Next up for renovation: the Chinese Gallery

June 27, 2013

Chinese gallery

Over the past two years, we’ve been busy in our permanent galleries. We’ve renovated two existing galleries: The Gallery of Korean Art (more here, here and here) and the Snukal Ceramics Study Gallery. Before that, we opened a completely new Orientation Gallery. All of these efforts have been part of a broad initiative to reinstall and reinterpret our permanent collection to give our visitors a better understanding of Asian art and culture, and to improve the gallery conditions for the artworks on view. Next up in this series of renovations is… the Chinese gallery!

This gallery has long been a favorite for great collection highlights including intricate jades and masterful porcelain. But soon, every single object in the gallery will be carefully removed and stored as the space is completely redesigned, just like we did during last year’s Gallery of Korean Art renovation. When the gallery reopens this fall, it will feature an entirely new configuration that will present a broad range of Chinese art , including contemporary work, in a thematic way. This means that while you’ll find many treasures in the new gallery that you may not have seen before, some of your favorites might be taking a break. Here are some that you might want to visit one last time before the gallery closes on July 8:

Chinese Scholar's ObjectsThe scholarly gentleman has long been one of the most respected figures in Chinese society. The scholar, or wenren (man of literature), spent years studying China’s literary classics and was often an accomplished poet, calligrapher, painter and musician. When at work, he would ideally sit at his desk in front of a window to be inspired by nature. On his desk were the tools of his trade: books, writing implements, and ornaments. This case contains examples of ceramic tools used by Chinese scholars. When preparing to compose a poem or execute an ink painting, the scholar would rub an ink stick against an ink stone (see the round white stone with black ink stick in the lower right corner) for several minutes, mixing in water. When the ink was ready, he would take a brush from the brush pot (top left), create his work, and then clean the brush in a shallow dish of water (see the pale shallow dish at bottom left). The designs in the scholar’s objects were often symbolic. Carved or painted miniature landscapes inspired poems or paintings. In addition, visual puns (rebuses) or meaningful images were also used for good luck. For example, a large seal in this case once belonging to the Ming dynasty poet and official Wang Shizhen (1526-1590) bears the image of a turtle, symbolizing long life. This seal is displayed with a mirror underneath its raised platform so that you can appreciate the seal imprint and the decorative design– definitely not to be missed!

Chinese Imperial CeramicsMost of the porcelains in this case are of such high quality that they were probably made for the Imperial Court, perhaps even for the Emperor himself, during the Qing dynasty (1644-1912). They are made from the purest white porcelain and have thin walls, so that light shines through the clay. The forms and generally simple and elegant, often copied from ancient metalwork forms. The transparent glaze that coats the pieces is also pure and uncolored in many cases, unlike lower quality glazes which often have a bluish or greenish tinge. Those that are colored have a very even glaze, with no accidental discoloration, crackles or bubbles. Painted designs, often executed by professional artists employed at the kilns, are expertly rendered in either underglaze or overglaze enamels. Some pieces feature hidden decoration, or anhua, created using slip (liquid clay) or incised lines so that they are only visible when the piece is held up to the light. Generally speaking, porcelain with pure yellow glazes were reserved for the Emperor. Also, images of five-clawed dragons were only permitted on objects used by the Emperor. On the top riser, you can see a tiny white cup with a red five-clawed dragon– this piece is certainly worth a look in person.

Tomorrow is our monthly Free Fourth Friday– a perfect time to get a last look. If you’re a member, you can visit for free any time– but make sure to come before July 8! ~CM


This Week at Pacific Asia Museum: June 24-30

June 24, 2013

This Week at Pacific Asia MuseumWe’re trying a little something new– a weekly post to make sure you know what’s coming up at Pacific Asia Museum! Make sure to check back every Monday to stay in the know. And as always, you can sign up for our e-newsletter at the bottom of our homepage, or check out our full events calendar here.

Stretch it Out: Our ongoing yoga class continues every Thursday at 12:30– a great way to unwind at lunch time! $10 per class, and beginners are always welcome.

