Bronze mirror inlaid with

From China, Tang dynasty, 8th-9th century AD

Mirrors were personal possessions that permitted the owner to have a command over his or her appearance through seeing a reflection on the smooth, polished side of the mirror.

A scene showing a mirror in use by court ladies can be seen in the famous scroll attributed to Gu Kaizhi, The Admonitions of the Instructress to the Court Ladies in the British Museum, the original of which dates to about AD 353.

The earliest mirrors appear in the second millennium BC and tend to be small, often undecorated bronze disks. By the Han (206 BC-AD 220) dynasty the associated religious beliefs are known through inscriptions and decorations on mirrors that are concerned with obtaining good fortune in this life and seeking immortality after death.

Mirrors of the Tang (AD 618-907) period clearly continue, and sometimes revive the mirror design of previous periods, as in, for example, the use of inscriptions and the decoration of the Animals of the Four Directions that alluded to the cosmos, as well as employing images of other fantastic creatures.

New decorations were also added, including the use of mother-of-pearl and sometimes amber as on this mirror. This mirror shows a pair of ducks in a lotus pond, which is a symbol for marital bliss. It is possible that it was intended as a wedding gift.

Imperial China


Imperial Chinese history is marked by the rise and fall of many dynasties.

Imperial China world culture

Tang dynasty

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Diameter: 3.5 inches


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This object features in A History of the World in 100 objects

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