A WELCOME addition has been made to the Chinese collections of the Museum by the purchase this summer in China of a T’ang bronze and silver mirror. The type is far from common yet is well known from several fine specimens that exist in Japan and an occasional one in collections in America and Europe. In this type the back of the mirror is ornamented with a sheet of silver repousse work. The design consists of small Fu-dogs, popularly known as shih-shih, gamboling among grape vines, twisting and turning and playfully biting the stems, while small birds fly among the foliage. This example is octagonal, the lobes being slightly pointed so that the whole suggests an open flower with eight petals. The bronze rim rises high above the level of the sunken silver plate and shows a green patina which bears in some places the imprint of the linen case in which the mirror was wrapped when buried in the grave. The mirror is seven and three-quarter inches in diameter. It is in perfect condition and the silversmith’s work is exquisite. Each of the six shih-shih stands in a circle formed by a grape vine stem.; two have their puppies with them. These little figures are beautifully modelled in high relief, some details such as legs and tails even flying free of the background. Stems, grape leaves and birds are mostly in lower relief, all are against a background of the very fine fish-roe pattern. The strange sprawling animal in the centre which serves as a knob through which was run the cord for holding the mirror, is merely a fat shih-shih flattening himself out like a tortoise. The perfection of workmanship, the skill of the designer in placing his six shih-shih circles in the octagonal space of the mirror, the grace and spaciousness of the composition lead us to place this mirror early in the period to which this type belongs.
A Chinese Mirror of the T’ang Dynasty
Originally Published in 1930