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.
Luckily, you can check it out for free this Saturday during the Chinese New Year Celebration/Family Day on February 13, 2016 from noon to 4 p.m. They’ll have Chinese dance demos, crafts, face painting, and a movie for the kids, plus entry to the museum is free that day. (Free family day is over, but check out the Museum on Facebook for more special events!)
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.
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.
119 South Main Street
Memphis, TN 38103