Zhang Daqian (Chinese, 1899-1983), Lotus, 1963.Ink and color on paper. Denver Art Museum: Gift of the Children of Mr. & Mrs. Wong Pao Hsie, 1992.237

Asian Art

Zhang Daqian (Chinese, 1899-1983), Lotus, 1963.Ink and color on paper. Denver Art Museum: Gift of the Children of Mr. & Mrs. Wong Pao Hsie, 1992.237

Collection Highlights


Bridled and Saddled Horse
600s–700s, Tang dynasty (618–907)
Bequest of Bernadette Berger

With its orange-glazed body, the accenting detail of a bright green bridle, and its cream-colored patches, mane, and tail, this robust horse displays the three-color (sancai) glaze combination associated with classic Tang dynasty sculpture. With increasing connections between China and Persia and West Asia in the early Tang dynasty, a sizable number of tall, powerful horses were brought to China. They were greatly admired by the Tang court and the aristocracy, and ceramic horses from this period were modeled on these imported horses.

Horse, 600s–700s. Tang dynasty (618–907), China.
Glazed earthenware; 20 x 7 1/2 x 21 in. 
Denver Art Museum: Bequest of Bernadette Berger, 2017.43

bottle, pilgrim

Moon Flask
1736–1795, Qianlong period, Qing dynasty (1644– 1911)
Gift of May Wilfley in memory of her parents, A. R. Wilfley and Addie M. Wilfley

With a circular body, tube-shaped neck, and a flared oval base, this blue-and-white moon flask is one of the finest examples made during Emperor Qianlong’s reign. It is decorated with Buddhist auspicious signs and motifs, a popular practice since the Yuan dynasty (1279–1368). It is believed that these signs were introduced to inland China through the spread of esoteric Buddhism from Tibet. The shape of this flask is likely an imitation of glass and metal vessels from West Asia.

Moon Flask, 1736–1795. Qianlong period, Qing dynasty (1644–1911), China.
Porcelain with underglaze blue; 19 1/2 x 15 x 8 in.
Denver Art Museum: Gift of May Wilfley in memory of her parents, A. R. Wilfley and Addie M. Wilfley, 1974.28


800s-900s, Pala dynasty
Gift of Irene Littledale Downs

This carving here of the Buddha shares characteristics of Pala period sculpture: the double lotus base on which the figure sits, the crossbar throne-back, and the upside-down horsheshoe-shaped halo. The Buddha's hair is in snail-shell curls and the protuberance (ushnisha) on his head shows his enlightened state. The two deer on the base refer to the deer park where the Buddha taught his first sermon, and the wheel symbolizes this first teaching, when the Buddha set the wheel of law in motion. 

. figure. 9th century-10th century. Gift of Irene Littledale Downs. 1972.227.

Fugai Ekun


Fūgai Ekun
Japanese, 1568–1654
1600s, Edo period (1615–1868)
Ink and color on silk
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. John B. Bunker

Bodhidharma (known in Japan as Daruma) is the South Indian monk who introduced the Zen school of Buddhism (Chinese: Chan) to China in the sixth century. From the late sixteenth century, exaggerated caricatures of Daruma became a frequent subject among Japanese painters. Daruma’s piercing gaze in this painting is a reference to an account that Daruma sat meditating for nine years, staring at a cave wall with wide-open eyes. The artist of this work, Fūgai Ekun, was nicknamed Ana (Cave) Fūgai because he spent many years living in mountainside caves, perhaps in emulation of Daruma.

Fugai Ekun (Japanese). Daruma. 1600s. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. John B. Bunker. 1982.135.

Lord of the Faith-Guarding Deities (Mahakala)

Lord of the Faith-Guarding Deities (Mahakala)
Walter C. Mead Collection

Mahakala, the Great Black One, is the most popular of the protectors of Tibetan Buddhism, and is often found at the inner entrance of a temple or at his own special shrine.  Here he appears in his six-armed manifestation, clothed in an elephant hide and a tiger pelt, trampling the prone elephant-headed figure of Ganesha.  His fierce countenance is reinforced by his flame-like hair, a crown and a garland of skulls, and the vajra chopper and skull cup that he holds in his middle hands.  Traces remain of a red pigment that once highlighted these features.

. Lord of the Faith-Guarding Deities (Mahakala). 18th century. brass. Walter C. Mead Collection. 1933.14.


Garuda (Vehicle of Vishnu)
Indonesia, Bali
Polychromed wood
Museum purchase for the Frederic H. Douglas Collection

For centuries, trade and the spread of Indian religious practices allowed Hinduism to make a lasting impression upon the people of Bali. Although later Arab traders brought Islam to Indonesia, to this day the island of Bali remains primarily Hindu. Garuda, the half-man/half-eagle vehicle associated with the Hindu god Vishnu, is an especially popular figure who is believed to ward off snakes. Ornately carved and decorated images of this type were often placed in the rafters of open-air pavilions and palaces. This well-preserved sculpture provides an idea of what these figures may have looked like before their color disappeared due to neglect and the passing of time

Image of Garuda, about 1875. Bali, Indonesia. Polychromed wood; 29 x 18 x 17 1/4 in.
Denver Art Museum: Purchase for the Frederic H. Douglas Collection, 1956.8

Portrait of Nadir Shah

Nadir Shah Seated on Throne
About 1760, Mughal dynasty (1526–1857)
Delhi or perhaps Jaipur, India
Opaque watercolor and gold on paper
Gift of the Edna Hadley Collection

The Persian ruler Nadir Shah (reigned 1736–1747) led a successful invasion of India in 1739, defeating the Mughal ruler Muhammad Shah at the battle of Karnal. In this painting, Nadir Shah wears a Persian coat and conical headdress, both of which attest to his foreign origin. This portrait, along with many others from the same period, may have been commissioned by Nadir Shah to memorialize his victory.

. Portrait of Nadir Shah. c. 1760. Gift of the Edna Hadley Collection. 1968.9.

See more Asian art

Browse objects from the Asian Art collection in our online collection.


Fantastic Brush: Twentieth-Century Chinese Ink Art from the Robert and Lisa Kessler Collection. Denver Art Museum, 2021. ISBN: 978-1-945483-05-9

Linking Asia: Art, Trade and Devotion. Denver Art Museum, 2017. ISBN 978-0914738-53-4.

From the Fire: Contemporary Japanese Ceramics from the Robert and Lisa Kessler Collection. Denver Art Museum, 2016. ISBN 978-0914738-42-3.

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