[Southern Wind of Kaoru] Weird Thoughts When Admiring Ancient Mirrors | Li Rong


My knowledge of ancient mirrors is not sufficient. At most, I have read several articles and a small book about ancient mirrors written by Mr. Shen Congwen when he was a “full-time lecturer” in the history museum in his later years. A while ago, a museum in Shanghai held an exhibition of ancient mirrors. Because I don’t have much knowledge, I’m not particularly interested. It’s just because of my professional relationship that I went to the scene during the opening to have an overview.


A large exhibition hall, several passages, from the pre-Qin period to the Han and Tang Dynasties, from the Song and Yuan Dynasties to the Ming and Qing Dynasties, looking at it in a large circle, suddenly a strange idea, or a question: why all the ancient mirrors are What about the ones exhibited “with their backs to us”? The mirror, the so-called Jian Ye, as the name suggests, is of course used to look at things. Then, the front of the mirror, of course, should be a mirror. The back of the mirror serves as an auxiliary and decorative function. It has patterns, small handles, or “piercing noses” for strings. Different mirrors have different patterns. In any case, as a mirror is a device for seeing things, its main body should always be the mirror facing the things it wants to see. The ancient mirrors in the exhibition hall are basically placed “upside down”, and people appreciate only their backs. This may not be called putting the cart before the horse or putting the cart before the horse, but at least I can’t satisfy my curiosity. I don’t quite understand what the mirror surface of the ancient mirror is like, and what the experience of the ancient mirror is. I thought it was just my own weird idea. But in the process of viewing the exhibition, I also noticed that some visitors bent their bodies and wanted to look up from the bottom or sideways to take a look at the front of the mirror that was upside down on the “seat”, because the upside down is too tight. It can’t be done at all – I may not be the only one who is interested in the mirror surface of ancient mirrors.

The museum also invited the collectors of these ancient mirrors. He is also an expert in the field of ancient mirrors. After the opening ceremony, he combined the exhibits and gave detailed explanations to the visitors. I followed behind and listened carefully. Experts have explained the patterns, inscriptions, casting, engraving, and inlaying process characteristics of the ancient mirrors in the past dynasties, and they are very detailed. It really makes people feel that the pre-Qin and Han mirrors have the beauty of simplicity and simplicity. In terms of craftsmanship, “things pile up more and more”, but there is no lack of complicated and graceful luxury beauty. However, all the explanations are basically concentrated on the back of the mirror. It seems that the ancient mirror is not used to illuminate things, but to be turned over for people to appreciate only as handicrafts. I’m not ashamed to ask my “strange question”, but I just thought about it in my head: If these ancient mirrors are turned over completely and displayed facing people, the ancient mirrors of thousands of years ago Mirror, that is, “a thousand mirrors, one side”, the difference is not big.


In the entire exhibition hall, there is almost no place to introduce the mirror surface of ancient mirrors. I remember reading Mr. Congwen’s related articles and brochures, and almost all of them talked about the back of the mirror. There are words about mirrors, but not many. For example, in the booklet “Bronze Mirrors of Tang and Song Dynasties”, there is such a paragraph in the inscription: “The mirror has been buried underground for 2,200 to 300 years, and after being unearthed, it is still very well preserved. People. According to the book “Huainanzi” in the Western Han Dynasty, it was the result of using ‘Xuanxi’ as a reflective paint and then rubbing it with fine wool. Later, the powder for grinding mirrors was made of mercury. After recent research, ‘Xuanxi’ It refers to mercury. From this we can know that during the Warring States period in China, metallurgical workers had already mastered the technology of smelting mercury…. At that time, mirrors were specially processed, and there were also painted with vermilion, gold and silver, and jade backs. The inlaid stained glass reflects the high level of metal craftsmanship achieved in this great historical period.” From this, we can know that the mirror surface of the ancient mirror should be coated with reflective paint, and it needs to be polished with woolen regularly. It may be imagined that in ancient times, there was a profession of a mirror cleaner. The mirror surface is directly exposed to the air. Over time, it is easy to oxidize and affect the reflective effect. It can be improved by wiping it. In addition, the mirror surface must be flat to maintain light. However, after a long time of use, the mirror surface will inevitably be uneven, which is not as easy as having a professional mirror polisher polish it. Mr. Congwen said a few short words about the craftsmanship and maintenance of the mirror surface, and soon he noticed “painting with red paint”, “gold and silver wrong” and “adding jade back”, and talked about the back of the mirror .


That exhibition was named “In view of Zhishui”, that is, the place where a history of ancient Chinese mirrors “started”. With the popularization of ancient mirrors such as bronze mirrors, they have gradually withdrawn from people’s daily use. Later, I thought about connecting the “one head and one tail” in series, and found it really interesting. The idea of ​​”in view of Zhishui” can be said to be “a good start”, because it is inspired by “Zhishui” and grasps the root of mirror manufacturing. The characteristics of the water stop are firstly the flatness of the calm water surface; secondly, the water quality is transparent and untainted; thirdly, the reflection effect of the underwater material on the light. With these three points, the elements of a good mirror will be there. How similar is this to the later “Western glass mirror”. It is a pity that a history of ancient Chinese mirrors, after “making a good start”, did not continue “thinking and doing” on the mirror surface, but “turned over” the mirror and “stacked” it on the back of the mirror So many rich and precious things. I remember that Mr. Qian Zhongshu said in an article that “the blurred bronze mirror”, that is, the bronze mirror shines on people, and blurring is the norm. No wonder, a friend who has studied ancient mirrors firmly believes that ancient mirrors are “bright objects” used in the underworld in tombs, and they are buried on or beside the dead to protect themselves from evil. He said, in daily life, who would use such a blurred mirror to look at his own face? Using a basin of clear water is much clearer than this. What he said is a bit absolute, and it is difficult to completely convince me that the use of “bright implements” can only be one of the various uses of ancient mirrors, but it cannot be all of them. But what he said had his reasons.

My son is studying physics in college. When I went home after seeing the exhibition, I told him the regret I felt in the last sentence of the exhibition description. His thoughts are calmer than mine and to the point. He said that the development and breakthrough of science and technology have various encounters and factors of “from time to time, from time to time, from time to time, and from luck to luck”, which are intricate and difficult to explain clearly in simple words. In both the East and the West, “fuzzy bronze mirrors” have a long history of use. When there is no breakthrough in the mirror surface, all kinds of beautiful and gorgeous crafts are also “stacked” on the mirror back. It’s just that at a time when “you can’t meet, you can’t ask for it”. Fortunately, I thought of a new method and made a flat and transparent glass material. A film made of reflective material is tightly attached to the back of the flat glass. Then, the ancient mirror is almost The two “tremendous problems” of unevenness and easy oxidation when exposed to air for thousands of years have finally been solved, and the technology has also made a breakthrough. Once a breakthrough is made, the commanding height and priority will be obtained, and the advantage of “iterative accumulation” of “leading the trend” will be further expanded. If there is no breakthrough, of course there will be regrets. But broaden your horizons, for all human beings, it means “talking and doing” together, then “talking and doing it”, and “talking and doing it” together. Then “say and do” that “new beginning” together. You chase each other, there is each other; and the light and the dust, how can there be each other?

[Nanfengzhixun] is Li Rong’s column in PEN

Author: Li Rong

Editor: Qian Yutong

Editor in charge: Shu Ming

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