The Oriental Museum’s Chinese collections include more than 10,000 objects, with particular strengths in ceramics and jade and hardstone carvings.
The ceramic collection of around 1,000 pieces ranges in date from the Neolithic (around 2500 BCE) through to contemporary works by leading ceramic artists such as Li Lihong and Zhu Le Geng. More than 400 pieces from the collection were originally owned by the Rt. Hon. Malcolm MacDonald (1901-1981), who collected fine examples from the Song, Ming and Qing dynasties. These include several imperial ceramics that would have been used by members of the imperial household. You can find out more about this collection in our online exhibition. Beauty and Diplomacy: The Malcolm MacDonald Collections
The Museum’s collection of Chinese jade and hardstones is one of the largest in the UK and consists of more than 2,000 pieces. Jade has long been used in China for burial, ritual, decorative and practical uses. The collection was developed by Sir Charles Hardinge (1878-1968), who had a strong interest in early burial jades, and Gerard Arnhold (1918-2010), who amassed a considerable collection of extremely high-quality Ming and Qing dynasty pieces.
The largest object in the Museum’s collections, and a firm favourite with visitors, is the magnificent bed with carved boxwood and ivory panels, dating to the first half of the 19th century.
The collection also includes:
Carvings in ivory, bamboo, wood and tortoiseshell
Costume, including embroidered silk dragon robes, footwear, headgear and ethnic minority costume
19th and early 20th century photography
Painting and calligraphy on silk and paper
Paper cuts and paintings on pith
Woodcut prints by some of China’s leading late 20th and early 21st century artists.
The MacDonald Gallery of China is currently closed to visitors until early 2024.
As part of the Oriental Museum's ongoing commitment to updating and developing our permanent displays, we are creating new displays focused on our world class collections of Chinese ceramics. State of the art new display cases are being installed along the entire length of our Chinese gallery early in 2024. We have now closed the gallery to allow us to prepare for this.
We look forward to welcoming visitors to enjoy the new displays in Spring 2024.