The Kwok On Collection was created by French sinologist Jacques Pimpaneau from an ensemble of about 600 objects given to him in 1971 by Kwok On, a Chinese banker he met in Hong Kong while teaching at the Chinese University. Kwok On was passionate about the various aspects of Chinese theatre, which he was dedicated to document. In addition to crafting traditional musical instruments and puppets, he organised gatherings of friends for the staging of Canton opera librettos and puppet shows. This donation was the starting point for the foundation of the Association des Arts e Traditions Populaires de l’Asie and the museum which this association then founds in Paris and names Kwok On. From that point onwards, Pimpaneau has increased the collection and devoted it to Asian performative arts, as well as to its associated contexts - the narrative, religious and ritual - documenting the diversity of popular beliefs and traditions, as well as the stories and ways of life common to all social sectors, from different countries and regions of the Asian continent.
In 1999, the Kwok On Collection is donated to Fundação Oriente, which has continued the work of its previous owner. Today, it comprises more than 15,000 objects from a geographical area extending from Turkey to Japan. Among the featured typologies are musical instruments, puppets, costumes, paintings, prints, statuettes, and ritual objects, gathered in order to represent the materiality of the various performative arts they witness and the ceremonies and religious narratives of which they are an expression.
The collection includes pieces ranging from Chinese opera to Chinese funeral practices; from the Indian Koothyattam and Kathakali to the Barong and the Indonesian Wayang Golek, Klitik, Orang, Topeng and Beber dances; from the numerous Asian puppet and masked theatres, from a variety of national and regional backgrounds, through Iran’s Tazieh theatre, Japanese festivities and theatres such as Noh, Kabuki and Bunraku, the Thai Khon theatre, as well as a series of ritual, domestic and community objects, through which the most varied cults are performed.