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The China Collectors: America's Century-Long Hunt for Asian Art Treasures

3.9  ·  Rating Details ·  41 Ratings  ·  21 Reviews
**One of The Washington Post's Notable Nonfiction Books of 2015**

Thanks to Salem sea captains, Gilded Age millionaires, curators on horseback and missionaries gone native, North American museums now possess the greatest collections of Chinese art outside of East Asia itself. How did it happen? The China Collectors is the first full account of a century-long treasure hunt i
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Hardcover, 432 pages
Published March 10th 2015 by St. Martin's Press
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(showing 1-30)
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Jennifer
Received from Firstreads...
This was a wonderful book, I really enjoyed it. I would recommend it to anyone with an interest in Asian art. Also great if you like to read about China/Chinese history. Filled with lots of interesting facts, mini-bios of lots of eccentric characters, all without being gossipy. Very objective. I would give it 4 1/2 stars if possible.
Betty
Nov 26, 2015 Betty rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
If you are fascinated by Chinese art, you must read this book. North American museums actually house an amazing array of Chinese art, due to numerous expeditions by sea captains, missionaries, and museum curators over the years. Reading of the art throughout the ages, I got a better grasp of Chinese history -- the Opium Wars, the Boxer Rebellion, the Cultural Revolution. The book is not easy to read but it is fascinating.
Thing Thing
Oct 27, 2016 Thing Thing rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
非常有趣的一本書。其實,跟我想像中有很大的差距,我一直以為它會介紹那些被美國各大博物館收藏的精品文物,但書的目的只是想告訴我們在明末清初的那個年代,美國這些學者,考古學家,因鐵路鋼鐵金融發跡的企業家如何興起迷戀和熱愛中國文物的收藏。
我個人認為,在那個年代的大環境,很難說清楚誰對誰錯,即使連清朝官員私底下也在變賣文物,只能說這一批最終流落到美國各大博物館的文物與藝術品是屬於極致幸運的一批。至少收藏家並沒有把它們當成經濟投資而是當成藝術來收藏,後都捐贈給各大博物館收藏讓大眾欣賞,從某種意義上它們是從中國走向了世界,從帝王將相的家或陵墓走向大眾。如果當年它們是被投機客當成財富來累積買賣,可能最終下場是很糟糕的。也慶幸這些文物在某種意義上避過了當時的一些人為的災難。
但另外一方面像蔭余堂,雖然它也是幸運的,跟它一樣的老房子,或許早就被拆遷,摧毀。但家是有氣味,有聲音,有記憶的地方,天氣,鄰居,節慶都是構成這房子大環境的一部分,在美國的蔭余堂就只剩下了一所老房子。一旦脫離了大環境,到美國看一所房子其實跟雜誌上看一張照片,從意義上也就沒有太大的分別了。我們如何保存自己的遺產,是不是被外國人搬走了,才
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Juha
Feb 03, 2016 Juha rated it really liked it
Shelves: china, history, asia, art
This is a thoroughly fascinating book about Chinese art -- and more about men and women from America and Europe who collected it (sometimes through looting, especially in the early times) and brought it to collections and museums in the United States. We read about the adventurers, diplomats, curators and others who entered China a century ago and discovered Chinese art that was not recognized in the West. Famous collectors, like J.P. Morgan, Charles Lang Freer and the Rockefellers play ...more
Danielle T
Jul 14, 2015 Danielle T rated it liked it
Shelves: history, asia
This was both fascinating and infuriating, not necessarily because of the the writing but the content. The China Collectors focuses on American collectors of Chinese art, which is sort of a niche thing to write about except it spans centuries from the early 1800s through today. There's echoes of the nineteenth century naturalists' attitude that art collectors seemed to share with the 'If we don't take this now to preserve, no one will see it in the future!' as an excuse to take priceless cave ...more
Mel
Feb 23, 2015 Mel rated it it was ok
I received this book for free through s Goodreads First Reader giveaway.

The subject itself is a little dry, as I am not a student of art history. Someone who is, or who is interested in Chinese art and its history would undoubtedly enjoy the book more. It was very full of information about the various prominent early collectors and dealers in Chinese art, and the various museums that house it.

