A water caltrop-shaped floral bronze mirror

The mirror is finely cast in the shape of an eight-petalled caltrop flower, with raised rim. The central circular field is cast in relief with four stylized baoxiang flowers, within a band of alternating butterflies and simple berrried plants, all around the central domed boss pierced with an aperture from side to side. The silvery patina has small scattered areas of malachite and azurite encrustation. 

Ben Janssens, 2007

Ben Janssens Oriental Art 2007, p. 38

The water caltrop (Trapa japonica) or water chestnut, has a delicate four- petalled bloom, but the name has long been used in China to describe the barbed and lobed shape of the present type of mirror. The mid-Tang poet Yang Ling, for example, used the term in his poem Ming Fei Yuan (‘The Lament of Lady Ming”) to describe the mirror that Wang Zhaojun, or Lady Ming, carried with her when she was sent to marry Chanyu, chief of the Huns:

xia zhong zong you ling hua jing, xiu dui chan yu zhao jiu yan

‘Demurely facing Chanyu, the water caltrop-shaped mirror in its case still reflects her former self’.

Dimensions: Diameter: 10.3cm, 4 inches

Date: Tang dynasty (618-906)

Stock No. 2352

Price: On Request