V&A working in and with China

The Tsui Gallery of Chinese Art, V&A, 2011

The Tsui Gallery of Chinese Art, V&A, 2011

Collections & Galleries

The V&A possesses one of the most comprehensive and important collections of Chinese art outside East Asia.  The V&A acquired its first group of Chinese artefacts in 1852. Today, the Museum’s Chinese collection amounts to over 15,000 objects, with fine examples from all branches of Chinese art including ceramics, jade, metalwork, lacquer, textiles, furniture, sculpture, ivory, bamboo, rhinoceros horn, glass, paintings, manuscripts and prints. The collection in the Tsui Gallery of Chinese Art has particular strength in the applied arts of later dynastic China, after AD1500 and the V&A continues to collect actively in Mainland China and Hong Kong, with a focus on excellent examples of contemporary art and design. The V&A works actively with expert colleagues in leading Chinese museums to study and understand the Museum’s collections.

The V&A has begun an exciting collaboration with China Merchants Group (CMG) to support their plan to develop an ambitious new design museum in China. The museum will open in the Shekou district of Shenzhen in early 2017. Find out more about the Shekou Project here.

Exhibitions at the V&A

  • Masterpieces of Chinese Paintings 700-1900 is being shown at the Museum from 26 October 2013 – 19 January 2014. The show is the first UK overview of the Chinese painting tradition since the International Exhibition of Chinese Art at the Royal Academy in 1935. It brings together over 100 of the finest examples of Chinese painting, including some of the earliest surviving Chinese paintings and other extremely rare pieces, from the greatest collection. Many of the paintings are being shown in Europe for the first time, on loan from The Palace Museum Beijing, Shanghai Museum, Liaoning Provincial Museum, Dunhuang Academy and Tianjin Museum.
  • To coincide with Masterpieces of Chinese Painting 700-1900, artist Xu Bing’s major landscape installation, Travelling to the Wonderland, transformed the V&A’s John Madejski Garden into an ethereal utopia inspired by the classic Chinese fable Tao Hua Yuan (Peach Blossom Spring).

V&A touring exhibitions in China

  • The V&A’s exhibition Splendours of India’s Royal Court  was shown at the Palace Museum from April t0 July 2013, following the exhibition Imperial Chinese Robes from the Forbidden City  at the V&A in 2010-2011. The exhibition received over 202,000 visitors.
  • In late 2012, the V&A toured the exhibition Water into Art to the Shenzhen Museum. During this first collaboration with Shenzhen, the exhibition received over 190,000 visits.   100 works were on display and illustrated the breadth and diversity of this important V&A collection of watercolours.
  • As part of the 2012 UK Now Festival, the V&A contributed to Passion for Porcelain: Ceramics Masterpieces from the British Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum. This major exhibition was organised with the British Museum and the National Museum of China (NMC). It was on display from June 2012 to January 2013 at the NMC. The catalogue was published in English and Chinese. 

Other V&A exhibitions presented in Chinese venues in recent years include the digital art exhibition Decode at the Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing and Indian Temple Sculpture in collaboration with the British Museum at the Shanghai Museum, both in 2010; The Golden Age of Couture at the Hong Kong Heritage Museum in 2009; the Vivienne Westwood exhibition was shown at ArtisTree in Hong Kong in 2008-2009; and A Century of Olympic Posters in the Capital Museum, Beijing and the Liaoning Provincial Museum in Shenyang, in 2008.


Institutional Partnerships
  • In 2010, the V&A signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Palace Museum to support an exchange of exhibitions.
  • The V&A also has Memoranda of Understanding with the National Museum of China and the Capital Museum, Beijing.
Diplomatic Relationships

  • The V&A enjoys a very good working relationship with the Embassy for the People’s Republic of China in London. The V&A welcomed the Chinese Minister of Culture in October 2013.

People to People Dialogue

The V&A was the chosen venue for the first UK-China People to People Dialogue (April 2012) in the top tier of UK-China bilateral exchanges. The Dialogue provided an opportunity to develop closer ties with China in areas where the UK excels, including culture, the creative industries and education. The dialogue was led by Madame Liu Yandong, State Councillor of the People’s Republic of China and Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP, the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport at the time.

