Mirror, Mirror


July/August 2021

JA21 Digs China COMPOSITEJA21 Digs China Burial CROPPEDAn array of 2,000-year-old bronze mirrors unearthed in a cemetery in the suburbs of Xi’an, China, has shed new light on funeral customs and daily life during the Western Han Dynasty (206 B.C.–A.D. 9). Among the 87 circular mirrors, which vary in size from three to eight inches in diameter, several can still reflect images. “They clearly show petals of flowers, or the brand name on your drink,” says lead researcher Yingpei Zhu from Shaanxi Academy of Archaeology. On the back of each mirror is a central knob surrounded by decorative images such as dragons and stars. According to Zhu, these mirrors belonged to ordinary citizens. In most cases, the mirror was placed near the head or chest of the tomb owner. In one well-preserved tomb, four mirrors were placed in a stack, indicating the owner might have been wealthy—or just a devoted mirror aficionado.