Traveling Through Asia In Pasadena
Visited: March 2, 2016
After passing by this building literally hundreds of times during my life, it was finally time to step inside Pasadena’s USC Pacific Asia Museum. Dedicated to “the arts and culture of Asia and the Pacific Islands,” this museum opened in 1971, and is one of those places where the architecture and the history of this building is just as interesting as what is contained inside.
She had a profound interest in Native American art and set up a curio shop on Raymond Avenue in Pasadena. By the 1920s, she needed more space, so she hired a famed architectural firm to construct what would become The Grace Nicholson Building (and eventually this museum).
It was built in the “Imperial Courtyard Style” of Peking (Beijing) buildings, right down to the roof tiles, stone and marble carvings and bronze and copper work, which was imported from China.
In 1925, a local magazine called it “far and away the most beautiful building of which Pasadena can boast.”
In 1943, Grace donated the building to the city of Pasadena, and since then it has changed its name more times than John Mellencamp.
The Grace Nicholson Building became The Grace Nicholson Treasure House of Oriental Art in 1971, which subsequently became the Pacific Asia Museum that lasted until 2013 when it partnered with the University of Southern California to finally (we think) become the USC Pacific Asia Museum.
The museum holds more than 15,000 artifacts “spanning more than 4,000 years.” It also has a gorgeous courtyard (more on that later).
Walking in past the two statues…
…I saw that the building had been designated as an historical landmark.
Through a corridor, I could also see the courtyard that I would wander through after my visit. Admission is not cheap (there’s a way around that…more later) at $18 for an adult, but because I’m over 60, I got the “Old-geezer” $15 rate. It also meant I could visit the special exhibit showing at the museum.
The first piece I came upon was the Head Of Bodhisattva. Until this point in my life, I only believed Bodhisattva to be a cool Steely Dan song, but this piece from China’s Song Dynasty (960 – 1279) is one of the few left from that period. I assume it is worth “more than a Song.”
The next interesting figure I saw, Agyo, is a more current piece (from the 19th century). These guys were guardians at Japanese Buddhist temples to protect the temples (along with the monks and worshipers) from harm.
There was no photography in the special Royal Taste exhibit. I was hoping the Royal Taste might include lunch, and although it didn’t, the exhibit did contain some very interesting pieces from the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), including some military artifacts.
It was in one of the next rooms I became slightly confused. I thought I might still be in the special collection area, but since the walls were a different color, I surmised otherwise and took some photos.
I spotted a beautiful vase and lovely water pitcher that I think came from the Ming Dynasty. Whenever Tracy comes with me, and we see these types of displays, I call them The Martha Stewart Collection.
The 15th-century Standing Statue Of The Dragon Lord looked eerily similar to one of the monsters Captain Kirk battled in Star Trek (I should never go to museums alone…my mind wanders).
The Dragon statue is hanging out with Statue of the Primordial Goddess, Mother Of The Dipper, along with Celestial Marshal Gou of the Thunder Gate and Celestial Marshal.
Finally in this room, I met The Statue Of The Celestial Worthy of the Great Unity, Savior from Suffering. Whoever named these statues had lots of time on his or her hands.
Now it was time to visit The Arts Of China. My favorite piece in that room was the Horseshoe Chair, which dates from the latter part of The Ming Dynasty. It’s made from huanghuali wood (a form of rosewood).
I took a couple of photos of waterfall Literati Paintings.
The Tokonoma is an alcove “that serves as the focal point of a traditional Japanese home. The earliest tokonoma served as altars in Zen Buddhist Temples.”
It was now time to head back outside for some quiet moments in the tranquil center garden.
“It contains many of the traditional plants and decorative elements that support this unity. While the layout, pond and plants have changed over the years, the courtyard remains a focal point, providing transition between public and private space.”
America has the Foo Fighters while China has the “Foo Dogs.” These stone lions (they always come in pairs) ward off evil, which guaranteed I wouldn’t run into any presidential candidates.
As stated earlier, I found the exterior and courtyard as intriguing as the pieces located in the interior…
Although its website states admission is $10, the entrance fee was $18 ($15 if over 60).
HOWEVER: If you’d like to save some money, on the second Sunday of the month, admission to the USC Pacific Asia Museum is FREE.
USC Pacific Asia Museum
48 North Los Robles Avenue
Pasadena, California 91101
Hours: Wednesday through Sunday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
4th of July: Closed
Wednesday before Thanksgiving Day (Museum closes at 3 p.m.)
Thanksgiving Day: Closed
Christmas Eve: (Museum closes at 2 p.m.)
Christmas Day: Closed
New Year’s Eve: (Museum closes at 2 p.m.)
New Year’s Day: Closed
Free Parking in lot on Union and Los Robles