Canterbury Museum’s collection of Chinese art and culture.

Rewi Alley’s long association with China and his Chinese connections helped establish the most extensive collection of Chinese art in New Zealand. It is a collection of artefacts donated or inspired by Rewi Alley, housed at Canterbury Museum in Christchurch.

Art historian Dr Richard Bullen from the University of Canterbury and historian Assoc. Prof. James Beattie from the University of Waikato, with the support of the Canterbury Museum, their Universities, and a grant from the Marsden Fund, embarked on a three-year project to investigate the scope of the collection, why and how it developed and the extent to which the artefacts encouraged favourable perceptions of a ‘New China’ in New Zealand. Project findings will significantly advance knowledge in many areas of art, exhibition and diplomatic history, and New Zealand-China relations.

During a lecture given at Canterbury Museum on Tuesday 3rd May 2016, Drs Bullen and Beattie disseminated the results of their research project and made a number of points.

The Rewi Alley Collection, a significant collection of Chinese art and artefacts, was accumulated over a long period from Rewi’s earliest time in China from 1927 until the 1950’s with the Asian Hall opening at the museum in 1958.

Dr Roger Duff was an enthusiastic friend of Rewi Alley and his influence and ability added to and directed the collection.
Duff exchanged Moa bones for Chinese art which was latterly added to the Rewi Alley Collection.

Rewi Alley brought back objects on his visits home to family but as travel became more difficult for him he sent objects back with several New Zealanders who had had an association with him in China.

The whole collection has been photographed, described and re-catalogued.

The contribution of a large number of contributors was gratefully acknowledged.

The collection is available for public viewing on the web at

This very important collection of Chinese artefacts gives an excellent insight into Rewi Alley’s interests.