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Silk Road Luxuries from China

Bronze Mirrors

By the seventh to eighth century during the Tang dynasty, when these mirrors were made, Chinese craftsmen had been casting bronze (an alloy of copper and tin) into mirrors for more than a thousand years. Mirrors produced during the Tang dynasty often have a silvery appearance due to the high content of tin.

Chinese mirrors typically have one smooth, plain face that was highly polished to a reflective surface. The other side was frequently embellished with lively decorative motifs. Several of these rare Tang mirrors are covered with a thin silver or gold plaque with repoussé, chased, and ring-punched decoration, while others were enlivened with lacquer and extremely fine gold and silver sheet inlay. A cord threaded through a hole in the central knob on the back made it easier to hold or carry. Large mirrors were often placed on a stand, and the smallest ones could be kept in the wide sleeve of a garment.

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Bronze Mirrors

The Freer|Sackler is closed for renovation and reinstallation. The popular exhibition Turquoise Mountain: Artists Transforming Afghanistan is still on view in the International Gallery. (Enter through the Ripley Center.) Join us for our reopening celebration on October 14–15, 2017.