A Bronze Mirror Xin
A Bronze Mirror Xin. The central knob within a quatrefoil motif and square border, surrounded by 12 nipples encircled by an inscription and hachured border, all below three different dogtooth bands on the outer rim.
Eastern Han dynasty (9-220A.D.).
Diameter 16 cm.
Tarnished, green encrustation.
*A TLV mirror is a type of bronze mirror that was popular during the Han Dynasty in China. They are called TLV mirrors because symbols resembling the letters T, L, and V are engraved into them. They were produced from around the 2nd century BCE until the 2nd century CE.
The first mirrors with TLV symbols appeared during the 2nd century BCE, with some believing that they were related to Liu An’s astrological and cosmological interests. The dragon was an important symbol of these early TLV mirrors. In early mirrors from the 2nd century BCE, the dragons were often used as an arabesque, however by the 1st century BCE, the dragons lost their arabesque form and became full-fledged figures.
In the later part of the Western Han period, the dragons were replaced by winged figures, monsters and immortals. These new mirrors also saw the division of the main area into two separate rings, with the TLV symbols being placed in the inner part of the main area, and other decorations being placed in the outer area. By the end of the 1st century BCE, the band dividing the main area into two concentric rings had largely lost its structural function of separating the mirror into two sections. Instead it existed merely as a line, or not at all
Mirrors from the Xin Dynasty (8–23 CE) usually have an outer band with cloud or animal motifs, and an inner circle with a square containing a knob. The inner circle often contains a series of eight ‘nipples,’ and various mythological animals and being, often including the Queen Mother of the West. The central square could have an inscription, or contain the characters of the Twelve Earthly Branches. Inscriptions placed in between the mirror’s sections frequently discuss Wang Mang and his reign.
Scholars are engaged in a debate as to what the symbols on TLV mirrors mean. Some scholars believe that they represent ideas from Chinese cosmology, while others believe that they could also be used to play the boardgame of liubo.