Four Directions Mirror

Historical period(s)
Tang dynasty or possibly Song dynasty, 750-800 or 960-1279
Medium
Bronze
Dimensions
H x Diam: 1.1 x 22.5 cm (7/16 x 8 7/8 in)
Geography
China
Credit Line
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Collection
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
F1957.12
On View Location
Currently not on view
Classification(s)
Metalwork, Mirror
Type

Mirror

Keywords
casting, China, Five Sacred Mountains, rooster, Song dynasty (960 - 1279), Tang dynasty (618 - 907), trigram, WWII-era provenance
Provenance

To 1957
Private collector. [1]

From 1957
Freer Gallery of Art, purchased from private collector through J. T. Tai & Co., New York, New York. [2]

Notes:

[1] In a letter from Jun Tsei Tai to the Freer Gallery of Art from January 30, 1957, J. T. Tai writes that the mirror "... belonged to a friend of mine, not me." See object file, Collections Management Office.

[2] See note 1.

Previous Owner(s)

Private Collection

Label

The nonreflecting back surface of the mirror bears an inscription in standard script featuring clearly written characters, each of which would fit inside a square grid; a slight diagonal thrust imparts a sense of momentum to the otherwise perfectly balanced writing. The text suggests tha the mirror would have been used by a Daoist priest to perform ceremonial rites. It refers to prognostication and identifies the motifs on the mirror as "images of heaven and earth": the circle is heaven filled with celestial symbols, and the square for earth contains "four water courses and five sacred mountains," represented by wavy lines and interconnected T shapes.

Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
SI Usage Statement

Usage conditions apply

There are restrictions for re-using this image. For more information, visit the Smithsonian's Terms of Use page.