Mirror with Hunting Scene


Mirror with Hunting Scene

Archaeology / Kofun / Gunma

Place excavated:Reportedly found in Takasaki City, Gunma

Kofun period, 4th-5th century




Important Cultural Property

 In ancient times, bronze mirrors were venerated for their ability to reflect figures and light. They were also treasured as symbols of good luck and authority. It is not known for certain where this mirror was excavated, but mirrors like this were often interred in tombs and placed on or against the body of the tomb's occupant. It is thought they were used to protect or appease the soul of the departed. In the fourth century, mirrors began to be produced in Japan. Some were modelled on Chinese mirrors, while others featured uniquely  Japanese motifs. This is an example of the latter.
 The inner and outer sections are divided by two concentric circles. Four people and four animals resembling horned deer line up alternately within the inner area. They are surrounded by ten people in the outer area. Most of these hold shields in one arm and a sword-like object in the other. This was thought to depict a hunting scene, as in the title of this object.
 People hunted with bows and arrows at that time, though, so shields and swords were unnecessary. Also, one figure in the inner section is holding a jar rather than a weapon. Jars represented prayers for bounteous harvests, while deer symbolized regeneration because they could grow new horns. As such, some believe this mirror depicts a ceremonial dancing scene. Many Japanese-style mirrors feature patterns composed of several stylized motifs, but this extremely valuable work is quite unusual in the way it portrays movement amid one overarching pictorial scene.

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