Japanese Gardens: On Sunday, Kendall Brown speaks on his book Quiet Beauty: The Japanese Gardens of North America as part of our Authors on Asia series. Learn more about the history of Japanese gardens in the United States, and even have Brown sign a copy of this beautiful book for you to bring home.

Coming Up: On Friday, July 12, hear a spotlight curator’s talk on the exhibition Focus on the Subject: The Art of the Harari Collection at Art and Coffee. Enjoy complimentary coffee courtesy of Starbucks, mingle with fellow art-lovers and learn more about this exhibition of Japanese Edo and Meiji-era works.

Bon Odori and Fusion Fridays

June 20, 2013
Bon Odori

A member of Kotobuki No Kai performs Bon Odori, Kotobuki No Kai will teach two dances at Fusion Fridays.

Throughout Japan, the summer Obon festivals usually include a form of group dancing called Bon Odori. While Obon festivities usually take place in July and August in Japan, we’re getting started a little early at tomorrow’s installment of Fusion Fridays, when Kotobuki No Kai will demonstrate and teach attendees some of these traditional dances.

Obon festival is a Japanese holiday with Buddhist and Confucian roots to honor one’s ancestors, and celebrates the filial piety of Buddha’s disciple Maha Maudgalyayana (Mokuren in Japanese). Mokuren had a vision of his deceased mother suffering in the afterlife, and asked Buddha how to alleviate her suffering. Buddha instructed Mokuren to give offerings to Buddhist monks returning from their summer retreat. Once he did this, his mother was released from suffering and Mokuren danced with joy.


Shuzo Ikeda, Mokuren, Japan, 1965, Woodblock print on paper, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Felix Jude, Pacific Asia Museum Collection, 1977.55.19

During this holiday, people visit and clean the graves of their ancestors. During this time, ancestral spirits are said to visit household altars. This is also a time for the community to gather for food, drink, dancing and fun activities while wearing yukata, the light summertime style of kimono. These festivals traditionally close as participants float illuminated lanterns down a river, symbolizing the departure of the spirits until the next year. Large Japanese immigrant populations have spread the Obon festival around the world, including Malaysia, Brazil, Argentina, Canada and the U.S., and similar festivals are practiced in China and Korea.

Bon Odori dances vary across Japan, and musical accompaniment can vary as well. These dances have their roots in folk traditions welcoming the spirits of the dead and are performed by the entire community in a circle. At Fusion Fridays, Kotobuki No Kai will teach Tokyo Ondo and Kyushu Tanko Bushi. Tokyo Ondo is named for Japan’s capital, and involves a combination of claps and simple arm movements as the group moves in a circle. Kyushu Tanko Bushi, or “The Song of the Coal Miners,” is a regional dance from Kyushu that recalls the miners at the now-shuttered Miike Mine. Movements in this dance mime digging, cart pushing, lantern hanging, and gazing at the moon. As in Tokyo Ondo, the dance moves in a circle as the participants gesture.

With all the Obon festivities throughout Los Angeles in the summer, you’ll definitely want to learn Bon Odori at Fusion Fridays! And if that’s not your style, the evening also features Pacific Island dance performances, food trucks, art activities, and a cash bar in our courtyard. Tickets are available in advance on Eventbrite or at the door. ~CM

This Week at Pacific Asia Museum: June 17-23

June 17, 2013

This Week at Pacific Asia Museum

We’re trying a little something new– a weekly post to make sure you know what’s coming up at Pacific Asia Museum! Make sure to check back every Monday to stay in the know. And as always, you can sign up for our e-newsletter at the bottom of our homepage, or check out our full events calendar here.

Dance Fever: Fusion Fridays continue on Friday, June 21 with Maori haka warrior dances and traditional Japanese festival dances. And as always, you’ll enjoy DJ music, food trucks and a cash bar. Advance tickets strongly suggested; purchase here.

Old Shanghai: On Sunday, June 23 at 2 p.m., hear Dennis George Crow speak on his new book Old Shanghai’s Bund: Rare Images from the 19th Century as part of our Authors on Asia series. RSVPs appreciated to the Museum Store at 626-449-2742 x 20.

Coming Up: Also as part of our Authors on Asia series, Kendall H. Brown speaks on his new book Quiet Beauty: The Japanese Gardens of North America on June 30.

