Rewi Alley and Canterbury Museum director Dr Roger Duff saw the ceramics collection as the best way to illustrate the length and sophistication of Chinese cultural history, and attempted to have each phase of Chinese ceramic history represented. Highlights of the collection include neolithic objects discovered on the Shandan Bailie School farm, where Alley was headmaster in the 1940s, and Han Dynasty ceramics from the Gobi Desert. Alley published a book in Chinese on Chinese ceramics, and later co-authored a book in English on the topic.