You know you are close when you see the distinctly Chinese silhouette of the roofline in Pasadena’s Playhouse District. This beautiful site—a replica of a building in Beijing’s Forbidden City—offers up 5,000 years of art and artifacts from Asia and the Pacific Islands, and it is the only museum in Southern California with such a specialized collection. Commissioned by Grace Nicholson in 1924, the home was built to provide her with a living space upstairs and galleries downstairs for her Asian and Native American art. Longtime Pasadenans will recall that in the 1950s and ’60s, this building was the home of the Pasadena Museum of Art, which would later become the Norton Simon.
Today, Pacific Asia sponsors a broad range of changing exhibits: One might see contemporary Korean ceramics, Tibetan secular and religious furniture, bijinga (Japanese paintings of beautiful women) or a display of iconography of Buddha.
With its commitment to community relevance, the museum services as many as 10,000 schoolchildren each year and invites hands-on participation in classes ranging from tai ch’i to mah-jongg to Chinese brush painting. And the lovely courtyard and garden with a carp pond is available for rental.
Pacific Asia Museum
46 N. Los Robles Ave., Pasadena
Wed.-Sun. 10 a.m-6 p.m
Admission $9, students & seniors $7, 11 and under free