Ancient ‘mirror’ 2000 years old sheds light on aristocratic life in China

(ORDO NEWS) — Archaeologists in Beijing have successfully reconstructed a 2,000-year-old mirror that was once treasured by the high nobility during the Han Dynasty.

The mirror contains the earliest known portrait of Confucius communicating with his students and over 2,000 Chinese characters dedicated to the ancient sage.

Nicknamed “a screen with a portrait of Confucius,” it was originally thought to be a lacquer screen. Once it was installed in the living quarters of the Marquis Haihong and was supposed to give moral instructions to the titled aristocrat, talking about the wisdom of the Chinese philosopher and politician when he reflected on his life.

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The artifact was discovered in November 2015 in the main chamber of the mausoleum of the Marquis. Since then, many years of work have been carried out to restore it and decipher its images, especially those of Confucius.

The frame once contained a rectangular bronze mirror measuring 76 cm by 47 cm (2.5 ft by 1.5 ft), which was broken into several fragments. Various images are painted on the back of the frame and on the doors of the mirror.

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The owner of the mirror was Liu He, the first Marquis of Haihong, who owned a fiefdom of about 2,000 families in what is now Jiangxi province in eastern China. This late Western Han Dynasty (92 BC – 59 BC) nobleman, who briefly served as emperor, was known for his love of luxury and his patronage of art and literature.

Excavation of the tomb of Marquis Haihun first began in 2011, shortly after the site was discovered and identified. So far, more than 10,000 artifacts have been excavated there, including gold bars, pottery, jade jewelry, and about two million copper coins.

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In 2017, an application was submitted to include the tomb in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. In September 2020, Marquis Haihun Ruin Park opened to the public. The park, covering more than 12 square kilometers and worth nearly 4 billion yuan ($600 million), displays impressive relics unearthed in the tomb complex.

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