The National Museum of Asian Art

Updated on March 21, 2020
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Depiction of the inside of a Buddhist temple.Art available in the National Museum of Asian Art's gift shop.Vessels of the Early Islamic Period 6th-7th century CE.A Persian phiale from the 5th century BCE.A squeeze of Old Persian cuneiform from the reign of King Darius I. A sword and scabbard, which may have been found in northwestern Iran.Silver vessels from the 3rd century, found in Iran.A photograph taken by Antoin Sevruguin of a Sasanian relief depicting the Triumph of Shapur I over valerian.Outside the museum, February 2020two Buddha statuettes.  One depicts Knowledge and Power, the other is wisdom personified. Map with pictures that show the different styles of Buddhist temples throughout Asia.A 13th century CE Korean statue made of gilt wood, copper, and iron with crystal inlays.X-ray of a 13th century CE status of Buddha from Korea.Bronze object from a private residence in 1st century BCE Timna, modern day Yemen.Bronze statue from 1st century BCE Timna, modern say Yemen.  Depicts the Greek god Dionysus, god of wine.
Depiction of the inside of a Buddhist temple.
Depiction of the inside of a Buddhist temple. | Source
Art available in the National Museum of Asian Art's gift shop.
Art available in the National Museum of Asian Art's gift shop. | Source
Vessels of the Early Islamic Period 6th-7th century CE.
Vessels of the Early Islamic Period 6th-7th century CE. | Source
A Persian phiale from the 5th century BCE.
A Persian phiale from the 5th century BCE. | Source
A squeeze of Old Persian cuneiform from the reign of King Darius I.
A squeeze of Old Persian cuneiform from the reign of King Darius I. | Source
A sword and scabbard, which may have been found in northwestern Iran.
A sword and scabbard, which may have been found in northwestern Iran. | Source
Silver vessels from the 3rd century, found in Iran.
Silver vessels from the 3rd century, found in Iran. | Source
A photograph taken by Antoin Sevruguin of a Sasanian relief depicting the Triumph of Shapur I over valerian.
A photograph taken by Antoin Sevruguin of a Sasanian relief depicting the Triumph of Shapur I over valerian. | Source
Outside the museum, February 2020
Outside the museum, February 2020 | Source
two Buddha statuettes.  One depicts Knowledge and Power, the other is wisdom personified.
two Buddha statuettes. One depicts Knowledge and Power, the other is wisdom personified. | Source
Map with pictures that show the different styles of Buddhist temples throughout Asia.
Map with pictures that show the different styles of Buddhist temples throughout Asia. | Source
A 13th century CE Korean statue made of gilt wood, copper, and iron with crystal inlays.
A 13th century CE Korean statue made of gilt wood, copper, and iron with crystal inlays. | Source
X-ray of a 13th century CE status of Buddha from Korea.
X-ray of a 13th century CE status of Buddha from Korea. | Source
Bronze object from a private residence in 1st century BCE Timna, modern day Yemen.
Bronze object from a private residence in 1st century BCE Timna, modern day Yemen. | Source
Bronze statue from 1st century BCE Timna, modern say Yemen.  Depicts the Greek god Dionysus, god of wine.
Bronze statue from 1st century BCE Timna, modern say Yemen. Depicts the Greek god Dionysus, god of wine. | Source

Museum Hours and Location

The National Museum of Asian Art is located on the Mall in Washington, DC. Its address is 1050 Independence Avenue SW. As with most Smithsonian Institution museums admission is free and it is open every day except Christmas. It is open from 10 am to 5:30 pm.

Most of the permanent exhibits are on the 1st floor. There are three other levels for temporary exhibits. The museum has a gift shop and a coffee shop. Non-flash photography is normally permitted in the exhibit galleries.[i]

Note: The National Museum of Asian Art and all other Smithsonian Museums closed on March 14, 2020, because of the Coronavirus.[ii] They are still closed as of March 21, 2020.

[i] National Museum of Asian Art, https://asia.si.edu/exhibition/age-old-cities/, last accessed, 3/8/2020.

[ii] National Museum of Asian Art, https://asia.si.edu/exhibition/age-old-cities/, last accessed, 3/8/2020.

The Exhibits

The museum has art and artifacts from Asia’s long history. The sections include Japan, the Islamic World, the Indian Subcontinent, China, Korea, Japan, South Asia, and South East Asia.

Among the artifacts in the Islamic World section is a gold ewer that has the name of the 10th-century ruler of the Buyid dynasty, Abu Mansur Izz al-Amir al-Bakhtiyar ibn Muizz al-Dawla. Islam disapproved of showing off wealth. This artifact shows some of the upper class acquired obvious signs of wealth in spite of religious directives.

There are also two ewers that were made in the 6th or 7th century during the Sasanian period in what is modern-day Iran. There is a phiale inscribed with the name Achaemenid king Artaxerxes I who reigned in Persia in the 5th century BCE. There is a bronze object of a lion and rider from the 1st century BCE. It was found in the remains of a private residence. In the first century CE, a fire destroyed the city of Timna in modern-day Yemen. The museum has an artifact from Timna’s ruins. It is a bronze statue of the Greek god of wine, Dionysus. This bronze-casting shows the state of the art of metallurgy on the Arabian Peninsula.

