Extraordinary Endeavours

Key information

10:30 am to 5:00 pm
Brunei Gallery, SOAS
Event type

About this event

The Brunei Gallery, SOAS, and the Royal Asiatic Society are pleased to present an exhibition celebrating the Society’s bicentenary and its involvement in the study of science, literature, religion, and the arts of Asia since 1823.

The exhibition traces the broad development of Asian Studies in Britain as revealed through the Society’s collections and the activities of its members. It also highlights the important contributions made by Asian teachers, translators, and artists who played significant roles in facilitating British scholars in their encounters with and explorations of Asia over the past 200 years.

A detailed drawing of four architectural columns, painted in light blue.

Royal Asiatic Society Collection item, Portico with Four Columns, pen and ink on paper, 1824 (RAS 034.01).

The exhibition includes rare books, manuscripts, paintings, photographs, and maps from the collections and reveals how Asian works of literature, art, and religion made a lasting impression on British culture. This ranges from popular games such as chess illustrated by a 16th-century Persian manuscript and the original game of ‘Snakes and Ladders’ (RAS 051.001) painted by a Maharashtran artist, ca. 1800 CE to celebrated works of literature including the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam and the Arabian Nights. The exhibition reflects the extraordinary diversity of the collections donated to the Society by its members and other institutions.

The exhibition is supported free and open to the public.

It is supported by SOAS, The Barakat Trust, and Rathbones. Alongside the exhibition, the Royal Asiatic Society will be holding a series of lectures and events on objects from the collection on display in the exhibition.