Asian Art

The Gallery’s collection of Asian art comprises nearly 8,000 works from East Asia, South Asia, continental Southeast Asia, Iran, Iraq, and Turkey and spans the Neolithic period to the 21st century. Highlights of the collection include Chinese ceramics and paintings, Japanese paintings and prints, and Indian and Persian textiles and miniature paintings.
Tea Bowl with Flowers
Calligraphy in Sutra Script (Fojing Wen) from the Sutra of the Great and Complete Nirvana (Mahaparinirvana)
Trousseau Box
Large Jar
Jar with Chrysanthemums
Moonlight Bamboo

About Asian Art

The Department of Asian Art’s Chinese and Japanese collections were built initially through the gifts and bequest of Mrs. William H. Moore between 1937 and 1960. The greatest strengths of the Chinese holdings are ceramics and paintings, including a group of vessels from the Changsha region of Hunan Province, from around 500 B.C.E. to 1000 C.E., assembled for the most part by John Hadley Cox, B.A. 1935. Chinese paintings range from the Tang dynasty (618–907 C.E.) through the 20th century, with particular strengths in the 17th century and in the modern and contemporary period.

The Japanese collection has important concentrations in the arts of the Edo period (1615–1868). Approximately 1,200 prints, the majority of which are ukiyo-e prints of the 18th and 19th centuries, demonstrate the breadth of this medium, and recent additions have included a group of 20th-century prints. Several important screens and hanging scrolls of the 14th through 18th century highlight the department’s holdings of Japanese painting and calligraphy, while Japanese textiles are represented by fragments from the Shōsōin repository in Nara, Noh robes, kimonos, and a collection of Buddhist priests’ robes. Japanese ceramics, a growing area of the collection, span from the Neolithic period to the presend day, with important recent additions of contemporary ceramic sculpture.

The South Asian and Islamic collections, again founded by the gifts of Mrs. Moore, are represented by an excellent group of textiles, ceramics, miniature paintings, and manuscript pages. Gifts of over 80 Persian and Indian miniature paintings, and others of Indian sculpture, have greatly augmented the holdings of Iranian and Indian art.

Note from the Curator

Due to their sensitivity to light and climate, we rotate Asian paintings and textiles in our permanent collection roughly every six months. The current installation, on view until June 2023, highlights four early Tibetan paintings, including a newly acquired and recently conserved 16th-century mandala dedicated to the Buddhist protector Sitatapatra. Storytelling is the focus of the West and South Asian rotations. Shown together for the first time are several pages from the Majma’ al-Tawarikh (Assembly of Histories), an early 15th-century account of world history since the time of Adam that was composed at the Timurid court in Herat, Afghanistan. Oft-Told Tales explores the spatial effects and bright colors used to heighten the drama and emotion of narratives illustrated in the famed 11th-century Iranian Shahnama (Book of Kings) as well as in Indic classics, such as the Bhagavata Purana (History of the Lord) and the Gita Govinda (Song of Govinda). Captured Moments: Time in Chinese Painting presents the multifaceted approaches to time embedded in Chinese paintings, for example through references to the physical movement of the brush itself or through the tradition of adding inscriptions to artworks as marks of ownership and appreciation years after they were produced. Meanwhile, a selection of Japanese paintings, woodblock prints, and other works illustrates the seminal role of setsugekka, literally “snow, moon, and flowers.” This concept, which evokes the nostalgia inherent in the passage of time and the changing of the seasons, is deeply embedded in Japanese culture.

Denise Patry Leidy
The Ruth and Bruce Dayton Curator of Asian Art

The Shen Family Gallery of Asian Art

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Meet the Curator

Denise Patry Leidy

Denise Patry Leidy, the Ruth and Bruce Dayton Curator of Asian Art, received her master’s and doctoral degrees from Columbia University. Prior to joining the Gallery, she served as the Brooke Russell Astor Curator of Chinese Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and as curator at the Asia Society and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Denise has curated exhibitions such as Global by Design: Chinese Ceramics from the R. Albuquerque Collection (2016), Silla: Korea’s Golden Kingdom (2013), Red and Black: Chinese Lacquer from the 13th to the 16th Century (2012), and Hidden Treasure of Afghanistan (2009). Her publications include How to Read Chinese Ceramics (2015), Wisdom Embodied: Chinese Buddhist and Daoist Sculpture in the Metropolitan Museum of Art (2010), The Art of Buddhism: An Introduction to Its History and Meaning (2009), Mother-of-Pearl: A Tradition in Asian Lacquer (2006), and Treasures of Asian Art: The Asia Society’s Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller Collection (1994).

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Half a body shot of Denise Patry Leidy.

Sadako Ohki

Sadako Ohki, the Japan Foundation Associate Curator of Japanese Art, received her master’s and doctoral degrees in History of Art from the University of Michigan. Ohki wrote her doctoral thesis on Ike Taiga’s calligraphy, reflecting a lifelong interest in calligraphy and ink art. She contributed an essay on Taiga to Ike Taiga and Tokuyama Gyokuran: Japanese Masters of the Brush (Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2007); on British abstract artist Rebecca Salter and her interest in Japan to Rebecca Salter: Into the Light of Things (Yale Center for British Art, 2011); and on Konoe Nobutada to the magazine Orientations (2012). At the Gallery, Sadako curated the exhibitions Tea Culture of Japan: “Chanoyu” Past and Present (2009) and Byobu: The Grandeur of Japanese Screens (2014), as well as the installation The Private World of Surimono: Japanese Prints from the Virginia Shawan Drosten and Patrick Kenadjian Collection (2020), which was accompanied by a catalogue.

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Sadako Ohki

Further Reading

The Edo Culture in Japanese Prints. With an introduction by George J. Lee. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1972.

Lee, George J. Selected Far Eastern Art in the Yale University Art Gallery. New Haven: Yale University Art Gallery, 1970.

Neill, Mary Gardner. The Communion of Scholars: Chinese Art at Yale. New York: China Institute in America, 1982.

Ohki, Sadako. Tea Culture of Japan, exh. cat. New Haven: Yale University Art Gallery, 2009.

Ohki, Sadako. Twentieth-Century Japanese Ceramics at the Yale University Art Gallery: The Collections of Molly and Walter Bareiss. New Haven: Yale University Art Gallery, 2001.

Ohki, Sadako, ed. Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin: Japanese Art at Yale (2007).

Sensabaugh, David Ake. The Scholar as Collector: Chinese Art at Yale. New Haven: Yale University Art Gallery, 2004.

Staples, Loretta N. A Sense of Pattern: Textile Masterworks from the Yale University Art Gallery, exh. cat. New Haven: Yale University Art Gallery, 1981.