Asian Art

Mirror with Animals Symbolizing the Four Cardinal Directions

2nd–1st century B.C.E.

High-tin bronze

Diam.: 5+ in.
Purchased with a gift from the B. D. G. Leviton Foundation
1995.17.1
The use of four animals to represent the four cardinal directions had become an important motif in Chinese art by the beginning of the Han dynasty. The dragon symbolizes the east; the phoenix—or vermilion bird—the south; the tiger, the west; and the turtle, the north.
Culture: 
Chinese
Period: 
Western Han dynasty (206 B.C.E.–8 C.E.)
Classification: 
Tools and Equipment
Geography: 
China
Status: 
On view
Provenance: 

Similar example illustrated in: Ancient Chinese Bronzes from the Collection of Chester Dale and Dolly Carter.
J.J. Lally

Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of such records is ongoing.