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Asian Art

A rich array of Asian art is represented in the collection, including ancient Iranian pottery from the early first millennium BCE and an assortment of Southeast Asian pottery that ranges from creations of the ancient Ban Chiang culture to 16th-19th century Khmer and Vietnamese ceramics. Numerous fine examples of 19th century Japanese Ukiyo-e prints by masters of the tradition such as Hiroshige and Kuniyoshi are also a part of the collection.

Ancient Chinese art and works of contemporary Chinese art are also represented and include a Buddhist stone sculpture from the 5th-6th century CE, as well as works of contemporary Chinese art by noted artist Zhang Xiaogang. Also within the collection is the work of contemporary Tibetan artist, Gade, acquired from the museum’s ground-breaking 2006 exhibition, Waves on the Turquoise Lake: Contemporary Expressions of Tibetan Art.

Perhaps the most widespread influence on Asian art is Buddhism. This ancient belief system and philosophy has over one billion adherents today and is practiced all over Asia in different forms. The three main branches of Buddhism include Theravada Buddhism, a conservative form mainly found in Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia; Mahayana Buddhism, which spread from India to China in the 5th century and is now most common in East Asian countries like China, Korea, and Japan; and Vajrayana Buddhism, a popular tradition in Tibet and other Central Asian countries that involves tantric practice. Regardless of what branch is followed, the core beliefs of Buddhism involve concepts of karma, reincarnation, and enlightenment, which is defined as liberation from suffering.

In depictions of the Buddha and the Bodhisattvas (saint-like figures), the statues often form various gestures with their hands called mudras, each of which has a specific meaning. For example, the Northern Wei Buddha (shown in the middle on the right) has his right hand palm forward facing up, forming the Abhaya mudra (a gesture of assurance), while the left hand is palm forward facing down, forming the Varada mudra (a wish-granting gesture).

[+]Utagawa Ichiyusai Hiroshige, Japanese (1797-1858)
Atagoshita Yabukoji [Atagoshita and Yabu Lane], from the series One Hundred Views of Famous Places in Edo
1857 (detail)
woodcut, # 112
13 x 8 1/2 inches

Gift of Helen Baker Jones, in memory of her father, James H. Baker, former President of CU, 1892-1914, CU Art Museum, University of Colorado at Boulder
(c) CU Art Museum

[+]Unidentified artist, Chinese
Seated Buddha
5th - 6th century
grayish buff limestone / sandstone
15 3/4 x 8 7/8 x 2 3/4 inches

Given by the Estate of Mary Tanenbaum in honor of Ann Tanenbaum, CU Art Museum, University of Colorado at Boulder
Photo: Jeff Wells
(c) CU Art Museum

[+]Gade, Tibetan (b. 1971)
New Tibet
2006 (detail)
mineral color and acrylic on Tibetan handmade paper
7 x 46 inches

Gift of funds from Polly and Mark Addison to the Polly and Mark Addison Collection,CU Art Museum, University of Colorado at Boulder
Photo: Jeff Wells
(c) Gade

[+]Unidentified artist, Chinese, Han Dynasty
Figurine (dog)
n.d. [Han Dynasty (3rd century BCE - 3rd century CE)]
earthenware with iridescent green glaze
12 1/2 H x 13 W x 4 1/2 D inches

Gift of Warren and Shirley King, CU Art Museum, University of Colorado Boulder, 2012.12.08
Photo: Jeff Wells
© CU Art Museum