There are approximately 32,000 items in our Asian collection. The collection is particularly rich in art, including carvings of gods, masks and puppets, and other items of material culture from India, China, Japan, Sri Lanka and Burma. Many of the Indian and Japanese objects were part of Frederick Horniman's original collection and include important examples of stone sculpture (depicting, for example, Hanuman, Ganesha, and Jain figures), ritual objects and Japanese, Chinese and Indian costumes. The collections also contain architectural pieces such as archways and doors from India.
Many of the objects within the Asian collection were acquired through purchase by Frederick Horniman or his son John Emslie Horniman from international exhibitions such as the Great Exhibition (1851), the Indian and Colonial Exhibition (1886), the Vienna Exhibition (1889) and the Anglo-Japanese Exhibition (1910). They also purchased objects in the course of their world travels, while others came through dealers and auction houses or with the assistance of agents and acquaintances. The collections have been further increased in the 20th Century through systematic field collecting carried out by curators and other anthropologists. Notable groups are the Andaman, Maldive, Borneo and Naga collections.
In recent decades the museum has assembled what is probably the largest collection of Asian tents in the United Kingdom. The Museum has also developed the collection in the area of performance, acquiring puppets and masks from Nepal, Japan, Sri Lanka, China and Central Asia.