Freer Leaves on First Trip to Asia

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  • Charles Lang Freer leaves Detroit to begin his first trip to Asia. After travelling through Italy for a month and visiting Paris, France, for two weeks, he sails to Ceylon (Sri Lanka) from Marseilles, France, via the Suez Canal. He reaches Colombo, Ceylon, on December 13, 1894. Freer is interested in religious places. While in Ceylon, he visits important Buddhist sites, including the impression of the Buddha's foot at Adam's Peak and reliquary mounds at Anuradhapura. He travels to Bombay, India, in January 1895 and visits rock-cut Hindu and Buddhist temples at Ellora. While in India, Freer also visits the Khyber Pass and Calcutta. He never visits India again and does not begin collecting Indian art until 1907.
  • After leaving Calcutta on March 20, Freer travels via Singapore to Hong Kong and Shanghai, China. He purchases some Chinese pottery in Shanghai. Although he later makes more extensive travels in China, Hong Kong and Shanghai do not leave Freer with a favorable impression during his first visit. Freer enjoys his time in Japan, which influences his aesthetic tastes. He continues to visit Buddhist religious sites, including the Kurodani monastery and the temples Hōryūji in Nara and Byōdōin (Phoenix Hall) in Uji near Kyoto. He travels to picturesque sites famous in Japanese literature and art, such as Lake Biwa. Freer, already familiar with Japanese art, attempts to gain permission to view paintings of the Kanō school in the castle at Nagoya. He is also interested in Japanese architecture and visits the imperial palaces around Kyoto. Freer departs from Kobe, Japan, on August 21, 1895 and arrives back in Detroit by September 12, 1895.


  • Freer, Charles Lang 1854-1919
  • Freer Gallery of Art


Chronology of Smithsonian History


  • In 1906 Charles Lang Freer donates his art collection to the Smithsonian Institution, and it later becomes the Freer Gallery of Art.
  • Lawton, Thomas and Linda Merrill. Freer: A Legacy of Art. Washington, D.C.: Freer Gallery of Art, Smithsonian Institution in association with Henry N. Abrams, Inc., 1993, p. 59-65.

Contact information

Institutional History Division, Smithsonian Institution Archives, 600 Maryland Avenue, SW, Washington, D.C. 20024-2520,


September 29, 1894


  • Description and travel
  • Art
  • Collectors and collecting
  • Pottery
  • Travel--Asia
  • Buddhism
  • Art, Chinese
  • Art, Japanese


  • Hong Kong (China)
  • Paris (France)
  • Asia
  • Sri Lanka
  • China
  • Japan
  • Italy
  • Michigan
  • India

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