Religion forms the basis for much of the art in Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. Surviving primarily as sculpture, the Museum has an important collection of Hindu and Buddhist sculpture from these countries. These works originated as part of the imagery and architectural ornament of temples and other religious monuments.
Of exceptional note at the Museum is the collection of Vietnamese ceramics. Considered to be the finest in the United States, this collection ranges from early 1st -2nd centuries pieces to important 18th-19th century works. Vietnam is a close neighbor of China, and was ruled by China for a thousand years, having direct exposure to Chinese civilization and its ceramic industry for centuries. Yet Vietnamese potters did not simply copy Chinese ceramics and their decoration. Instead, they combined indigenous and Chinese elements in original and individual ways, experimenting with new ideas and adopting features from other cultures as well, creating some of the most beautiful and sophisticated ceramics in Southeast Asia.