The museum was founded in 1898 by Henri Cernuschi (1821–1896) and is located in the small mansion which used to be his home. It describes itself as the second-oldest Asian art museum in France, and the fifth-oldest Chinese art museum in Europe. Over the years, its collection has gradually grown from some 5,000 objects to its current total of about 12,500 objects of art and archaeology. After the renovations which closed the Museum from 2001 to 2005, total exhibit space is now about 3,200 m².
Some 900 objects are on permanent exhibit. Most prominent is the large Buddha of Meguro, a Japanese bronze from the 18th century, collected by Cernuschi. Other permanent exhibits include:
a fine collection of archaic bronze pieces (15th to 3rd centuries BC)