Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Merritt, Helen

Degree Name

M.A. (Master of Arts)

Legacy Department

Department of Art


Mirrors--China--History; China--Civilization--221 B.C.-960 A.D; China--History--Han dynasty; 202 B.C.-220 A.D


This thesis is a study of the relationship between Han TLV mirror designs and the philosophical and political climate of the Han Dynasty. After establishing a brief historical profile of the dynasty and description of TLV mirrors the thesis traces the origin of bronze mirrors and the philosophical, religious, and stylistic influences upon them prior to the Han Dynasty. It then describes the iconographic development of TLV mirror designs through a transitional stage to full development. The fully developed mirrors consist of T, L, and V motifs with animals, immortals, Animals of the Four Directions and sometimes emblems for the Queen Mother of the West and King Father of the East. Theories concerning the T, L, and V motifs and Chinese mythology relevant to the other images are explored. Han political conditions contemporaneous with mirror designs are also examined. Schematic TLV motifs came gradually into prominence from roughly 100 B.C. during the height of Han stability and expansion; fully developed TLV designs, in which schematic TLV forms were used in conjunction with Daoist immortal motifs, were prevalent from roughly 50 B.C. to roughly A.D. 150. From c. A.D. 150, designs featuring Daoist deities such as Xiwangmu, the Queen Mother of the West, and Dongwangong, the King Father of the East, dominated mirrors of the late Eastern Han Dynasty. Collaborating evidence suggests that most of the transitional mirrors were created in government- controlled workshops during a period of strong governmental control. The fully developed TLV designs were made at a time when the divergent threads of Chinese religious and philosophical thought were crystallized under central authority. This was also a time when the policies of central authority were being questioned due to a gradual decay of government control. Toward the end of the Eastern Han Dynasty, on the other hand, as central authority further disintegrated, the production of mirrors fell into private hands, popular Daoist motifs prevailed in mirror design, and the occurrence of TLV motifs declined.


Includes bibliographical references (pages [124]-126)


xvi, 126 pages




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