Four Directions Mirror

Historical period(s)
Tang dynasty or possibly Song dynasty, 750-800 or 960-1279
H x Diam: 1.1 x 22.5 cm (7/16 x 8 7/8 in)
Credit Line
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view
Metalwork, Mirror


China, Five Sacred Mountains, rooster, Song dynasty (960 - 1279), Tang dynasty (618 - 907), trigram

To 1957
Private collector. [1]

From 1957
Freer Gallery of Art, purchased from private collector through J. T. Tai & Co., New York, New York. [2]


[1] In a letter from Jun Tsei Tai to the Freer Gallery of Art from January 30, 1957, J. T. Tai writes that the mirror "... belonged to a friend of mine, not me." See object file, Collections Management Office.

[2] See note 1.

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

Private Collection


The nonreflecting back surface of the mirror bears an inscription in standard script featuring clearly written characters, each of which would fit inside a square grid; a slight diagonal thrust imparts a sense of momentum to the otherwise perfectly balanced writing.  The text suggests tha the mirror would have been used by a Daoist priest to perform ceremonial rites. It refers to prognostication and identifies the motifs on the mirror as "images of heaven and earth": the circle is heaven filled with celestial symbols, and the square for earth contains "four water courses and five sacred mountains," represented by wavy lines and interconnected T shapes.

Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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