In the mid-twentieth century, Canterbury-born Rewi Alley played an important role in developing relationships between New Zealand and China. Working in partnership with the then Canterbury Museum Director, Dr Roger Duff, and the Palace Museum in Beijing, Alley helped to amass the most extensive collection of Chinese art in New Zealand.
'China: Open Empire' celebrates the 120th anniversary of Alley’s birth, sharing some of the incredible treasures he sent home to Canterbury Museum. The Rewi Alley Collection comprises some 1,400 objects which include ceramics, jades and bronzes as well as paintings and currency that reflect almost 4,000 years of Chinese culture. It is largely made up of donations directly from Alley and exchanges of objects between the Palace Museum in Beijing and Canterbury Museum.
Highlights of the Collection include neolithic objects discovered on the Shandan Bailie School farm where Alley was headmaster in the 1940s, Han Dynasty ceramics from the Gobi Desert, a superb collection of jade, belt buckles, snuff bottles and paintings by two important twentieth century Chinese artists.