Chinese Collection at the Royal Ontario Museum

The Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) is Canada’s preeminent museum of art, culture and nature. The first Chinese object, a green-glazed vessel from the Han Dynasty was acquired by Charles Currelly (1876 – 1957), a University of Toronto professor and later the first director of the museum, in Cairo’s antiquity shop during his archaeological expedition in 1907. Today, ROM’s Chinese collection is the second largest collection outside of China, next to the British Museum, housing more than 41,000 objects. The importance of the ROM’s Chinese collection lies in its comprehensive nature; it forms an internationally-renowned research collection from oracle bones to ancestral portrait paintings. The collection ranges from early Neolithic period (8000 BCE), well covering all history of dynastic periods, to the present. The most well-known collection areas are the temple wall murals, oracle bones, Chinese jades, Chinese textiles and costumes. The most comprehensive groups in the Chinese collection (in terms of chronologic presentations) include bronzes, ceramics and porcelains, mirrors, coins, and historic tomb figurines. The Han pictorial bricks, architectural elements, and snuff bottles are examples of those that are best presented in terms of typology and style variance. Furniture and decorative arts (e.g. lacquerwares, glass, and ivory carvings) are also well represented in the collection. Paintings and works of art on paper include a unique collection of Chinese ancestor portraits, the second largest of its kind outside China. Chinese sculptures are rarely represented outside China making the ROM’s sculptural holdings particularly impressive. In particular, most of early China artworks came to the collection through Bishop William White and Dr. James Menzies, whose efforts in collecting archaeological materials from areas of Anyang and Luoyang, Henan province, were made known to scholars and researchers around the World.