At the National Museum of Asian Art, Washington, D.C.

Virtually explore the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Asian Art in Washington, D.C. with Smarthistory as your guide

Some background

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Link to the National Museum of Asian Art's website

Shakyamuni, Laozi, and Confucius
Shakyamuni, Laozi, and Confucius

The composition of the painting seems to have borrowed depictions of the Three Laughers of Tiger Creek, a popular allegorical story about the meeting of three famous figures.

Li (tripod)-shaped cloisonné incense burner
Li (tripod)-shaped cloisonné incense burner

The smoke from incense was used as a link between the earthly realm and the heavenly world.

Shen Zhou, <em>A Spring Gathering</em>
Shen Zhou, A Spring Gathering

Artists during the Ming dynasty often honored their patrons by portraying them in a garden studio, thus commenting on the owner’s character and aesthetic taste.

Xu Bing, <em>Monkeys Grasp for the Moon</em>
Xu Bing, Monkeys Grasp for the Moon

The artwork is based on a well-known Chinese folktale about a group of monkeys attempting to capture the moon.

Wang Wen, <em>Poem in cursive script</em>
Wang Wen, Poem in cursive script

This Chinese calligraphy piece is written on a folding fan.

Qiu Ying, <em>Journey to Shu</em>
Qiu Ying, Journey to Shu

Painted in lavish mineral-based colors of blue, green, and brownish yellow, this painting is a typical “blue-and-green” landscape in Chinese art

Copy after Qiu Ying, <em>Playing the Zither Beneath a Pine Tree</em>
Copy after Qiu Ying, Playing the Zither Beneath a Pine Tree

A scholar playing a zither while enjoying some beautiful scenery is a popular genre in Chinese landscape paintings.

<em>Eleven Dragons</em> handscroll
Eleven Dragons handscroll

This handscroll vividly portrays eleven dancing dragons.

<em>Palace Women and Children Celebrating the New Year</em>
Palace Women and Children Celebrating the New Year

This painting depicts the most important festival in China—the Lunar New Year.


This canteen exemplifies the dynamic flow of ideas and objects between the Islamic world and China that invigorated both artistic traditions.

Portraits of Shi Wenying and Lady Guan
Portraits of Shi Wenying and Lady Guan

Ancestor portraits are typically commissioned by the family members of the deceased ancestors

Xunling, <em>The Empress Dowager Cixi with foreign envoys’ wives</em>
Xunling, The Empress Dowager Cixi with foreign envoys’ wives

This is an iconic photo of Cixi, the Empress Dowager of Qing China, in the early 1900s