The Arthur M. Sackler Museum houses superb collections of ancient, Islamic, Asian, and later Indian art. Among its treasures are the world's finest collections of archaic Chinese jades and Japanese surimono, as well as outstanding Chinese bronzes, ceremonial ancient weapons, and Buddhist cave-temple sculpture; Chinese and Korean ceramics; and Japanese woodblock prints, calligraphy, narrative paintings, and lacquer boxes. The Sackler is also home to paintings, drawings, and calligraphy from Iran, India, and Turkey, as well as to one of America's most important teaching collections of Greek, Roman, Egyptian, and Near Eastern art, with significant holdings of Greek and Roman sculpture, Greek vases, and ancient coins.
Dr. Arthur M. Sackler expressed his interest in helping China preserve its rich cultural heritage by offering to provide a teaching museum incorporating all elements of modern musicology, such as modern display techniques, climate control, conservation facilities, storage and security, as well as a training program for archaeologists and musicologists. Discussions about the construction of such a museum were officially entered into in 1984 with the Secretary General of Peking University, Mr. Wen Zhong. Peking University is the logical choice for the museum because of its extensive archaeological collection and because it has been a leader in training Chinese archaeologists since the nineteen-thirties.
The new museum is located on a beautiful site near the West Gate of Peking University campus and its architecture takes the inspiration from buildings that already exist on campus. The firm of Prentice & Chan, Ohlhausen, of New York City, was hired to design the museum in July, 1986, with Lo-yi Chan, working closely with the Peking University staff and in consultation with Dr. Sackler, as the supervising architect for the project. The new museum was designed to conform to Ming Dynasty style structures, aroung a central courtyard.