It’s important to discover who was Guimet, the man who erected the Guimet Museum to know the situation which led to the creation of this museum.
In fact, he was a French industrialist, but also a dynamic traveler and a very learned personality of the 19th century. We see evidence of that inasmuch as he wrote Lettres sur l’Algerie
(1877) and Promenades japonaises
(1880), and some musical compositions, like an opera entitled Tai-Tsoung
He was born in Lyon on June, 2, 1836. He succeeded his father to lead his « artificial ultramarine » factory. Then, he also created the Guimet Museum, in Lyon, in 1879, but the establishment was transferred to Paris, in 1885. Moreover, he was commissioned by the minister of public instruction to study the religions of the Far East, in 1876, , that’s why the Guimet Museum had many objects as a result of this expedition, including a fine collection of Japanese and Chinese porcelain and many collector’s items about Ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome which are not visible for the moment.
« Tâchez d’être mon compagnon, nous passerons ainsi dix mois qui éclaireront tout le reste de notre vie » ( Emile Guimet to Felix Regamey, an artist, in 1876, in Philadelphia with the intention of persuading him to carry out a word tour ).
The situation :
In 1876, Emile had been to Philadelphia for the Universal Exhibition, and went across the United-States on his way to Japan, via the Pacific Ocean. He had orders from the minister of public instruction to investigate oriental religions. Indeed, religion studies was a new field of investigation. In Japan, where Buddhism was separated from Shintoism, the situation was difficult but the Occidental school was a new model, that is the reason why, for Emile Guimet, It was easy to work about this country. It was the perfect time for him to suggest this trip to Felix Regamey.
Please refer to the following site for more information :
You can also see this video (but not in English) :