The Chinese Collections of the University Museum

By: Horace H. F. Jayne

Originally Published in 1941

View PDF

THE Museum, almost since its first establishment, included a few objects from China. For several decades, however, expansion in this field was desultory, and was confined to the addition of objects chiefly interesting for their ethnological significance. Among these were the series of Chinese, Korean and Japanese games collected by Dr. Stewart Culin during his curatorship of the Museum from 1890 to 1903, but present limitations of space do not permit their display except occasionally.

Glazed Pottery Figure of a Lohan (Arhat).32 T’ang Dynasty. Ht. 47 in.
(Described on page 50)
Museum Object Numbers: C66A / C66B
Image Number: 1594

Just before the War of 1914-18, however, Dr. George Byron Gordon, then director of the Museum, turned his attention toward assembling a comprehensive collection that would illustrate the artistic achievements of the Chinese people, especially of the earlier epochs. With the brilliance that attended any large development he conceived for the Museum, Dr. Gordon brought together in the space of a very few years a collection of outstanding quality that has grown to have an international reputation. In this Dr. Gordon was manfully assisted by the unstinted efforts of Dr. Charles C. Harrison, then president of the Museum, who enlisted the generous support of such patrons as Mr. Eldridge R. Johnson, Mr. James B. Ford, Dr. Emory R. Johnson and other connoisseurs, to enrich the collections, particularly in the field of Buddhist sculpture. Since then others have carried on the good work and have enhanced the collections with notable gifts. It should not be overlooked, either, that the development of the Chinese Section depended much upon the interest and generosity of Mr. C. T. Loo.

The Chinese Collections thus owe their growth to gifts and purchases rather than to excavations or expeditions such as have increased most of the other sections of the Museum. In 1915-16, however, a reconnaissance expedition undertaken by Carl W. Bishop discovered several important early Buddhist sites and thoroughly explored others previously reported. The Expedition covered many of the northern provinces, spent fifteen months in the field, and brought back a representative collection of objects valuable for study purposes. War made a development of the work impracticable, but it has remained one of the Museum’s objectives to resume and extend its archaeological research in the Chinese field, when circumstances permit.

In the following pages an effort has been made to touch on the chief pieces usually exhibited in the Chinese galleries, in order to make available to the visitor a little more background material than can be provided by labels. Each object that is described in detail in the text is reproduced on a nearby page. Where further information which should be recorded about the individual pieces is available, but which is not of immediate interest to the user of the handbook, this will be found in Appendix I, where, too, is a general bibliography for each object of importance. The reference numbers appearing in the captions and where each piece is first mentioned correspond to the additional notes in Appendix I. The several translations quoted are by various scholars, to whom acknowledgment is given in the footnotes. I am, however, indebted to Dr. Derk Bodde for rechecking these with the originals before the present publication.

For brevity, many of the less notable examples of Chinese sculpture that are on display are omitted in the pages immediately to follow. Brief descriptions of these, however, with illustrations, are to be found in Appendix II.

Horace H. F. Jayne

December 31, 1940.

Cite This Article

Jayne, Horace H. F.. "Introduction." Museum Bulletin IX, no. 2-3 (March, 1941): 7-8. Accessed July 15, 2024.

This digitized article is presented here as a historical reference and may not reflect the current views of the Penn Museum.

Report problems and issues to