More than a third of the Asian material comes from Gertrude Benham’s collection, which is particularly strong in jewellery and charms from Northern India, the Himalayas and Tibet.
In the 1920s Benham caused government officials no end of trouble with her constant requests to enter Tibet via a forbidden route. Find out more about her adventures in this document:
Textiles and costume
The Asian collection also contains a good selection of textiles and costume of fine quality, most notably Chinese clothing. Artefacts include a bridal robe embroidered with gold dragons, symbolic landscapes and lucky emblems, and tiny shoes made for bound feet.
Francis Brent collection
Francis Brent donated a huge amount of archaeological material from the local area, but his collection also includes around 40 pieces from East Asia, mostly Chinese soapstone figures. These statuettes represent some of the Eight Immortals of Daoist philosophy as well as other characters from Chinese religious tradition.
West Asian metalwork
We also have a number of metalwork objects from West Asia such as a bracelet from Turkey, a coffee pot from Kuwait and a rose water sprinkler from Iran. To find out more about these objects and their historical context you can read the West Asian Metalwork report by Independent Curator, Ken Teague.
Note: The museum uses the Pinyin system of writing Chinese words as opposed to the Wade-Giles system which was widely used in the 20th century. Hence ‘Daoism’ rather than ‘Taoism’ and ‘Li Tieguai’ as opposed to ‘Li Tieh-Kuai’.