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Scholarly Programs - National Museum of Asian Art

Scholarly Programs

Curator giving a gallery tour

Scholarly programs, designed for experts, students, and enthusiasts, share groundbreaking research and provide a deeper look into Asian and American art and culture. Symposia are open to the public and available to watch online.

Symposia & Conferences

Anyang: China’s Ancient City of Kings Symposium

Thursday, March 7–Friday, March 8, 2024
Keynote and reception: Thursday, March 7: 6–8 p.m.
Symposium: Friday, March 8: 10 a.m.–5:15 p.m.
Meyer Auditorium, Freer Gallery of Art

To celebrate the National Museum of Asian Art’s centennial in 2023, the museum organized Anyang: China’s Ancient City of Kings, an exhibition devoted to the art and archaeology of the last capital of the Shang dynasty. Occupied between roughly 1250 BCE and 1050 BCE, the Anyang site is associated with the earliest surviving corpus of Chinese writing; palatial building foundations; immense underground royal tombs; large-scale human sacrifice; the arrival of horses and chariots in China; and an extensive system of urban factories, where sophisticated goods in a variety of materials, including bone, jade, ceramic, and bronze, were manufactured at an industrial scale. Drawn exclusively from the museum’s collections, the exhibit features over two hundred remarkable artifacts that can be linked with Anyang and other material cultures contemporary with the Shang, including ornaments, ritual vessels, bells, weapons, and chariot fittings.

In conjunction with this exhibition, the museum is holding a two-day international symposium in Washington, DC. Bringing together specialists from a range of disciplines, the program will speak to the primary topics addressed in the exhibition, including the twentieth-century discovery of the Shang city and the advent of Chinese archaeology, the infrastructure that supported daily life at Anyang, the role of writing in its bureaucratic administration, and the evolution of design and technology reflected in the products created in the city’s various craft workshops.

Speakers include: 

  • Robert Bagley, Princeton University
  • Cao Dazhi, Peking University
  • Yung-ti Li, University of Chicago
  • Ariel O’Connor, National Museum of Asian Art
  • Kyle Steinke, National Museum of Asian Art
  • Donna Strahan, National Museum of Asian Art
  • Tang Jigen, Southern University of Science and Technology, Shenzhen
  • Wang Haicheng, University of Washington
  • Keith Wilson, National Museum of Asian Art

For more information, email

Chinese Object Study Workshops

Sophisticated visual analysis is a hallmark of art history and depends on skills acquired through the direct study of objects. These skills must be taught and practiced. Yet as graduate art history curricula have expanded to include training in methodology, historiography, and theory, training in object study has lessened. The problem is exacerbated for students of Chinese art history, whose graduate curricula include intensive language courses, as well as courses on religion, literature, and history.

Chinese Object Study Workshops is a program that provides graduate students in Chinese art history an immersive experience in the study of objects. The week-long workshops will help students develop the skills necessary for working with objects, introduce them to conservation issues not readily encountered in typical graduate art history curricula, and familiarize them with important American museum collections.

PostponedSymposium: Japan in the Age of Modernization: The Art of Tomioka Tessai and Otagaki Rengetsu

This event has been postponed

This symposium gathers scholars from the United States, Japan, and Europe, who look beyond Japan’s Western industrialization to examine China’s role in forming the nation’s modern identity. It accompanies a major retrospective of the modern Japanese painter Tomioka Tessai (1836–1924) on view from March 28 to August 2, 2020, at the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Asian Art. A curator-led sneak preview of the exhibition concludes the symposium.