The museum has many artifacts that illustrate how Buddhism is practiced in different parts of Asia. It also shows the different styles of how Buddha is depicted and the styles of Buddhist temples in different parts of Asia. The museum shows a series of photographs, x-rays, drawings, and laser scans that show how 13th century Korean Buddha sculpture was made. This is one example of how the museum uses high tech to explain antiquities.

The museum also has vintage photographs of ancient ruins. An example of this is the Arch of Khosrow (Taq Kasra) palace near Baghdad, Iraq. The structure was built in the 6th century CE. The museum has a photograph of the Arch of Khosrow. The photograph was taken by Antoin Sevruguin, who died in 1933.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Entrance to Age Old Cities: A Virtual Journey from Palmyra to Mosul, National Museum of Asian Art, february 2020.A virtual recreation of a theater at Palmyra.Virtual recreation of the Temple of Baalshamin.Virtual recreation of Aleppo. The Biblical city of Nineveh.Modern day Nineveh.Photograph of the mosque dedicated to the prophet Jonah built on top of the mausoleum of Jonah, Nabi Yunes.Wall painting depicting the story of Jonah.ISIS destroyed the mausoleum of Nabi YunesIn destroying the mausoleum and temple ISIS uncovered the remains of a 7th century BCE palace.CIntage photograph of "hypogea".Photograph of The Tomb of the Three BrothersPhotograph showing how ISIS dealt with artifacts considered heretical at The Tomb of Three Brothers.Tomb of Three Brothers under ISIS control.The Tomb of Three Brothers when liberated from ISIS control.
Entrance to Age Old Cities: A Virtual Journey from Palmyra to Mosul, National Museum of Asian Art, february 2020.
Entrance to Age Old Cities: A Virtual Journey from Palmyra to Mosul, National Museum of Asian Art, february 2020. | Source
A virtual recreation of a theater at Palmyra.
A virtual recreation of a theater at Palmyra. | Source
Virtual recreation of the Temple of Baalshamin.
Virtual recreation of the Temple of Baalshamin. | Source
Virtual recreation of Aleppo.
Virtual recreation of Aleppo. | Source
The Biblical city of Nineveh.
The Biblical city of Nineveh. | Source
Modern day Nineveh.
Modern day Nineveh. | Source
Photograph of the mosque dedicated to the prophet Jonah built on top of the mausoleum of Jonah, Nabi Yunes.
Photograph of the mosque dedicated to the prophet Jonah built on top of the mausoleum of Jonah, Nabi Yunes. | Source
Wall painting depicting the story of Jonah.
Wall painting depicting the story of Jonah. | Source
ISIS destroyed the mausoleum of Nabi Yunes
ISIS destroyed the mausoleum of Nabi Yunes | Source
In destroying the mausoleum and temple ISIS uncovered the remains of a 7th century BCE palace.
In destroying the mausoleum and temple ISIS uncovered the remains of a 7th century BCE palace. | Source
CIntage photograph of "hypogea".
CIntage photograph of "hypogea". | Source
Photograph of The Tomb of the Three Brothers
Photograph of The Tomb of the Three Brothers | Source
Photograph showing how ISIS dealt with artifacts considered heretical at The Tomb of Three Brothers.
Photograph showing how ISIS dealt with artifacts considered heretical at The Tomb of Three Brothers. | Source
Tomb of Three Brothers under ISIS control.
Tomb of Three Brothers under ISIS control. | Source
The Tomb of Three Brothers when liberated from ISIS control.
The Tomb of Three Brothers when liberated from ISIS control. | Source

Age Old Cities: A Virtual Journey from Palmyra to Mosul

The museum opened this special exhibit on January 25, 2020 and it will be in Gallery 28 until October 25, 2020.[i] The exhibit shows how the Islamic State (ISIS) damaged or destroyed structures and artifacts from three ancient cities, Palmyra, Aleppo, and Mosul. The exhibit is sad, inspiring, and amazing.

In Palmyra, ISIS dynamited two 1st century temples. ISIS used a 2nd-century theater to carry out executions. The theater was partially destroyed in 2017. Palmyra was surrounded by funerary towers that held tombs and sarcophagi decorated with carved figure reliefs. ISIS dynamited them. There was an underground tomb named the “Tomb of Three Brothers”. It had carved stone sarcophagi and there were wall paintings. ISIS used this as a base of operations. They painted over the paintings with white paint. They placed blankets over the sarcophagi.

In Aleppo, an 11th-century minaret collapsed on April 24, 2013, during fighting between Syrian government and opposition forces. That is one of many examples of a structure in ancient Aleppo that was destroyed or damaged during the fighting.

