Jade Ships, Monkey Kings, and Chinese Puzzle Balls (A Visit To The Belz Museum)

Jade Ships, Monkey Kings, and Chinese Puzzle Balls (A Visit To The Belz Museum)

I finally visited the Belz Museum of Asian and Judaic Art last week, and I was surprised at how expansive and impressive it is. If you haven’t been before and you have even a vague interest in art or Asian or Judaic culture - or just like visually interesting things - I recommend you go soon.


The Belz Museum is in downtown Memphis. If you go into the lobby in between Maggie Moo’s and Blind Bear and go down the stairs (there are signs) you’ll find it. It’s the home of Jack Belz’s private collection of Asian and Judaic Art, and there are more than 900 pieces for you to see. For more info, check out 365 Things to Do in Memphis #115 or check out my Flickr album

My three favorite pieces in the Asian exhibit were:

The Jade Ship. This thing is about as tall as me...maybe a little taller. The sign said it took about 30 artisans something like three years to complete this scale model of a royal’s ship.

Belz Museum Jade Ship

The Monkey King. Another life-size sculpture. The Monkey King was a popular Chinese literary character from the 1592 novel “Journey To The West”.


Chinese Puzzle Balls. These were everywhere in the Belz Museum, and they are crazy. A Chinese puzzle ball is a sculpture of concentric spheres carved out of ivory with intricate details and depth. I cannot even fathom how something like this is carved. It’s just one example of the many carved ivory pieces that, frankly, blew my mind at this little hidden museum in Memphis.


In addition to multiple rooms of Asian pieces, there’s also a large room dedicated to contemporary Judaic paintings, sculptures, and artifacts. In 2014, the Belz Museum opened the adjacent Holocaust Memorial Gallery, which contains photographic portraits of Holocaust survivors living in the Memphis area and other memorabilia from the World War II era.

The Belz Museum of Asian and Judaic Art in Memphis is open Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. Last tickets are sold one hour before closing.Tickets prices are $6 for adults, $5 for seniors, $4 for students, and free for children under 5.

If you do take the kids, keep a close eye on them. I felt like some of the pieces, especially in the Asian exhibit, would be pretty tempting to touch or easy to accidentally bump into if you were five years old and got excited and started running around. But I do think most kids would enjoy the Belz Museum.

Belz Museum Long Eyebrow Lohan Eyebrows on fleek?

Go there:

Belz Museum of Asian and Judaic Art

119 South Main Street
Memphis, TN 38103


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Mark Bourland
I couldn't agree with you more Holly. The Belz is a great place to spend a little time if you are downtown. And, while Memphis museums are not expensive, one of my favorite days of the year is always Downtown Museum Day. I think it is held every year in September. Free and discounted admission to some of the best in the city.
February 9, 2016 8:36pm
Kevin Yancy
Great post! I must concur! Had to take my 15 yr old Son there for a school assignment last Summer. He met me at the office on Union and honestly we didn't know what to expect, and initially he just wanted to get in and out. However, once we started walking around we were both thoroughly impressed and enjoyed it tremendously! We could have spent hours just on the amazing and intricate carvings in the Mammoth tusks and Jade. We both really loved it! I urge fellow citizens to check out this hidden jewel in our fair city!
February 9, 2016 8:51pm
Kevin Yancy
Agreed! And the Pink Palace free Tuesdays is always a treat year-round!
February 10, 2016 12:20am