The first director became Zoltán Felvinczi Takács, an art historian, who had been a trusted advisor of Ferenc Hopp, with reference to items to purchase on round-the-world trips and at World Exhibitions. Since its foundation, the collection multiplied through donations, purchase and transference of Oriental collections of other museums, and now consists of approximately 20,000 items. Themes include traditional fine arts, applied arts and, occasionally, folk art of the South, Southeast and East Asia region.
The museum also owns Hungary's only reference library and documentation department on Oriental arts, preserving not only exhibition-related documentation, but archival photos and documents from Oriental travelers and others, testifying of the history of Oriental art collection.
Ferenc Hopp visited China in the course of his first (1882-83), third (1903) and fifth (1913-14) round-the-world trips. As an optician, he was intensely interested in carvings of precious stones; but he also had a good eye for beauty and uniqueness in cloisonné, ceramics and sculpture. The Chinese Collection of now around 8,000 items includes pieces of furniture, ceramics, bronzes, carvings of precious stones, paintings, statues and lacquer ware.
Besides Ferenc Hopp, János Xántus, Attila Szemere, Vince Wartha, Péter Vay and Ottó Fettick contributed most to the present Japanese Collection of over 7,000 items, most of which date back to the second half of the Edo period (1603-1867) and to the Meiji period (1868-1912). The majority of items are pieces of graphic art, representing a relatively long time-span, mainly of the Utagawa School. Other major items are prints, as well as woodblock printed books, depicting a rich variety of different themes.
The third largest collection, consisting of some 3,200 items, comes from India and Southeast Asia. Most of these are Indian objects. Although Ferenc Hopp traveled to India on his Oriental journeys, he was mainly interested in Chinese and Japanese items, so credit for founding the collection goes to Imre Schwaiger, a Hungarian art collector and art dealer residing in Delhi. He made several donations to the museum in between the two world wars. Other private collectors, who donated Indian artwork, include Dr Edmund de Unger, Béla Ágai, and Ferenc Zajti.
Zoltán Felvinczi Takács, first director of the Museum, had a great interest in European and Asian Huns, and together with Lajos Ligeti (member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Mongolist), who made repeated donations, built up the Mongolian Collection, which now numbers over 800 items. Paintings (thangkas, tsaklis) and small sculptures, Buddhist objects (manuscripts, books printed with wood-blocks, figural wood-blocks and wood-blocks with texts) form the backbone of the Collection. The majority dates from the 19th century, but some of them come from earlier times. Also worth noting are the ceremonial items, along with bronzes of the Dzanabdzar School.
Imre Schwaiger also donated the majority of items found in the Tibetan Collection, which now consists of approximately 250 pieces of art. The majority of these items date back to the 17th and 18th centuries, and represent the art of Tibetan Buddhism, consisting of small gilt sculptures prepared with lost wax process, painted scrolls (thangkas), ritual objects, and wood-block prints. Károly Csapek, a painter and the former designer of the Herend Porcelain Manufacturers, donated a group of statues, which show Chinese influence, but belongs to this field.
Ferenc Hopp, Zoltán Felvinczi Takács, and Dr Tibor Horváth collected the majority of items belonging the Korean section, the majority of which was created partly in the early 20th century and partly in the 1950s, only few of them are of early origin. However, items of exceptional quality belong to the group of the latter: Goryeo (12th–13th-century) bronze pots, incense holders, bronze mirrors, finely curved spoons (with swallow-tail shaped handles), and six older fragments of silk embroidery. The collection also includes traditional Korean costumes, metal-decorated pieces of furniture, pieces from the art of lacquer ware, and a Buddhist painting on the Trinity of Blazing Star-Buddhas in the company of the Celestial Assembly. The famous Anak Tomb No. 3 (Tongsu's Tomb, Goguryeo period, 357 AD) is represented by a model, and made-to-scale reproductions of the murals.