For visitors interested in the artistic traditions and cultural histories of China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam or Southeast Asia, Paris is an unusual treasure-trove. The capital harbors excellent museums whose collections either partially or wholly dedicate themselves to arts from these nations. While these three key museums don't enjoy visits from millions of visitors each year like the Louvre and the Musée d'Orsay do, they remain essential in any full exploration of the Parisian cultural offering. These are rich collections located in quieter areas of the city that are rarely explored by tourists. Keep reading to learn more about what we consider to be the main highlights within these collections, and plunge into fascinating and millennia-long artistic and cultural traditions.
Perhaps the most substantial and celebrated Asian art museum in Paris, the Musée Guimet (National Museum of Asian Arts) is an essential destination for any visitors fascinated with the history of these rich traditions. Its impressive permanent collection boasts some 19,000 works of art and artifacts from greater Asia, with dedicated collections to Japan, China, Korea, Southeast Asia, and even to the arts of the Himalayas.
Meanwhile, well-curated temporary exhibits focus on lesser-known or less frequently considered aspects of Asian arts and culture, such as theatrical traditions.
This free museum in Paris opened in 1898 and is one of the capital's oldest municipal museums. It houses a remarkable collection of some 900 pieces of paintings, sculpture, and other artifacts from China, Japan, Vietnam, and Korea. Ancient bronzes such as the Buddha from Japan pictured here, delicate fine ceramics from China, funerary objects, and furnishings, and other stunning works await here. The rich Chinese collection offers a fascinating look at an artistic tradition stretching from the Neolithic period through numerous ancient dynasties through the 7th century A.D., while the Japanese collection focuses on decorative and graphic arts from "Nippon" traditions. While Korean and Vietnamese artistic traditions often get short shrift in many collections, meanwhile, the Cernuschi museum dedicates entire spaces to exploring the rich and distinctive heritage.
A recent addition to the Parisian arts landscape, the Musee du Quai Branly was in part the brainchild of the late former French president Jacques Chirac. As part of its massive (and controversial) permanent exhibition bringing visitors on a "tour" of artistic and cultural practices from the non-Western world, including Africa, Asia, Oceania, and the Americas, the museum houses an impressive and substantial collection of arts from East Asia.
Artifacts from the Miao and Dong ethnic minorities in China, a section on Buddhist art and cultural practices, and objects related to the art of Japanese stencil decorating are among just a few of the many highlights from the eclectic collection. Temporary exhibits are also worth an afternoon's visit, and the lush gardens are idyllic to stroll through during the spring and summer months.