News & events > UK Oriental Museum China gallery opened
22 Nov 2011

UK Oriental Museum China gallery opened

Apple' by Li Lihong, Durham University Oriental Museum  Blue and white porcelain dish, Ming Dynasty, 1426-1435 CE (1969.275)Durham University Oriental Museum
The Durham University Oriental Museum is home to one of the finest collections of Chinese antiquities in the UK. In February this year  the refurbished Marvels of China gallery was opened, designed to introduce visitors to the wonders of this amazing culture. Since then staff have been working on the second Chinese gallery which has been renamed the Malcolm MacDonald Gallery in honour of  the museum's most important benefactors. It was opened on November 11 2011.

The ceramics collected by politician and diplomat, the Rt Hon Malcolm MacDonald, form one of the key elements of the Chinese collection. Covering almost 5000 years of history, from the Neolithic Period to the 20th century, these magnificent ceramics will form the back-bone of the new gallery opening in November 2011.

MacDonald, son of Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald, first visited the Far East in 1929 when, as a recently elected MP, he attended a conference in Kyoto. Already a connoisseur and collector of English pottery, MacDonald's post-conference travels through Korea, China and Manchuria opened his eyes to the wonders of Chinese ceramics. It was on this visit that he made his first purchases.

The MacDonald collection arrived in Durham in 1956, initially on the basis of a 5-year loan agreement. MacDonald did not however stop collecting, and almost as soon as the collection arrived in Durham he began to add pieces with the aim of creating a fully comprehensive Chinese ceramic teaching collection. Happily, the museum was able to acquire the complete collection in 1969 and the new gallery will honour MacDonald's ambition by including a comprehensive survey of Chinese ceramics throughout history.

Occupying a whole floor of the museum, the completely refurbished gallery also includes ancient jades, bronze weapons and religious artefacts that reflect the other strengths of the museum's Chinese collections.

Visitors will see models made for burial in ancient tombs, fine porcelain created for the Imperial court, an ancient iron horse and exquisitely carved jade ornaments.

For more information visit the museum's homepage or see the Durham University Oriental Museum's Redevelopment Project plans.