Mirror with Daoist deities

Mirror, patinated black with spots of green; the rim corroded. Decoration in high relief; dedicatory inscription of 44 characters.

Historical period(s)
Eastern Han dynasty, 202 CE
Diam x D: 13.5 x 0.9 cm (5 5/16 x 3/8 in)
Credit Line
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Freer Gallery of Art Collection
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view
Metalwork, Mirror


China, Daoism, Eastern Han dynasty (25 - 220), inscription

From at least 1935 to 1936
C. T. Loo & Company, Paris and New York from at least May 16, 1935 [1]

From 1936
Freer Gallery of Art, purchased from C. T. Loo & Company on March 3, 1936 [2]


[1] See "List of objects owned by C. T. Loo, New York and [sent to] the Gallery for examination," with annotation that the object was received from Paris on May 16, 1935, copy in object file.

[2] See C. T. Loo's invoice dated March 3, 1936, copy in object file. See also C. T. Loo's stockcard no. 85116, C. T. Loo & Frank Caro Archive, Musée Guimet, Paris, copy in object file.

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

C.T. Loo & Company 1914-1948


Mirror, patinated black with spots of green; the rim corroded. Decoration in high relief; dedicatory inscription of 44 characters.


The dedicatory inscription is inverse and reads as follows:

"I made this shining mirror. In secret I refined the Kung element (earth) and the three shang elements (metals).

All around I sculptured images; the Five Emperors, the Sovereign of Heaven.

Po Ya playing.......the lute, the Yellow Emperor dispelling malevolent influences,

The Red Bird, the Dark Warrior, the White tiger and the Blue Dragon.

Done in the 7th year of Chien An (A.D. 202). May your Lordship attain to high office."

Published References
  • Li Song. A History of Chinese Daoist Art. China. .
  • William Watson. The Art of Dynastic China. New York, 1981. ill. 287.
  • Sueji Umehara. Shina kodo seikwa [Selected Relics of Ancient Chinese Bronzes from Collections in Europe and Asia]. 3 vols., Osaka. vol. 5: pl. 95b.
  • Smithsonian Institution. Report of the Secretary, 1935. Washington, 1935-1936. pl. 1.
  • Smithsonian Institution. Annual Report of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution, 1935. Washington, 1935-1936. appendix 3, pl. 1.
  • New Orient Society of America. Oriental Art in America: Recent Accessions in American Museums. Chicago. pl. 33.
  • Memoires Historiques de Se-Ma Ts'ien. 5 vols., Paris, 1895-1905. pp. 15, 17-19.
  • Kenzo Tomioka. Kokyo no Kenkyu. Kyoto. p. 62, pls. 11, 32.
  • Suzanne Cahill. The Word Made Bronze: Inscriptions on Medieval Chinese Bronze Mirrors. vol. 39 New York and Honolulu, HI. p. 64.
  • Compiled by the staff of the Freer Gallery of Art. A Descriptive and Illustrative Catalogue of Chinese Bronzes: Acquired During the Administration of John Ellerton Lodge. Oriental Studies Series, no. 3 Washington, 1946. p. 74, pl. 39.
  • unknown title. no. 4 Stockholm. pp. 115-116, pl. 1, 31.
  • A. E. K. Cull, James K. Cull, W. Perceval Yetts. The Cull Chinese Bronzes. London. p. 120 ff.
  • Alexander Coburn Soper. Life Motion and the Sense of Space in Early Chinese Representational Art. vol. 30, no. 3 New York. pp. 170-173, fig. 2.
  • Arthur Pontynen. The Early Development of Taoist Art. Ann Arbor, 1985. p. 204.
  • James Legge. unknown title. vol. 27 Oxford. pp. 249-310.
  • Paul Pelliot. unknown title. Leiden. pp. 455-456.
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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