The China collection
The core elements of the China collection are the archaic sacred bronzes with famous masterpieces dating from ca. 1500 BCE to the 2nd century CE, as well as early Chinese pottery (ca. 3000 BCE to 13th century CE) and porcelain from the Ming and Qing dynasties (15th to 19th centuries). The museum also possesses outstanding examples of Buddhist stone sculpture of the 6th century and wood sculpture of the 11th and 12th centuries. Monochrome ink painting and calligraphy both by artist-scholars and commissioned from professional studio artists form a further important collection complex. The museum also houses outstanding examples of Chinese lacquer art, jade works, textiles, carpets and classic Chinese furniture of the 17th and 18th centuries.
Early pottery and bronze
The collection comprises, alongside earthenware, proto-porcelain and ash-glaze stoneware, also lead-glaze funerary ceramics (mingqi). These came into fashion more than 2000 years ago and reached their culmination in the monumental sculptures of horses and camels during the Tang dynasty. These are impressively represented by loans from the Ludwig Stiftung. 9th-century genuine white porcelain from the Ding and Xing kilns of northern China as well as northern and southern celadon (greenware) from the 10th to the 13th centuries are well represented as is Yingqing porcelain, the forerunner of ware from Jingdezhen.
With their delicate relief decor featuring monster and animal masks, the bronzes from the Shang to the Han dynasties (15th century BCE – 2nd century CE), cast in an elaborate mould process, testify to the highest technical perfection. Hans-Jürgen von Lochow, a railway engineer who lived in China from 1921 to 1955, acquired his fantastic collection from the Beijing-based art dealer Otto Burchard (1893–1965). With the consent of Prime Minister Zhou Enlai, von Lochow was able to export his collection to Germany in 1955. The sacred bronzes are containers for sacrificial gifts of food, water and wine, made to pacify the spirits in the temples of ancestors. However they also served as grave gifts, doubtless to proclaim to the world beyond the high social status of their owners. The unique set of 8th-century-BCE bronze bells from the collection of Peter and Irene Ludwig mist have been intended to show off the height of luxury.
Buddhism reached China in the 1st century CE. Buddhist sculpture was characterized in a number of phases by influences from India and central Asia. The period from the 6th to the 8th century, when new Indian influences reached China, is represented by two important marble sculptures of the Northern Qi dynasty (550–577). The influences of Greece and central Asia during the 7th and 8th centuries, with their Western-inspired emphasis on the three-dimensional body, are illustrated in the really quite rare limestone statue of the Daoist deity Laojun dating from the 7th century. From the 11th century, wooden sculptures with softer forms dominate; the Liao-period Bodhisattva Guanyin from the Ludwig collection is an outstanding example. The bronzes of the Buddha’s two favourite pupils, commissioned by the imperial court in the early 17th century, only came to be properly appreciated when the imperial inscription was discovered. To mark the centenary of the its foundation. in 2009 the museum acquired a finely-worked marble statue of a heavenly king in dynamic pose, one of the few surviving examples of these guardian gods responsible for protecting the Buddhist world.
Painting and calligraphy, and Ming and Qing-dynasty porcelain
Our holdings of painting and calligraphy of the Song and Yuan dynasties (11th to 14th century) and the Ming and Qing dynasties (15th to early 20th century) give an insight into the aesthetic refinement of the scholar and civil-service elite. The literati ‘wrote’ their books with a brush. In their view, monochrome ink painting and calligraphy were closely related; the brushwork gave expression to the personality of the artist. The professional painters, by contrast, worked on commission; complaisant motifs, luminous colours and a realistic style were in demand not only at the imperial court but also among wealthy merchants. The collection of professional painting from the 16th to the 19th century has grown significantly thanks to the restoration of more than 30 paintings, a task which we entrusted to the Shanghai Museum in 2006.
Alongside painting and calligraphy, the category of objects traditionally collected at the imperial court and by the upper classes included pottery and porcelain. The imperial porcelain of the 18th century is well represented in our collection, including unique pieces from the Ludwig collection, such as the water-dropper in the shape of mushrooms of immortality, of which no other example is known. The museum’s porcelain collection illustrates the whole spectrum of decorative techniques from underglaze cobalt blue and copper red to the development of overglaze enamel paints.
Tuesday to Sunday
11am – 5pm
Every first Thursday in the month
11am – 10pm
Museum is closed on Carnival from February 20th until February 25th. Museum is also closed December 24th, Christmas Day (25 Dec), New Year's Eve (31 Dec) and New Year's Day (1 Jan). Museum is opend on Easter Monday and Whit Monday.
Permament Collection and "Drunk on Sobriety. Wine and Tea in Chinese Art": € 7,00 / € 4
KölnTag on the first Thursday of the month (except public holidays): free admission to the Permanent Collection and "Drunk on Sobriety" for all Cologne residents.
How to get here
Public transport: Tram routes 1 and 7 and bus route 142, alight at ‘Universitätsstrasse’
There is a car park at the museum
The museum is barrier-free. Disabled toilet available.