With an interest in history that stemmed from his early visits to the Canterbury Museum and his favourite school subject, history, Rewi found an appreciation of the workmanship of the old pieces of pottery, carvings and ornaments he had found in stalls in his early days in Shanghai, when he started collecting objects that appealed to him. As opportunity presented itself, he developed and added to his collections all his life. Many pieces were sent back to the Canterbury Museum but he also maintained key pieces in various collections in China.