Exhibition | Archive


in the art of East Asia

13 August 2016 to 29 January 2017

What would a life be without passions? In the art of East Asia, human passions play an important part. From love to the arts, the yearning for freedom and a life in the midst of nature, from the pleasures of erotic play to the overcoming of the passions through Buddhism – every aspect is reflected.

Works in the exhibition

The yearning for freedom and immortality is expressed by monumental dream landscapes with mighty mountains disappearing into the haze and small huts in which hermits live in harmony with nature. Daoism saw the world as a universe pervaded by cosmic energies (qi). Human beings are part of this universe and draw their life energy (qi) from this cosmic spring.

Ancestor portraits and depictions of loyal officials and exemplary scholars tell of Confucian morality and love of virtue. Genre painting additionally addressed the theme of women who, by dint of their sacrifice for their parents-in-law and their subordination to their husbands, achieved tragic celebrity. In Confucianism it was the moral duty of sons to honour the spirits of the ancestors in rituals, to leave their own names reputably in the history books and to ensure the continuation of the family through numerous children.

Physical passion and loveplay, jealousy and voyeurism are the themes of erotic albums in which same-sex love is also portrayed. In particular the Japanese coloured woodblock prints lead us to the world of the pleasure quarters. At the same time, they intrigue us with their sensuousness and their delicate technical sophistication.

Board games and socializing are passions deeply rooted in Chinese and Japanese culture. They include a love of wine and drunkenness, but also a love of tea and sobriety. Alongside depictions of games, collective excursions and pigrimages, the exhibition also includes picnic utensils and eine and tea bowls.

In Buddhism, emotions such as hate, envy, love and compassion play a major role. These are also attributed to the deities. The sculptures express these emotions through postures and facial features. With their help and through meditative practices, people can overcome passions and achieve release.

The show presents the wealth of the museum’s collections supplemented by exquisite loans of erotic art.

Supported by

Fördererkreis des Museums für Ostasiatische Kunst Köln

Orientstiftung zur Förderung der Ostasiatischen Kunst



Global Merchandise more


Asia in Focus more


One Hundred Aspects of the Moon more

Opening times

Tuesday to Sunday
11am – 5pm
Every first Thursday in the month
11am – 10pm 
Closed Mondays

Museum is closed on 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.

Admission prices

€ 9.50 / reduced € 5.50

KölnTag on the first Thursday of the month (except public holidays): free admission to the Museum 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.


Museum für
Ostasiatische Kunst Köln
Universitätsstrasse 100
D 50674 Köln
Ticket office +49.221.221-28617
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