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This Chinese-made mirror from the Yayoi Pottery Culture period (300 BC- 300 AD) was unearthed whole from an archaeological site in Fukuoka, Japan.

Rare 1,900-Year-Old Chinese Mirror Has Mysterious Inscription, Which is Coming True


An extremely well-preserved 1,900-year-old bronze mirror has been unearthed in Fukuoka, Japan. The artifact stands out for its fantastic condition and an intriguing description engraved on its surface - one which seems to be coming true.

According to The Asahi Shimbun , the mirror was made in China during the Later Han Dynasty (25-220 AD). It measures 11.3 centimeters (4.45 inches) across. The patterns engraved on the artifact mean it has been classified as a “linked-arc mirror.” The text inscribed onto the mirror reads, “chang yi zisun,” which means, “to benefit future generations forever.”

It seems the inscription is coming true, as researchers believe that the artifact can help with identifying and dating other artifacts from the late Yayoi period. The mirror is also helping raise awareness and interest in the past as it is on exhibition at the Fukuoka City Museum.

This Chinese-made bronze mirror was unearthed at an archaeological site in Fukuoka, Japan.

This Chinese-made bronze mirror was unearthed at an archaeological site in Fukuoka, Japan. ( Tokyo-np)

Officials have said that the mirror is special because it was found both intact and very well-preserved. The humid environment probably helped preserve the mirror despite the long passage of time. It is said to be in such a good condition that you can still see your face in its reflection, though the image is a little distorted.

Hidenori Okamura, a professor of Chinese archaeology with Kyoto University, provided some background on the excavation site and possible usage of the bronze mirror, “The find site is not a tomb, so the mirror may have been used in religious rites.”

This is not the first time a remarkable bronze mirror has been discovered in Japan. April Holloway previously reported on the recognition of a so-called “magic mirror” in Kyoto’s National Museum. As Holloway writes “So-called ‘magic mirrors’ have a slight unevenness to their surface – something the naked eye cannot note – which creates patterns on the back as light reflects off of the front.” There is some suggestion that these types of mirrors may have been used in sun worship ceremonies.

When sunlight reflects off the surface of the replica of a Sankakubuchi Shinjukyo mirror, patterns engraved on the back are projected on a wall at the Kyoto National Museum.

When sunlight reflects off the surface of the replica of a Sankakubuchi Shinjukyo mirror, patterns engraved on the back are projected on a wall at the Kyoto National Museum. ( Noboru Tomura )

Newsweek reports the bronze mirror found in Fukuoka was buried alongside earthenware which dates to the middle to late Yayoi period. As their article on the discovery mentions, Yayoi pottery is identified by its “clean, functional shapes.” The mirror and pottery were excavated at the Nakashima archaeological site in Fukuoka, Japan.

A ceramic jar from the Yayoi period.

A ceramic jar from the Yayoi period. ( Public Domain )

The Nakashima archaeological site is in the Na state, an area mentioned in ancient Chinese chronicles. An official with the buried cultural properties division explained how the bronze mirror may have arrived to Japan, “The latest find indicates the Na state of the same period also had an influential person who had the power to acquire a Chinese-made mirror. Conceivably, that person may also have had a hand in sending the mission to China.”

As Newsweek points out, the period the mirror dates to pertains to a time when Japanese envoys traveled to the mainland twice - for diplomatic missions in 57 and 107 AD. It was also when metallurgy came to Japan from some areas in Korea and China.

Mirrors may not hold much value today, other than for their practical use, but these objects were valued presents and used to create or cement political alliances in the past.

Another bronze mirror found in Japan. This example dates to the Kofun period.

Another bronze mirror found in Japan. This example dates to the Kofun period. ( CC BY SA 4.0 )

Top Image: This Chinese-made mirror from the Yayoi Pottery Culture period (300 BC- 300 AD) was unearthed whole from an archaeological site in Fukuoka, Japan. Source: Shunsuke Nakamura

By Alicia McDermott

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