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HOME : Chinese Art : Tang Bronze Mirrors : Tang Silver-Plated Bronze Mirror
Tang Silver-Plated Bronze Mirror - H.846
Origin: China
Circa: 618 AD to 906 AD
Dimensions: 3.375" (8.6cm) high
Collection: Chinese
Medium: Bronze

Location: United States
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Today, when we think of mirrors, we think of a thin layer of reflective metal, usually a combination of tin and mercury, covered in a layer of protective glass. However, the modern mirror was an innovation of 16th Century Italian craftsmen. Before that, since ancient time, mirrors of highly polished bronze were used. Bronze mirrors themselves were introduced into China during the 6th Century B.C. They were used not only as functional articles but as sacred objects filled with their own powers. The custom of placing mirrors in a tomb originated around the 4th Century B.C. The Chinese believed that mirrors had the ability not only to reflect, but also to radiate light, and thus illuminate the tomb for eternity. Often multiple mirrors were entombed, not alongside the other funerary objects, but close to the body of the deceased.

The backside of this silver plated bronze mirror is decorated with a charming motif of rampaging lions. This iconography is characteristic of mirrors of the Tang era. A hole has been drilled into the central boss and a chord would have been inserted at one time to serve as a handle. The outer rim is decorated with a garland. Mirrors were considered powerful talismanic devices through which one could view not only their own reflection, but also see into the spirit world. However, despite all vanity, the beautiful relief decorations adorning this mirror make it difficult to look away from the back, and the real purpose of seeing ourselves is forgotten.
- (H.846)


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