The Asian art collections at the Huntington are heterogenous, ranging from small collections of Chinese export wares to rare Chinese books and paintings, and Japanese ceramics. Like many Gilded Age collectors, The Huntington’s acquired objects are prized for their exotic appeal, beauty, and artistry, such as our rare Yuan dynasty (1271–1368) vase set in French ormolu-style mounts in the 18th century.
More recently, The Huntington has built on such early collections with the acquisition of works related to the East Asian garden arts, including objects and paintings that connect the allied arts of literature, painting, music, theater, tea culture, and stone appreciation. Highlights include a rare early edition of the Ten Bamboo Studio Manual of Calligraphy and Painting 十竹齋書畫譜, a multi-block, color-printed painting manual published between 1633 and 1703.
The new Studio for Lodging the Mind, located at the north end of the Chinese Garden, is a 1,720-square-foot, light-and-climate-controlled gallery space suitable for the display of works of art, including paper or silk. The gallery’s name evokes reflections on art collecting by the Northern Song scholar Su Shi 蘇軾 (1037–1101), who famously argued that one should temporarily “lodge one’s mind” in treasured objects but should never become so attached to them that one becomes controlled by them. The gallery opened in 2020 with the inaugural exhibition “A Garden of Words: The Calligraphy of Liu Fang Yuan” 書苑——流芳園所藏書法作品, which highlighted the work of 21 ink artists who were commissioned to create the original works of calligraphy—artful brush writings in ink on paper—that served as the models for the many literary inscriptions in the garden.
Significant loan exhibitions on Chinese art over the last decades include “Gardens, Art, and Commerce in Chinese Woodblock Prints” (2016) and “Treasures through Six Generations: Chinese Painting and Calligraphy from the Weng Collection” (2009).