This is a very simple round bronze mirror with no decorations molded on the top. The knob on the upper surface has a large hole through it into which a silk or hemp cord would have been inserted to hold the mirror to the face. The knob had indentations on the top that we thought might be an inscription; however, our translators have not been able to verify that. The underside would have been highly polished to provide a reflection. The mirror measures 3 ½” diameter and is ½” high to the top of the knob. Our research indicates that it could be either early Chinese of later Japanese in origin. The previous owner had indicated a date of 16th century Chinese. To be conservative we will date it to the 19th century and cannot be sure if it is Japanese or Chinese. It is a lovely simple design with nice patina.
The shinjūkyō style of bronze mirror originated in China and was frequently produced during the Han Dynasty, Three Kingdoms, and Six Dynasties (1st-6th centuries CE). With the spread of Chinese bronze casting technology, shinjūkyō were also produced in Japan and the Lelang Commandery and Daifang Commandery in Korea. The ca. 297 CE Wei zhi "Records of Wei"), which is part of the Sanguo zhi "Records of the Three Kingdoms"), has the first historical reference to bronze mirrors in Japan.
As part of our research, we found a delightful quote by Li Shimin about Mirrors:
"When you use antiquity as a mirror, you can see prosperity and decline. When you use bronze as a mirror, you can straighten your clothes and hat. When you use antiquity as a mirror, you can see the waxing and waning. When you use a person as a mirror, you can know if you grasp things or not. Wei Zheng is gone; I have lost my mirror.”
--Li Shimin 李世民, who became Tang dynasty emperor Taizong 唐太宗 (599-649), about his minister Wei Zheng 魏徵 (580-643). Tang Taizong is considered among the greatest rulers in Chinese history.