The Chinese collection begins with a small collection of items from the 2nd millenium BC, notable for its diversity of textiles and embroidery in good condition, such as those from the Hun burial at Noin-Ula.
The most important group of works of Far Eastern art is of course associated with Buddhism: statues of deities and monks, fragments of wall paintings of the 5th to 10th centuries from the monastery of Qian-fuo-dong (‘The Cave of a Thousand Buddhas') at Dunhuang. Monasteries in the oases of Eastern Turkestan, now part of China, provided items dating from the 5th to15th centuries, which are of great importance in the study of Buddhism.
Worthy of particular note are objects from the archaeological complex at Khara-Khoto (Mongolian for ‘Black City'), excavated by expeditions led by the Russian explorer P. K. Kozlov in 1908-1909 and 1923-1926. The Khara-Khoto collection consists of unique paintings and sculptures from the period when Central Asia was dominated by the Tangut state of Xi-Xia (existed from 982 to 1227) on the north-western border of the Chinese Empire.
This collection also includes many objects of Chinese applied art, high quality examples of those objects which seem so familiar and typically ‘Chinese' to us today – ceramics and porcelain, metalwork, enamels, ivory, lacquer and jewellery pieces, over 1,000 pieces of stone-carving and others.
Traditional Chinese painting is represented by just a small number of works, the most important created by the celebrated 20th-century artists Hsu Pei-hung and Chi'i Pai-shih. There are also over 3,000 Chinese New Year woodcuts, nianhua, dating from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, illustrating the entire spiritual culture of ancient China.
Head of a Monk
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