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Objects of Addiction: Opium, Empire, and the Chinese Art Trade

September 14, 2023 @ 6:00 pm 7:30 pm

Opium pipe, China, Qing dynasty to Republican period, inscribed with cyclical date corresponding to 1868 or 1928. Water buffalo horn, metal, and ceramic. Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Bequest of Grenville L. Winthrop, 1943.55.6.

Speaker: Sarah Laursen, Alan J. Dworsky Associate Curator of Chinese Art, Harvard Art Museums

Objects of Addiction explores the entwined histories of the opium trade and the Chinese art market between the late 18th and early 20th centuries. The first section examines the origins of the opium trade in Asia, the participation of Massachusetts merchants, and opium’s devastating effects on Chinese people, both in China and the United States. The second section highlights the history of imperial art collecting in China and demonstrates the growing appetite for Chinese art in Europe and the United States after the Opium Wars (1839–42, 1856–60), which led to the formation of Harvard’s Chinese art collections. A special section of the exhibition investigates parallels between China’s opium crisis and the opioid epidemic in Massachusetts today. 

The program will take place in Menschel Hall on the Lower Level of the Harvard Art Museums. Please enter via the entrance on Broadway.


September 14, 2023
6:00 pm – 7:30 pm


Harvard Art Museum, Menschel Hall, Lower Level

32 Quincy St
cambridge, MA 02138 United States

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