At the British Museum, London

Virtually explore the British Museum with Smarthistory as your guide

Some background

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Lacquer pen-case, signed by the artist Ashraf ibn Riza
Lacquer pen-case, signed by the artist Ashraf ibn Riza

This luxury pen-case is made from papier mâché with lacquer painting, a tradition inspired by Chinese lacquer.

Buddha preaching at Vulture Peak embroidery
Buddha preaching at Vulture Peak embroidery

This embroidery, discovered at Dunhuang, dates from China’s Tang dynasty (618–907) and depicts the Buddha preaching at Vulture Peak – in Buddhist tradition a favorite retreat of the Buddha and his disciples.

A silk painting of sacred Buddhist images from Dunhuang
A silk painting of sacred Buddhist images from Dunhuang

A fragmentary silk painting tells us about Buddhist art along the Silk Roads, numerous Buddhist sacred icons, and the complex life of an object after its creation.

Head of the Buddha, Gandhara
Head of the Buddha, Gandhara

Positioned at the crossroads of Asia, Gandhara has always been an ancient transit zone—as we see in this sculpture of the Buddha

Dhratarastra, Guardian King of the East
Dhratarastra, Guardian King of the East

The huge size of the canvas, the dynamic and decorative lines, and the combination of mineral colors are typical of Buddhist paintings from Korea.

Yun Baek-ha, a calligraphic handscroll
Yun Baek-ha, a calligraphic handscroll

This handscroll is an extremely valuable example of Korean calligraphy

Yi Che-gwan, <em>Portrait of a Confucian scholar</em>
Yi Che-gwan, Portrait of a Confucian scholar

Earlier Korean portraits were more interested in capturing a sense of the sitter's 'spirit' rather than in portraying an actual physical likeness such as this one from the 18th century

Coffin in the shape of an eagle
Coffin in the shape of an eagle

This wooden coffin in the form of eagle with painted gold feather markings was made in the village of Teshie in Ghana.

Maebyong vases, an introduction
Maebyong vases, an introduction

In medieval Korea, wine bottles were known as maebyong, which comes from the Chinese mei-ping ('vase for plum blossoms'), a misnomer dubbed by Chinese scholars of the Qing dynasty.

Kabuki actor prints
Kabuki actor prints

Kabuki theatre's leading actors influenced fashion and taste and quickly became the subject of popular woodblock prints in Japan

Casket with troubadours
Casket with troubadours

A casket made for secular use is decorated with lively scenes of combat, music, dance and love.

Riza-yi ‘Abbasi, portrait of a young page reading
Riza-yi ‘Abbasi, portrait of a young page reading

The anonymous figure depicted in this painting embodies the fashion of Isfahan, Iran’s capital city under the rule of Shah 'Abbas I