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HOME : Chinese Art : Miscellaneous : T'ang Bronze Mirror
T'ang Bronze Mirror - PF.5709
Origin: China
Circa: 618 AD to 907 AD
Dimensions: 4.125" (10.5cm) high
Collection: Chinese
Style: T'ang Dynasty
Medium: Bronze

Location: United States
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In ancient China, mirrors were used not only as functional articles in daily life but as sacred objects filled with a power of their own. The custom of placing mirrors in a tomb originated around the fourth century B.C., when they functioned as reflectors of the spirit world. 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 more than one mirror was placed in the tomb, not with the other funerary objects, but close to the body of the deceased.

In characteristic Chinese fashion, both the geometric motifs and naturalistic forms used to decorate this mirror have symbolic meaning. An ox is depicted in the center with an arching hunched back, small curved horns, and a bushy tail.  The four prominent smiling creatures sculpted in high relief, probably monkeys or tigers, surround the ox and refer to the four cardinal directions and the quadrants of the universe.  These animals have Zodiacal connotations relating to Han astronomical and cosmological beliefs.  A series of birds or pheasants in alternating states of flight and rest are represented on the outer band.  A motif of grape bunches, vines, and leaves intertwine throughout the back of the mirror.  While mirrors allow us to see ourselves and examine our own physical forms, the beauty and expert craftsmanship of this bronze work might prove more fascinating to inspect for even the vainest individual. - (PF.5709)


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