The Museum of Asian Art (Muzium Seni Asia) was officially opened in 1980 and is housed inside a three-storey building located on the compounds of the University of Malaya, a highly prestigious Malaysian university. Situated about 4 km from the Kuala Lumpur city centre, the museum contains 2,000 over ceramics pieces from Malaysia, Thailand, Khmer, Vietnam, China, Japan, India and Iran.
The ceramic collection that the museum displays is truly a wonder to behold. Those who do not know the general history of ceramics and pottery in Southeast Asia may familiarize themselves here with a wholesome introduction provided by the museum’s curators. The three Swankhalok pottery manhunt elephants are among the variety of items visitors will have the chance to observe. These figurines were created at the current Si Satchanalai, a major Thai kiln centre that originated from the 14th and 15th centuries. There are only five such pottery manhunt elephants known to have been made, and three of them are right here in this museum! Other ceramic displays in the Museum of Asian Art are so ancient they even date from as early as the 11 th century.
One entire wall inside the museum is devoted to a kendi ceramic collection. The word kendi evolved from the word kundi, which initially evolved from the word kundika, meaning ‘water vessels’ in Indian lingo. Kendi are traditional water containers produced for the basic needs of drinking water from. Usually built with a bulbous body and two spout openings, these vessels are known to have no handles. The unglazed-fired clay was popular for use of creating kendi because it was portable and able to keep its contents at neutral temperatures. The Museum of Asian Art boasts of the largest collection of kendi water vessels in the world. Kendi look like exquisite brass kettles that have been elaborately scribed with fearsome animals like dragons, crocodiles and dogs. Carefully chiseled with additional floral patterns and geometrical strokes, the kendi was used at weddings or similar major events. It was even used ceremonially by villagers to ward off evil spirits, and to be presented as bridal gifts.
The collection at the Museum of Asian Art comprises of both local and Asian Art objects. Many other collections of cultural heritage and interest include Islamic & Malay Arts, Textiles, Stone Carvings, Islamic paintings, Copper items, Weapons and traditional kites. It also holds 2,000 exclusive publications on Asian art that are only open to legal researchers and University of Malaya library members.
The museum’s operating hours are from 9am to 5pm on Mondays to Fridays, and on Saturdays from 9am to 1230pm. The museum is closed from 12pm to 2pm for Friday prayers and also on public holidays. There are no admission charges, so bring along your friends and loved ones a chance to gawk at Asian heritage arts!