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East and Central Asia

More than half of the entire stocks of the Museum (over 20,000 items) belong to the Department of East and Central Asia whose collections represent Chinese, Japanese, Mongolian, Tibetan and Korean art. In the hard and laborious task of building up the collections the staff of the Museum were assisted by the governments of the countries in question, various institutions and art experts. For example, the Chinese government in 1955 and 1956 presented the Museum with a large collection of contemporary handicrafts and, several years later, with a valuable collection of china, lacquers and enamels (17th to 19th century). In 1957, the Museum received as a gift from the government of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea an interesting collection of contempo­rary Korean art. In 1971, a collection of Mongolian paint­ing, sculpture and graphic art was presented to the Muse­um by the Mongolian government. A valuable addition to the stocks of the Museum came with the private collec­tions donated by the eminent Moscow collectors Dmitry Melnikov and Vladimir Kalabushkin.

The central place in this section of the Museum rightly belongs to the collection of Chinese art, which is both the most varied and the most representative (12,000 items) among the collections of foreign art. The Museum prides itself on such valuable pieces as the bronze and stone articles (2nd and 1st millennia BC) and the Yin fortune-telling dice with samples of the earliest Chinese script dating back to the time of the Shang-Yin dynasty. The priceless archaeological finds dating from the Han dynasty (3rd century BC-3rd century AD) displayed at the Museum give a clear idea of the formation of classical Chinese art during the growth of feudalism.

The early Middle Ages are represented in the Museum by a fine collection of small-scale clay funerary figurines (4th to 10th centuries), and a rare collection of carved jade ritual plates (3rd century BC-3rd century AD). The Museum's collection of Chinese pottery and porcelain wares is among the richest in the USSR; it comprises some fine articles of the period from the third to the twentieth century. An important part of the collec­tion is formed by excellent samples of Buddhist sculpture (3rd to 19th centuries). A large collection of Chinese painting represents the work of well-known artists from the twelfth to the nineteenth century. The collection includes a number of funeral portraits (16th to 19th cen­turies) and some unique examples of Chinese callig­raphy. A special place is held by the collection of prints and paintings by folk artists of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Visitors to the Museum can also admire beautiful examples of Chinese handicraft: lac­quers (16th to 20th centuries), ivories (18th and 19th centuries), wooden articles (19th and 20th centuries), ornaments made of semiprecious stones (18th to 20th centuries), carved and inlaid furniture (18th to 20th cen­turies), magnificent embroideries and textiles (16th to 20th centuries). These are among the most precious pos­sessions of the Museum. Contemporary Chinese fine arts are represented in the Museum by works of such well-known painters as Wu Ch'ang-shih (1844-1927), Ch'i Pai-shih (1860-1957), Hsu Pei-hung (1894-1927), Li K'o-jan (born 1909), Liang Huang-chou (born 1925) and some others, and graphic artists like Ku Yuan (bora 1919), Li Hua (born 1913), Yang Han (born 1920) and Mo Ts'e (born 1908). The collection of decorative art illustrates all the traditional forms of handicraft.

The Museum's Japanese collection is the largest in the Soviet Union. It comprises about 4,000 items. Among the most valuable exhibits are the wooden Buddhist sculptures (12th to 19th centuries) which are not to be found in any other Soviet museum. Wood being a perish­able material, such sculptures are a rarity even in Japan. Statues of Bodhisattva Fugen (12th century), of Amida Buddha (13th and 15th centuries), of the Buddha Maitreya (16th century), of a warrior and a priest (16th to 18th centuries), of Hotel (18th century) and of temple guards are regarded as unique vestiges of medieval Japanese art. Other interesting exhibits on display are the bronze statue of the sitting Buddha (16th century), elephant-shaped lamps from a Buddhist temple (18th century), two karashishi lions (18th century), etc.

