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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 71.djvu/487

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THE

POPULAR SCIENCE

MONTHLY

 

DECEMBER, 1907




NOTES ON ASIATIC MUSEUMS
By Professor BASHFORD DEAN

COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY

ASIA, whatever its contributions to art and science, has, humanely speaking, taught little to the west as to either the means of forming its illustrative collections or the manner of displaying them; in fact, as far as I am aware, the trend of Asiatic culture has been rather to deter its people from collecting. For such an interest, to pure eastern ideals, would foster the heresy that the things of this world are to be the more highly prized: or, in another direction, it might suggest undesirable ostentation. It is from the latter point of view, in fact, that a Japanese collector will still decline to exhibit his treasures outside of the circle of his intimate friends. In any event, whatever be the reasons, I think it may safely be said that comprehensive collections were early unknown in the east. In India, land of fabulous riches, the pre-European collections appear to have been confined to the cabinets of rulers and the wealthiest civilians, and were made up largely of decorated objects, ivories, jewels, arms, now and then menageries—the last sometimes including exotic animals. Such collections were usually little more than a gathering of valuable heirlooms, objects obtained during travels, and curiosities generally.[1] And similar conditions prevailed, as far as I was able to find, in China. In Japan, small collections were, and are, very numerous. Professor Morse, knowing his theme more accurately than Huish, describes the Japanese as a nation of collectors; but such collections, as I think all will agree, are notable for their quality rather than their comprehensiveness, and are formed in the


  1. I recall, as a typical specimen in such an early collection a copy in ivory of a human skeleton which a rajah (of Tanjore) had caused to be prepared in Paris—for a genuine one could not, according to the rules of caste, be used in his anatomical inquiries.