This gilt bronze mirror is a rare early example of fine craftsmanship in bronze casting. An intricate design of the animals of the oriental zodiac with calligraphy curves around the border. This pattern of auspicious subject matter was a popular motif during the Tang Dynasty. Li Shimin (597-649 AD), the second emperor of the Tang dynasty (618-907), is recorded to have said, “by using a mirror you may see to adjust your cap; by using antiquity as a mirror, you may learn to foresee the rise and fall of Empires.” There is much detail and symbolism devoted to this mirror’s auspicious decoration.
An inscription consisting of thirty-two characters align in a circle close to the edge of the mirror. The small dot between the first and last character indicates where the poem starts and ends. Following is the Chinese and English translation of the inscription.
Xianshan bing zhao Zhishui die ming
[The Mirrors’] glow is like the holy mountains,
Its’ fame is like waters of wisdom;
Hua wu feng cai
Flowers dance abundantly blooming,
Radiance flows day and night.
Long pan wurui
Luan wu shaungqing
The dragon coils among the Five Jades,
The Phoenixes dance like two lovers;
Chuan shan yishou
Shiyan ming bing
Shifting mountains and increasing longevity,
The times of enlightenment and joy are at hand.
In our opinion, the fine casting, attention to detail and auspicious subject matter make this a significant cultural object of the Tang Dynasty.