NICHIGETSU MUSEUM_Current Exhibition

The 10th Exhibition of Traditional Japanese Tableware

A Special Planned Exhibition

Invitation to Ancient Times
An Exhibition of Bronze Mirrors

November 9, 2014 ~ October 27, 2015

Though we don’t know when or where mirrors began to be created, their origin is thought to be from a water mirror. Mirrors made in the Yin Dynasty, more than 3000 years ago, were found in the Jiagan Province. According to legend, the first Chinese emperor Huang Di was the first to order the casting of mirrors. Mirrors began to be made in earnest in the Age of the Warring States (BC403~).
In ancient China, mirrors were made from bronze or nickel polished in a flat or convex way to reflect light. Though the front side of a mirror shows the reflection, the back side is more interesting. Characteristic patterns, inscriptions, proverbs, sayings and icons can be seen on them depending on the ages. Mirrors are precious artifacts that tell us about the philosophy, the culture and the view of the world of each time.

Nichigetsu Museum


The Age of the Warring States  B.C.403 ~ B.C.221

The style of making bronze mirrors which began in the Neolithic age was completed in the Warring States period. It was a transition period from the Shou dynasty based on a feudal system to the Qin dynasty, a unified nation, through conflicts by feudal lords.
The societies of the time were changing drastically. Feudal lords promoted enriching their countries and strengthening the militaries. Productive power was increased. New philosophies were formed by influential figures such as Mencius, and the cultural influence of China was expanded.
Under the development of casting techniques and rich culture, a great many bronze mirrors of higher quality were made, and the basic style of mirrors was completed.

Japan of The Same Period
The Jomon Period ~ The Former Part of The Yayoi eriod

People boasted a stable lifestyle based on farming, hunting and gathering using stone tools and unglazed earthenware. After taking up rice farming, they lived in pit dwelling houses and used ironware.


■ The Former Han Dynasty ~ The Later Han Dynasty
B.C.206 ~ A.D.220

It was the stable unified nation that lasted for about 400 years following the Qin dynasty. Since a large number of bronze mirrors of this period have been found so far, we can know that mirrors were in great demand at that time. It was the period during which they adhered to the previous style of mirrors, and also established a new one.
Bronze mirrors were used as not only daily necessities but also funeral objects in this period. We can know the ideology and world view of the stable society at that time thorough the imaginary creatures, godly images, and lucky sign phrases placed elaborately on the mirrors.

Japan of The Same Period
From The Middle to the latter part of Yayoi period

The golden seal of the King of Japan, Chinese Colony, “Kanno Wano Nano Kunino In” was given by the Later Han dynasty. Settlements were formed and graves were built. Funeral objects of bronzeware were made.


The Six Dynasties Period
(Wei,Jin and Northern and Southern Dynasties) A.D.220 ~ 589

It was an unstable period during which other ethnic groups from northern areas frequently invaded the country after the fall of the Later Han dynasty, and dynasties changed many times.
The production of bronze mirrors stagnated during this period; no new changes were seen in the style of mirrors. Many bronze mirrors from this era haven’t been found.

Japan of The Same Period
The Tumulus Period

Himiko, the ruler of Yamataikoku, paid tribute to Wei and was given the golden seal “Shingi wao no in”, meaning “the seal for the king of Wa”. After that, the Yamato dynasty was established as the unified nation of Wa. During this period, many tumuluses were made throughout the country.
Though many triangular-rimmed mirrors found in Japan are said to have been made in this period, it is unclear whether they were made in China or Japan.


The Sui Dynasty and The Tang Dynasty 581 ~ 907

The upheaval that lasted more than 300 years ended at last by the establishment of the Sui dynasty. In the following Tang dynasty, the production of bronze mirrors developed more drastically than ever. Free and open techniques and designs which were not restricted by the existing styles and stereotypes were contrived. In addition, more delicate and various bronze mirrors were made by the heightened techniques.
Also, active interchanges with other countries during this period through the Silk Road had a great influence on the style of mirrors. Bronze mirrors characterized by Western culture began to be made. However the culture of making bronze mirrors declined rapidly from the end of the Tang dynasty.

Japan of The Same Period
The Heian Period

It was the period of the dynastic nation under the centralized governmental system called “Ritsuryo”. Japan’s envoys were sent to the Sui dynasty and the Tang dynasty. The continental culture was drastically introduced into Japan.


The Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period ~ The Sung・The Ming ・ The Qing Dynasty 907 ~ 1912

After the fall of the Tang dynasty, the time of many countries emerged. ( The Five dynasties and Ten kingdoms period) During this period, the culture of making bronze mirrors declined rapidly and didn’t develop again, even in the Sung dynasty. However, mirrors with a handle began to be made, which later influenced the mirrors with a handle made in Japan. After the continuous conflicts of the different northern races (Liao ・ Jin ・Yuan), the unified nation of Han Chinese proclaimed the Ming dynasty established. However, bronze mirrors didn’t develop in this period.
In the Qin dynasty, mirrors made from glass were introduced and bronze mirrors disappeared.

Japan of The Same Period
The Kamakura Period ~ The Muromachi Period
~ The Azuchimomoyama Period ~ The Edo Period

After the beginning of the Kamakura government, the samurai warriors society continued through Nobunaga, Hideyoshi and until Ieyasu of the Edo period. During this period, unique Japanese culture such as the Momoyama culture and the Edo popular culture, flourished.