Remembering Our Fathers

June 13, 2013

Our current exhibition The Art of Continuity: Revering our Elders has a very special feature at the end: the chance for you to remember your own ancestors. Many of our visitors have taken advantage of this opportunity to share their unique family history and recall how their ancestors have impacted their own lives. So in honor of Father’s Day this weekend, we bring you some highlights from our visitors who have shared stories from their fathers, grandfathers, and even great-great-great grandfathers.

Click on any image below to enlarge and launch a slideshow.

This Week at Pacific Asia Museum: June 10-16

June 10, 2013

This Week at Pacific Asia Museum

We’re trying a little something new– a weekly post to make sure you know what’s coming up at Pacific Asia Museum! Make sure to check back every Monday to stay in the know. And as always, you can sign up for our e-newsletter at the bottom of our homepage, or check out our full events calendar here.

Sing a Song of Shakespeare: Opera Pasadena returns to Pacific Asia Museum on Sunday, June 16 at 2:30 for an afternoon of songs from within the Bard’s plays, as well as scenes from operas inspired by his works. $15, includes museum admission.

Learn: Saturdays at Pacific Asia Museum are full of great ongoing classes, including Tai Chi, Chinese Brushpainting and Chinese Calligraphy. Tai Chi is $10 per class, and while Brushpainting and Calligraphy are taught in series, potential students are welcome to observe a class before enrolling.

Coming Up: On June 23, Dennis George Crow gives an illustrated talk on his book Old Shanghai’s Bund: Rare Images from the 19th CenturyDon’t miss the chance to learn how a small treaty port transformed into one of Shanghai’s most famous landmarks through these fascinating images.

Take Our New Audio Tour!

June 6, 2013

Audio Tour

As you may or may not know, one great way to explore the Pacific Asia Museum galleries is through our award-winning Audio Tour. We recently received a special grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to significantly expand the tour, offering new Curatorial and Family Series, in English, Chinese and Korean. These fun tours not only give you information about key objects throughout the museum, but also share traditional legends as well as original poetry and music inspired by the collection. The Poetry Series was made possible by Poets on Site and funded in part by the Jeanne Ward Foundation and the Katharine Audrey Webb Foundation.

Throughout the museum, labels with a symbol alert you to items with audio content and give the numbers for that stop. All you have to do is call (626) 628-9690 and enter the number plus # to listen. You can stay on the line and continue to enter new numbers, or hang up and call back. The best part is, you don’t even have to be at Pacific Asia Museum to listen! If you particularly enjoyed a track, you can listen to it again from home and share with your friends and family.

Here are a couple great examples to get started, right in front of your computer:

Cricket ticklers20#– Cricket Ticklers
From the Poetry Series, this stop includes tanka and haiku poems read by the poets, accompanied by a serene flute. These poems are inspired by the cricket ticklers currently on view in our Introductory Gallery.




Amitayus with Consort; China, Ming Dynasty, Yongle Period (140-1424 AD); wood, gesso, pigment; Pacific Asia Museum Collection, Gift of the Nancy King Collection, 2001.1.47.51#– Technology and Art
From the Curatorial Series, here we explore how we learned more about our rare Bodhisattva and Consort statue through a CT scan, and what may hide within. Also in Chinese (204#) and Korean (304#).





72#– The Story of Ganesha
From the Family Series, this stop shares the story of Ganesha, son of the Hindu deity Parvati, Shiva’s consort. Learn how he got an elephant’s head and his place in the Hindu pantheon. Also in Chinese (209#) and Korean (309#).



A comprehensive list of stops is available in a brochure at our front desk, also uploaded on our website. Check out to download a PDF of the brochure, and check the same page soon for all the recordings and transcripts. Let us know what you think! ~CM


Bodhisattva and Consort, China, Ming dynasty; Yongle period (1403-1424 AD), wood, Gift from the Nancy King collection, Pacific Asia Museum Collection, 2001.1.47

Ganesha, India, 11th C., red sandstone, From the collection of Harold and Jane Ullman, Pacific Asia Museum Collection, 1991.67.9