Mirror with the animals of the four directions

A mirror. Surface: glossy black patina on the back; brilliant black clouded with green on the face. Decoration: in relief.

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Historical period(s)
Han dynasty, 1st-2nd century
Diam x D: 14.3 x 1 cm (5 5/8 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


animal, bird, China, dragon, Han dynasty (206 BCE - 220 CE), snake, the four directions, tiger, tortoise

To 1937
J.W.A. Kleykamp, New York. [1]

From 1937
Freer Gallery of Art, purchased from J.W.A. Kleykamp, New York. [2]


[1] Curatorial Remark 1 in the object record.

[2] See note 1.

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

J.W.A. Kleykamp


A mirror. Surface: glossy black patina on the back; brilliant black clouded with green on the face. Decoration: in relief.


The significance of this "TLV" mirror as a diagram of the universe is enhanced by the presence of the animals of the four directions: the white tiger of the west, the blue dragon of the east, the vermilion bird of the south, and the dark warrior (tortoise and snake) of the north. The four animal deities appear between the T, L, and V elements in the main decorative zone.

Published References
  • Grace Dunham Guest, Archibald Gibson Wenley. Annotated Outlines of the History of Chinese Arts. Washington, 1949. p. 5.
  • Orvar Karlbeck. Catalogue of the Collection of Chinese and Korean Bronzes at Hallwyl House. Stockholm. pp. 27-30.
  • Vincent Virga, Library of Congress. Cartographia: Mapping Civilizations., 1st ed. New York. p. 45, pl. 34.
  • 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. 72, pl. 38.
  • Bernhard Karlgren. Huai and Han. no. 13 Stockholm. pp. 113-114, pls. 79-80.
  • A. E. K. Cull, James K. Cull, W. Perceval Yetts. The Cull Chinese Bronzes. London. pp. 116-165.
  • Florance Waterbury. Bird-Deities in China. Supplementum 10 Ascona, Switzerland. p. 119, pl. 34.
  • Schuyler Cammann. The "TLV" Pattern on Cosmic Mirrors of the Han Dynasty. vol. 68, no. 4, October-December 1948. pp. 159, 164, fig. 1.
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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