Lot 274: W Han dynasty, Cosmic TLV Chinese Bronze Mirror

Est: $30,000 - $80,000
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Eternity Gallery

May 10, 2018, 11:00 AM EST
Tampa, FL, US
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Description: Genuine Cosmic TLV Chinese Bronze Mirror Han Dynasty, 206 BC-220 AD. Stunning, absolutely incredible Cosmic TLV Chinese Bronze Mirror, 100% authentic. This mirror has a distinctive island of reflective surface 35 x 15 mm TLV design incorporates both scientific and mythological elements. The mirrors are also called "compass mirrors" by Chinese Scholars. Made in Han Dynasty: 206 BC-AD 220; Diameter: 137 mm = 5.5 inches. Weight = 400 g = 14 oz. Development The first mirrors with TLV symbols appeared during the second century BCE, with some believing that they were related to Liu An's astrological and cosmological interests. The dragon was an important symbol of these early TLV mirrors. In early mirrors from the second century BCE, the dragons were often used as an arabesque, however by the first century BCE, the dragons lost their arabesque form and became fully-fledged figures. In the later part of the Western Han period, the dragons had been replaced by winged figures, monsters and immortals. These new mirrors also saw the division of the main area into two separate rings, with the TLV symbols being placed in the inner part of the main area, and other decorations being placed in the outer area.[3] By the end of the first century BCE, the band dividing the main area into two concentric rings largely lost its structural function of separating the mirror into two sections. Instead it existed merely as a line, or not at all. Mirrors from the Xin Dynasty (8-23 CE) usually have an outer band with cloud or animal motifs, and an inner circle with a square containing a knob. The inner circle often contains a series of eight 'nipples,' and various mythological animals and being, often including the Queen Mother of the West. The central square could have an inscription, or contain the characters of the Twelve Earthly Branches. Inscriptions placed in between the mirror's sections frequently discuss Wang Mang and his reign. Symbolism Scholars are engaged in a debate as to what the symbols on TLV mirrors mean. Some scholars believe that they represent ideas from Chinese Cosmology, while others believe that they could also be used to play the boardgame of liubo. Cosmological significance TLV mirrors are circular. At their centers is a circular boss inset on a square panel. According to Schuyler Camman, the design of TLV mirrors was cosmologically significant. The V shapes served to give the inner square the appearance of being placed in the middle of a cross. This forms an illustration of the Chinese idea of the five directions North, South, West, East and Center. The central square represents China as the Middle Kingdom. The area in between the central square and the circle represented the Four Seas. During the Han Dynasty the Four Seas represented territories outside China, and did not literally refer to water. The central square within the round mirror likely alludes to the ancient Chinese idea that heaven was round and earth was square. The Ts represented the concept of the Four Gates of the Middle Kingdom, an idea present in Chinese literature. They could have also represented the idea of the four inner gates of the Han place of sacrifice, or the gates of the imperial tombs built during the Han period. The Ls possibly symbolized the marshes and swamps beyond the Four Seas, at the ends of the earth. The bending of the Ls could possibly have served to create a rotating effect which symbolized the four seasons, which were very closely related to the cardinal directions. The nine nipples in the central square likely represented the nine regions of the earth as discussed by Cammann as having come from the Shiji. The eight nipples outside of the central square were most likely representations of the Eight Pillars, mountains that held up the canopy of heaven. The area between the inner round border and the outer rim of the mirror was often filled with swirls that represented the clouds in heaven. The game of Liubo Some believe that the design of TLV mirrors is derived from the board game liubo. Because of the lack of written documentation, the rules of the game are still as yet unconfirmed, although some scholars such as Lien-sheng Yang have made suggestions as to the method of play. Yang Sheng-yin believes that the liubo game was played between two players with each player having 6 men. In addition there were six throwing sticks shared between them. From a formula written by an expert player of liubo, Yang theorizes that a players piece would start on an L and try to move to a V depending on stick rolls. At this moment certain throws by the sticks would allow ones piece to move into the center and kill the opponents piece if already present in the center. Once present in the center, ones piece could begin to block the enemys pieces from taking the square. For each block one would gain two points. One could also attempt to recover ones pieces after they are blocked, and would gain three points for doing this. If one failed to win after having blocked two men, then the opponent would gain six points and win the game. The first player to six points would win the game. The six points needed to win is where part of the title of the game comes from, for liu in Chinese means the number six.
Condition Natural patina and oxidation, no other defects
Low Estimate: 30000
High Estimate: 80000
Orignal: Yes
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