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Mirror (Inscription)

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China Anonymous, Chinese
Mirror (Inscription), 206 BC - 8 AD
3 1/16 in. x 3 1/16 in. x 3/16 in. (7.7 cm x 7.7 cm x 0.5 cm)

Object Type: Decorative Arts
Technique: Metalworking
Creation Place: Asia, China
Credit Line: Gift of the Powells
Accession Number: 0277

"Circles of Reflection," exhibition catalog, The Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, Ohio, 2002, p.35.

Old number: 01.36

Cast bronze with varnish.

Object Description
Round mirror with a medium dome boss set on a round base and two fields of decoration. The rim is narrow and highly elevated. The inner field consists of four groups of two curved lines which extend from the base of the boss. Alternating with the curved lines are arcs resting on an elevated dividing rim. These arcs contain three parallel lines.

The central field is the inscription band, which is placed between two striated line bands. The outer striated band runs along an outer rim base of high elevation. The face is very concave. The inscription identifies the mirror as belonging to a family of mirrors which includes the riguang (sunlight) mirror, zhaoming (illumination) mirror, tonghua (copper essence) mirror, and the qingming (limpid purity) mirror.

This appears to be "riguang" (sunlight) mirror, though the inscription is rather faded. The inscription contains eight characters, divided by two alternate types of spacers. The inscription on the riguang mirror reads:

By the light of the sun,
The world is made bright.

In the Cleveland Museum of Art's "Circles of Reflection" exhibition catalog, it states; "The modest style and, presumably, price enabled it to reach a broad clientele. Archaeologically, this subtype enjoyed a fairly extensive distribution, roaming from the center of the empire all the way to peripheral regions such as the west, northeast, and extreme south. Most sunlight mirrors are quite similar in appearance, regardless of whether they hailed from Xi'an, Luoyang, or Liaoning."*

*p. 35.

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