14.3 cm diam.
The motifs on the mirror are composed with concentric circles of geometric and mythical animal designs, Chinese characters and TLV-shaped signs. In the middle of the mirror is a square containing twelve small bosses interspersed with the characters of the twelve earth branches of the Chinese Zodiac.
Bronze mirrors were often made as guides for the soul in the afterworld. Within Chinese tradition, the square within the circle depicted the round heaven and square earth. In this divided universe, the Four Spirits - Azure Dragon, White Tiger, Red Bird, and Black Tortoise - command the cardinal directions, seasons, elements, or forces, as well as a spectrum of outer and inner virtues.
The Azure Dragon represents the East, the wood element and the Yang masculine force. The TLV-shaped signs are borrowed from the 'Liu Bo' game popular during the Qin and Han dynasties and played by males during ritual ceremonies.
This type of mirror appeared as early as the mid-Western Han dynasty, reached its peak of popularity during the late Western Han and early Eastern Han dynasty, before gradually disappearing by the late Eastern Han.
Asian Art Department, AGNSW, January 2012
Jackie Menzies (Editor), The Asian Collections Art Gallery of New South Wales, 'Bronzes and Jades', Sydney, 2003, 75 (colour illus.).
Jackie Menzies, Early Chinese Art, Sydney, 1983, not paginated. cat.no. XIX. See 'Further Information' for text.
Early Chinese art, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 26 Feb 1983–08 May 1983
Great gifts, great patrons, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 17 Aug 1994–19 Oct 1994
Dragon (2012), Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 18 Jan 2012–06 May 2012