In Mosul, ISIS forces issued an edict that all “heretical” structures be destroyed. The Great Mosque of al-Nuri, a 12th-century mosque was where ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared himself caliph of the Islamic State on June 29, 2014. With Mosul about to fall to Iraqi government forces, ISIS destroyed this mosque on June 21, 2017.[ii] Near Mosul, there is the mausoleum of the Biblical prophet Jonah (Nabi Yunus). There was a shrine dedicated to the prophet Jonah integrated into a 14th-century mosque. On June 13, 2014, ISIS declared the shrine heretical and later in June blew up the mosque and mausoleum. The demolition uncovered Neo-Assyrian artifacts from the 7th century BCE. These Neo-Assyrian artifacts are being studied at the University of Heidelberg, Germany.

The exhibit has a film made by local residents. It shows how people live and hope even under terrible circumstances. The film includes some occasional gunfire in the distance.

Thanks to vintage photographs and modern technology the exhibit has large screens that virtually reconstruct these cities.

[i] National Museum of Asian Art, https://asia.si.edu/exhibition/age-old-cities/, last accessed, 3/8/2020.

[ii] With U.S. commandoes closing in Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi killed three of his young children and himself on October 26, 2019.

Age old City - Palmyra

Age Old City - Temple of Baalshamin

Age Old City - Aleppo

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers

    © 2020 Robert Sacchi

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      • Peggy W profile image

        Peggy Woods 

        5 weeks ago from Houston, Texas

        Our numbers are still climbing in our area. Everyone in Houston, as well as the county in which we live, are now supposed to wear face masks when out in public. Hopefully, that will help slow the spread of COVID-19. I think that you are right. Until we have a vaccine or therapeutics in place, we are in for a long haul.

      • Robert Sacchi profile imageAUTHOR

        Robert Sacchi 

        2 months ago

        The numbers seem to be gong the wrong way. The lockdown seems to have slowed the advance but not enough to give serious hope of it ending anytime soon.

      • Peggy W profile image

        Peggy Woods 

        2 months ago from Houston, Texas

        As to how things are going in Houston with regard to Covid-19, the numbers keep going up by way of verified infections and deaths. I am sure it will keep climbing for a while until we get this thing under control. The Houston mayor is doing all he can to encourage people to stay at home. We live in the county, and the county judge is giving the same recommendations.

      • Robert Sacchi profile imageAUTHOR

        Robert Sacchi 

        2 months ago

        Thank you for reading and commenting. I am glad you enjoyed your visit to the National Museum of Asian Arts.

      • emge profile image

        MG Singh 

        2 months ago from Singapore

        Wonderful article on the Museum. I have been there and it had a great ambiance and exhibits.

      • Robert Sacchi profile imageAUTHOR

        Robert Sacchi 

        2 months ago

        Thank you for reading and commenting. You too be safe and healthy.

      • FlourishAnyway profile image

        FlourishAnyway 

        2 months ago from USA

        Thanks for profiling this museum with such a rich history. It's good that you got a visit in during February. How quickly things change. It's so sad that those irreplaceable objects were destroyed by ISIS in 2017 as heretical. Be safe and healthy in these unpredictable times.

      • Robert Sacchi profile imageAUTHOR

        Robert Sacchi 

        2 months ago

        Appreciate her courage. I remember the swine flu vaccine in 1976. I pray she suffers no ill effects and the test is successful. Every successful test case is one less carrier. As of 1613 3/17/20 the US has 5,853 cases and 97 deaths. How are things in Houston?

      • Peggy W profile image

        Peggy Woods 

        2 months ago from Houston, Texas

        It is great that you got to see this museum before it and others have had to be closed to the public.

        They interviewed a woman on television today who volunteered to be tested with the new vaccine. There will be many followups, and another injection in a month, if all goes well. She will then be monitored for the next 18 months, according to the report. So a coronavirus vaccine for the general public will still be some time away.

      • Robert Sacchi profile imageAUTHOR

        Robert Sacchi 

        2 months ago

        Thank you for reading and commenting. We actually went there as part of my son's school project. I am glad we went. Hopefully the shutdowns will slow the Coronavirus advance. They are supposed to start testing a vaccine on Monday, 3/23/20.

      • Peggy W profile image

        Peggy Woods 

        2 months ago from Houston, Texas

        You were fortunate to visit this National Museum of Asian Art before it was shut down due to the coronavirus. Hopefully, someday in the not too distant future, it and other places will once again be open to the public. Your photos are great. Thanks for sharing them with us.

      • Robert Sacchi profile imageAUTHOR

        Robert Sacchi 

        2 months ago

        Thank you all for reading and commenting. It seemed we got there just under the wire. Liz Weswood asks a good question. All Smithsonian Museums are Coronavirus casualties. They are closed at least through the end of the month. They closed down very quick in this area. The open question is was it fast enough.

      • MitaraN profile image

        Mitara N 

        2 months ago from South Africa

        Very interesting article and beautiful pictures, very well written

        Thank you for sharing

      • Eurofile profile image

        Liz Westwood 

        2 months ago from UK

        This is an extremely well-illustrated article. You give a good account of this museum. Is it still open or is it a coronavirus casualty. I hear that many countries are closing museums at the moment.

      • Pamela99 profile image

        Pamela Oglesby 

        2 months ago from Sunny Florida

        This looks like a very interesting museum to visit. Your pictures are very good and this is a very good article.

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