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The Bronze Mirror with the Design of Legendary Beasts against the Background of Feather Pattern

Warring States Period (480 BCE to 221 BCE )

Unearthed from Liujia Hill in Changsha in 1959

Diameter: 14.45cm; thickness at the rim: 0.65cm; weight: 223g

This bronze mirror is a round object, with a knob of the design of three-stringed pattern. Embracing the knob is one circle of plain decoration. The technique of bas-relief is employed in the design of different patterns. The background features the feather pattern while the main designs are the four mythical beasts. Their ears and four legs are represented at the inner side of the beasts. Viewed as a whole, it can be seen that the four mythical beasts are well connected. The outer circle of plain decoration is relatively wider. The rim of the mirror is bent inward a little bit. The mirror is rather thin, but the designs are fine and smooth with a harmonious layout and fine style. 

Miyamoto Kazuo, a Japanese scholar specialized in archeology in Eastern Asia, puts forward in his book From Mythology to History: the Era of Myths and Xia Dynasty, that there are two major types of bronze mirrors of the Warring States Period: “one is with the cloud pattern; while the other is with the feather pattern. The former ones were mainly produced in the Central Plains of China, which belonged to the culture of Zhou dynasty; while the latter ones belonged to the culture of the state of Chu along the region where Hanshui River (the longest tributary of the Yangtze River) and Yangtze River converge.” The representative bronze mirrors of Chu include the design of Chinese character “山”(hill), the design of four mythical beasts and other designs of dragons and phoenixes. There are a large number of bronzes mirrors of Chu and they are of unique features. They are relatively light and decorated with fine and smooth patterns. The main design and the background pattern are in perfect harmony, which demonstrates the aesthetic taste of curved lines with vitality, exquisiteness, splendor and romance by the people from the State of Chu.


Bronze Mirrors produced in the State of Chu are of unique features, thus they are named Mirrors of Chu. In terms of the following aspects: greater quantity, more varieties and more exquisite designs and patterns, they are superior to mirrors produced in other regions. Bronze mirrors played a very significant role during the Warring States Period. According to archeological findings, Changsha in today’s Hunan province was an important city of the State of Chu. It has been revealed by statistics that since the founding of New China in 1949, over 1,000 bronze mirrors have been unearthed from the ancient tombs in Hunan province, which could date back to the State of Chu. There are more bronze mirrors unearthed in Hunan than those unearthed in the Central Plains of China. Moreover, bronze mirrors unearthed in Hunan are even better than those unearthed in Jiangling (the ancient capital of the State of Chu) or other places in the State of Chu. They surpass the latter ones in terms of varieties, quantity and quality.