The collection of Japanese painting covers the period from the seventeenth to the nineteenth century and illustrates different stages in its development as well as various stylistic schools. It comprises scroll-paintings attributed to Sesshu (1420-1506), also scrolls by Hasegawa Nobuharu (1539-1610), Kano Doun (1625-1694), Utagawa Toyohiru (1773-1828), Fujiwara Mitsuzane (1782-1852), Mori Shosen (1746-1821), Nagasawa Rosetsu (1755-1799), Ando Kaigetsudo (early 18th century), Tanomura Chikuden (1777-1835), Utagawa Toyoharu (1735-1814), Ikeno Taiga (1723-1776), Watanabe Kazan (1793-1841), Tomioka Tessai (1836-1924), and others. Coloured woodblock prints by famous Japanese artists from the seventeenth to the nineteenth century amount to some 2,000 items. The Museum displays graphic sheets by Kiyonobu (1664-1729), Harunobu (1725-1770), Utamaro (1759-1806), Sharaku (late 18th century), Hokusai (1760-1849), Hiroshige (1797-1852), Eisen (1789-1851), Eizan (1787-1867), Hokkei (1780-1850), and others.

Note should also be paid to the rich collection of miniature statuettes, netsukes, produced by the foremost Japanese craftsmen, such as Deme (17th century), Ryokei (18th century), Gekkei (active 1781-1800), Masanao (late 18th-early 19th centuries), Gyokumin (early 19th century), Tomotada (late 18th century), and others.

A true gem of the collection is the fine array of rare ceramic articles from the thirteenth to the seventeenth century (about 300 articles), in its artistic value unparallelled elsewhere in the Soviet Union. It represents the major centres and types of medieval pottery: Raku (17th cen­tury), Seto (from the 13th century onwards), Oribe (16th to 18th centuries), Mishima (17th century), Bizen (16th and 17th centuries), Ido (17th century) and Iga (17th century). The Museum prides itself on the possession of a vessel made by the outstanding Japanese potter Ogata Kenzan (1664-1743); and its collection of porcelain and faience (17th to 19th centuries) includes articles produced at the workshops of Satsuma, Hizen, Kyoto, Hirado and Kutani.

A small but no less interesting collection of Japanese lacquers (17th to 19th centuries) comprises fine exam­ples of the famous gold and black lacquers and also lacquers of the aventurine type. Superb artistic qualities characterize such objects as a seventeenth-century gold comb, a tea caddy presumably made by Ogata Korin (1658-1716) and a seventeenth-century black lacquer make-up box.

The collection of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century weaponry is not a large one, but it gives an idea of all the major workshops of that period. Many of the articles bear the names of the armourers.

An interesting part of the collection is formed by bronzes, cloisonne enamels, textiles, embroideries and kimonos (17th to 19th centuries).

The Museum also displays contemporary Japanese painting, graphic work and applied arts.

The foundations of the Korean collection were laid in 1950. The early Middle Ages are represented by some sculptures from a burial (1 st or 2nd century), by the gran­ite head of Bodhisattva Kwanym, a bronze Buddha (8th to 10th centuries), and several samples of tiling and mirrors (10th to 13th centuries). Of great aesthetic and historical value is the collection of Korean pottery includ­ing unique vessels of the sangam type, celadons (12th and 13th centuries), punchons (15th and 16th centuries) and porcelain articles decorated with underglaze painting in cobalt blue (18th and 19th centuries). The gems of the collection are three portraits of Korean dignitaries dating back to the period from the sixteenth to the eighteenth century. Jewellery (18th and 19th centuries), inlaid furniture (19th and 20th centuries) and a rich collection of decorative textiles, as well as embroideries and tradi­tional costumes of the same period give an idea of Korean arts. The contemporary art of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea is represented by paintings and graphic works.

Some 600 exhibits in the Department represent art of Mongolia and Tibet. These are unique examples of sculpture, painting and minor arts. Among the most in­teresting exhibits in the Mongolian collection are masks for the famous Tsam mystery-play. The collection of early Mongolian and Tibetan religious painting in the Museum is one of the richest in the Soviet Union.

Easel painting and graphic art are a comparatively new kind of creative activity in Mongolia. The Museum possesses several paintings by Nyamosorin Tsultum (born 1924), the recognized head of the contemporary Mongolian school of painting and the Chairman of the Union of Mongolian Artists. All in all, the collection com­prises over 50 works by contemporary Mongolian paint­ers, graphic artists and sculptors, representing different trends and creative methods.

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