The Institute's collection of Asian art represents seventeen Asian cultures spanning over 5,000 years. The Department of Asian Arts has benefited greatly from generous gifts from knowledgeable collectors. Augustus L. Searle, Alfred F. Pillsbury, Richard P. Gale, Louis W. Hill, Jr., and Ruth and Bruce Dayton have donated specialized collections of international reputation, including ancient Chinese bronzes, ancient and post-Sung jade, Chinese monochrome ceramics, Ukiyo-e paintings, Japanese prints, and classical Chinese furniture. In addition, highly regarded specialized collections of Ch'ing dynasty silk textiles, Miao textiles, and surimono prints have been built over the years. The curatorial department's goal is to provide the public with a broad overview of Asian art.
The diverse collections of The Minneapolis Institute of Arts include thousands of works of art that were made for worship or religious ritual. Historically, people have lavished the finest materials and workmanship on those things that represented their most deeply held beliefs. The works of art included here were selected because they illustrate the main theological concepts of the world's major religions. The texts attempt to provide concise overviews and are intended to serve as comparative teaching resources. Each entry was reviewed by a knowledgeable practitioner and/or ordained clergy of that faith.