That being said, and even taking into account I received an uncorrected proof ARC, I found the book frus
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Jean Bonilla
Apr 29, 2016 Jean Bonilla rated it really liked it
This book offers a comprehensive look at the engagement with China of American collectors of art. So many of the names are familiar ones - Morgan, Freer, Sackler, Rockefeller. The museum names resonate, too! Also, as I commented in an interim review snippet, this book provided the perfect segue from my previous story of the whale ship Essex. I knew from that tale that Americans had ventured into the Pacific seeking oil-rich sperm whales. To see how that drew our bold entrepreneurs on to take ...more
Mandy
May 25, 2015 Mandy rated it it was amazing
Meticulously researched, compelling and sometimes shocking, this wonderful book is for anyone interested in Chinese art, or indeed Chinese history and culture in general. Packed with fascinating information, it is also thought-provoking about the ethics of collecting – or sometimes more pertinently, stealing – art from other countries and how thinly the line is drawn between “acquiring” and “pillaging”. Concentrating primarily on the great American museums and those who collected for them, it’s ...more
Azabu
Jul 01, 2015 Azabu rated it really liked it
Historians Meyer and Brysac track the provenance of the Chinese collections housed in U.S. museums-- including the Metropolitan-- in this impressively researched survey of the adventurers who acquired these treasures. The duo amassed a wealth of information during a joint teaching stint at Oxford in 2012 where they had access to top scholars.
Focusing on the ‘catlike herd’ of colorful collectors, they open with the Bostonians who blazed a trail to China at the turn of the 20th century such as th
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Regina Foo (Queen of Bibliophile)
Obtained the ARC from NetGalley in exchange of my honest review.

A very interesting read on the lost of Chinese artifacts during the Mao's Cultural Revolution period. Now, the Chinese government intends to retrieve their lost historical treasures. There are a lot of heating debates going on regarding this issue and as a Chinese descendant, of course I would hope that these antiques to be returned to their original homeland.

A must-read if you're a great fan of Chinese antiques and history.
Chris
Dec 28, 2015 Chris rated it really liked it
Shelves: art-artists, history
Four stars because this book has the best account I've read so far of Laurence Sickman's activity in China, where he began his lifelong association with Kansas City's Nelson-Atkins Museum.
(But it's too brief!) He's one of a parade of collectors and scholars in this enjoyable book, which does an even-handed job of presenting the historical context for the movement of so much Chinese art from China to the US.
Cathy
Jan 27, 2015 Cathy rated it liked it
Shelves: first-reads
I won this Advance Reader's Copy through a GoodReads give-away. This book is about the great Chinese Art collection in the US and how it was collected from the Opium Wars through the Mao period. This book asks the questions on how these items were actually acquired (i.e.looting or salvage)and also discusses China's attempt to recover their lost treasures. Interesting read.
Darcee Kraus
Feb 08, 2015 Darcee Kraus rated it it was amazing
Shelves: first-reads
I won this novel in the First Read's giveaway! I love the rich culture discussed in this novel as well as the history of collecting it. I found some of the observations to be more objective than factual but also found myself in agreeance with the author, Karl Meyer. I love learning about cultures and art so this was the perfect melody for my week.
Marisa Young
Apr 13, 2015 Marisa Young rated it it was amazing
I am not into art history, but this was a fascinating book. It is a slow read - packed with details about the dealers and collectors. The descriptions make the people come to life. It includes interesting facts about the times and the countries involved.
Melissa
May 08, 2015 Melissa rated it really liked it
Shelves: ebooks, non-fiction, arc, china
This one was a bit dry for me, however I can't argue that it was well-written and contained a lot of interesting bits of history. Someone with an interest in art or Chinese history would love it, but it's probably not one for a casual reader.
Elizabeth
Dec 15, 2015 Elizabeth rated it it was ok
I won this book in a goodreads giveaway. OMG I survived I thought I was never going to finish this. This book is very informative but really dry. I don't think I'm going to remember anything about this book by tomorrow.
Maureen Hetzel
Aug 21, 2015 Maureen Hetzel rated it it was amazing
Highly recommended for lovers of Asian Art as it traces the history about the beginnings of all the major Asian art collections in major US art institutions. Fascinating history of how pieces and collections were acquired and insight into the eccentricities of individual collectors.
Fredrick Danysh
Jan 21, 2015 Fredrick Danysh rated it liked it
Shelves: advance-read
This work covers the quest by Americans to acquire Chinese art objects and the lost of Chinese artifacts during Moa's Cultural Revolution. The reaquistion attempts to recover these objects is also documented. A decent work on Chinese art history.
Ashley
Long book, not really my style only liked a few chapters and I will not retain anything from this book....too dense
Carla
Dec 29, 2015 Carla rated it liked it
This book was OK a little hard for me to wade through, but interesting and I learned a lot about China and its art. I won a copy of the book from Goodreads
Rose
Aug 14, 2015 Rose rated it really liked it
Interesting story of Americans and Chinese art. Beautiful color illustrations, b/w in text, maps, chronology.
Nasha
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Nov 27, 2016
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Pat rated it liked it
Dec 08, 2015
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Amy rated it really liked it
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Yaqi Tong
Yaqi Tong rated it liked it
Aug 16, 2015
Philip
Philip rated it really liked it
Mar 13, 2016
Carol Cowden
Carol Cowden rated it liked it
Jul 03, 2015
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