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Bronze Mirror Decorated with Triangular Rim, Double-Wave-Patterned Band, Gods, and Animals

Unknown3-4th Century

Kyoto National Museum

Kyoto National Museum
Kyoto, Japan

This mirror with a rim rising to an angular point and a god-and-animal motif was excavated from the Higashinomiya Tumulus on Mount Hakusan in Aichi prefecture. Bronze mirrors of this type were excavated from tumuli belonging to the first half of Japan’s Kofun period. They are large, more than 20 centimeters in diameter, and feature a raised peripheral rim that is triangular in shape. The mirror face is somewhat convex. The back has a central knob for a cord and a design with alternating figures of gods and animals in high relief (hannikubori, or “half body engraving”). This mirror, one of eleven excavated from the Higashinomiya Tumulus, has a superior design and is representative of the type. It is inscribed with four Chinese characters: ten (heaven), ō (king), hi (sun) and tsuki (moon). Because mirrors with a triangular rim and a god-and-animal motif follow the traditions of Chinese mirrors, yet are of a type not found on the Chinese mainland, there is debate in academic circles about where they were made. This is one of the most important artifacts of Japan’s Kofun period.

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