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Asian figure

About the Asia collection

The Asia collection is the legacy of many merchants, mariners and collectors, with acquisitions dating back to Joseph Mayer's founding donation in 1867. This diversity is reflected in its 14,500 items, dating from the ancient (Han dynasty 206 BC-220 AD) to the present day and covering areas spanning the Middle East to the Philippines. However, it is for the Tibet, China and Japan collections that it is most celebrated.


The expansive and internationally significant Tibet collection offers a role call of the many influential British India officers connected to Tibet and the Himalayas. Objects, photographs and archives once belonging to Charles Bell, Hugh Richardson, F M Bailey, John Claude White and Francis Younghusband tell of the early 20th century colonial encounter with Tibet, Bhutan and Sikkim. Later additions offer a Tibetan perspective on recent events with watercolours created by Tibetan refugees in India in the 1960s and contemporary artworks created by some of today's leading Tibetan artists.

Tibetan collections online



Most closely tied to the city's reputation for being an imperial trading powerhouse is the China collection. The China Trade collection of ceramics, furniture and metalwork is of outstanding importance and contains many objects that can be traced to well-known Liverpool maritime families including the Holts (the Dorothy Worrall collection). Collectors including Jane Weightman, Douglas Crawford and William Kinder ensured the museum holds fine collections of Song dynasty ceramics, cloisonné and silk textiles, while the significance of individual groups including five large bronzes taken from the pilgrimage island, Putuo, during the Opium Wars, have only just come to light (see Tythacott, 2011).

terracotta warriors
Terracotta Warriors

In 2018, we will be exhibiting China's Terracotta Warriors for the first time in the UK for more than 10 years. Find out more.



The Japan collection is recognized for its arms and armour. Of note is the collection donated by Liverpool collector, Randal Hibbert. Hibbert built a collection of more than 1,000 items ranging from swords to netsuke. He offered his collection to the museum after it was bombed in 1941 and it was bequeathed in the following year.

The donation by Frederick W. Mayor, a Liverpool businessman forms the basis of the 17th - 20th century export collection of sword fittings. The Mayor bequest includes a collection of highly decorated hamamono tsuba, which is unique in number and quality.

You can download more detailed information about this collection here [pdf, 634kb].