British Museum opens the Sir Joseph Hotung Gallery of China and South Asia

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The Sir Joseph Hotung Gallery of China and South Asia opened on 14 December after a full renovation and refurbishment (some sections of the gallery have been accessible from the 10 November 2017). The display includes a new narrative for China and South Asia which brings the story up to the present day. This renovation means the British Museumcan include and rotate different types of objects such as paintings, prints and textiles which need regulated conditions for display. The gallery introduces new research that will enable visitors to engage with these extraordinarily important parts of the world. With new lighting and design, the display takes visitors through the fascinating histories of a large part of the globe.

The gallery presents the histories of China from 5000 BC to the present with the space divided into bays that explore Chinese history through its material culture. China’s unique and highly unusual culture provides new avenues of understanding of the rich and intricate history of a quarter of the world’s population. Research has now shown that early China was joined to the rest of Eurasia across the steppe and by sea, as well as along the famous Silk Roads.

Ceramic dragon tiles.

The South Asia displays are also be presented chronologically, though regional variety is greater here than in China and some displays are entirely regional. The earliest material dates to 1.5 million years ago but amongst the prehistoric displays, the objects from the Indus Valley Civilisation are the most important. These include examples of the enigmatic seals with their un-deciphered script.

This refurbishment has been made possible by a generous donation from The Sir Joseph Hotung Charitable Settlement. The Asahi Shimbun Gallery of Amaravati Sculptures and the Selwyn and Ellie Alleyne Gallery of Chinese Jade have also been refurbished as part of this major project.

A two-sided limestone relief from the Great Shrine at Amaravati.

Hartwig Fischer, Director of the British Museum, said: ‘The Museum is hugely grateful to Sir Joseph Hotung and his fellow Trustees for the opportunity to renovate this important gallery. The refurbishment will allow us to include other material from the collection and bring the story of China and South Asia up to the present day. Understanding Asia is crucial for all our futures and this gallery will help visitors to better understand the long and significant history of these regions.’

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