn sculpture by the 17th–century artist-ascetic Enku are major works of Japanese art.
Paintings, prints and textiles reveal fascinating stories, great creativity and technical mastery. Ukiyo-e prints by artist Tsukioka Yoshitoshi explore the macabre world of Japanese folklore, while Natori Shunsen’s striking images of kabuki actors and the monochrome woodcuts of Buddhist legends by Munakata Shiko demonstrate lively 20th–century innovations in Japanese print traditions. Textiles in the Gallery’s small East Asian collection include Japanese and Chinese costume for court, theatre and temple. Striking examples of Central Asian costumes and textiles are always on display.