Mirror with "TLV" Pattern

A work made of bronze.
CC0 Public Domain Designation

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  • A work made of bronze.


Eastern Han dynasty (A.D. 25–220), c. 1st century A.D.



About this artwork

The design of this mirror reflects principles of ancient Chinese cosmology that envisioned a circular universe enclosing a square earth. Within the border of the square are characters denoting the twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac. The marks resembling T, L, and V correspond to patterns on an instrument used by Han dynasty diviners to foretell the future. This mirror was designed to place its owner at the center of the cosmos, a favorable position symbolically protected by the Animals of the Four Directions—the Green Dragon of the East, the Red Bird of the South, the White Tiger of the West, and the Black Warrior (tortoise and snake) of the North.

On View

Asian Art, Gallery 133


Mirror with "TLV" Pattern




25 AD–220 AD




Inscription cast around inner circle: The Shangfang made this mirror to avert all harm. The silver and tin are regulated; it is pure and bright. Skilled craftsmen have engraved it [the clay mold], forming its inscription and decoration. The Dragon on the left and the Tiger on the right forfend all evil. The Red Bird and the Black Warrior accord with Yin and Yang. May sons and grandsons be provided for you in full number; may you dwell in the center [of the universe]. May you long preserve your two parents. May you have joy, wealth, and prosperity, as is fit for a nobleman or king.


Diam. 21.0 cm (8 1/4 in.); thickness 0.5 cm (3/16 in.)

Credit Line

Samuel M. Nickerson Endowment

Reference Number


Extended information about this artwork

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