Shanghai 2010

Because of its unique links to the Great Exhibition of 1851, the V&A was active in marking Shanghai Expo 2010. Designs for the British Pavilion were displayed at the V&A in 2009. The Museum worked with the Shanghai Expo Bureau, Shanghai Museum and the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE) towards two exhibitions for the Shanghai Expo. The magnificent oil painting by Henry Courtney Selous, The Opening of the Great Exhibition (1851) was among over 30 loans to the Shanghai Expo Museum which, to the end of August 2010, had received 1,620,000 visitors.  Masterpieces from the V&A collection of Indian sculpture were displayed in Indian Temple Sculpture at the Shanghai Museum, an exhibition organised in collaboration with the British Museum in 2010.


The V&A’s prize-winning website includes rich information in the Chinese language about current exhibitions, and about museum collections and activities relating to China, including Shanghai Expo activities. Over 6.7 million visits to the Chinese language web pages were made between April 2009 and March 2010. The V&A also has a dedicated Chinese language website, www.vamuseum.cn. 


In 2010, the Travel with the V&A programme organised a trip to China.  Led by V&A curators, Museum supporters, visited sites in Beijing, Hangzhou, Xian and Shanghai, meeting Museum peers, collectors and cultural figures. This visit helped strengthen and build relationships with Chinese organisations and individuals, and to raise awareness of these important relationships with V&A supporters.  The trip also helped support China related acquisitions and a display.

Learning and Audience Engagement

The V&A’s Learning Department runs a number of specific Chinese programmes, including An Adventure in China, a new back-pack and picnic trail for families to explore the culture and traditions of ancient China via the Museum’s galleries.  The year-courses for adults include, The Arts of East Asia: China, Korea and Japan, which continues until July 2014, and will be followed in September, by year two: Arts of Asia: Middle East, South and South East Asia until July 2015.


V&A publications on Chinese themes are extremely diverse and include a study in Chinese of early collectors of Chinese art, a translation into Chinese of the Vivienne Westwood exhibition catalogue, and a collaborative volume on medieval textiles from Central Asia in the Stein collection. Chinese Export Ceramics, Chinese version, co-authored by the V&A’s Rose Kerr, Luisa Mengoni and Ming Wilson will be published by the Shanghai Guhua Chubanshe.

  • Zhang Hongxing, Masterpieces of Chinese Painting: 700-1900 (V&A, 2013)
  • Katherine Coombs, British Watercolours 1750-1950, Chinese version (V&A, 2013)
  • Anna Jackson et al, The Splendour of India's Royal Courts, Chinese version(V&A,  2013)
  • Kerr, Mengoni & Wilson, Chinese Export Ceramics (V&A, 2011)
  • Ming Wilson, Imperial Chinese Robes (V&A, 2011)
  • Yueh-Siang Chang, V&A Pattern: Chinese Textiles (V&A, 2010)
  • Stacey Pierson, Chinese Ceramics (V&A, 2009)
  • Zhang Hongxing & Lauren Parker, eds., China Design Now (V&A, 2008)
  • Claire Wilcox, Vivienne Westwood , Chinese version (V&A, 2005)
  • Verity Wilson, Chinese textiles (V&A, 2005)
  • Rose Kerr, Song Dynasty Ceramics (V&A, 2004)
  • Ming Wilson, Chinese Jades (V&A, 2004)

A gift in your will

You may not have thought of including a gift to a museum in your will, but the V&A is a charity and legacies form an important source of funding for our work. It is not just the great collectors and the wealthy who leave legacies to the V&A. Legacies of all sizes, large and small, make a real difference to what we can do and your support can help ensure that future generations enjoy the V&A as much as you have.


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Art in China - Oxford History of Art (Paperback)

Art in China - Oxford History of Art (Paperback)

China boasts a history of art lasting over 5,000 years and embracing a huge diversity of forms - objects of jade, lacquer and porcelain, painted scrol…

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Event - Back Packs

Wed 01 January 2014–Thu 31 December 2015

FAMILY EVENT: Journey across the V&A with fantastic stories, games and multi-sensory materials. Choose from Back-packs, trails or, for the under 5s, an Agent Animal bag.

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