Tenka-ichi Exhibition of the Japanese Mirrors with Handle Collection

The history of bronze mirrors in Japan could be dated back to the Yayoi period (300B.C.-A.D.250), where bronze mirrors were continually brought into Japan from China. Much of the relics unearthed and bequeathed were from China, where the treasure house Shosoin Temple has quite a collection of such Chinese bronze mirrors. It was not until the 3rd century B.C. during the Kofun period (A.D.250-538) that the Japanese had started manufactured their own bronze mirrors to cope with the increasing domestic demand. Round in shape and imitative of the Chinese decorative patterns were of the early bronze mirrors, where the distinctive Japanese styles and characteristics were then gradually developed during the latter half of Heian period (A.D.794-1185), and hence the creation of Japanese bronze mirrors. Through the Kamakura and Muromachi periods and upon Edo period (1603-1868), metal casting technology in Japan had thrived and bloomed, where it had become the rising star of bronze mirror craftship in East Asian countries, replacing the prominence of Chinese mirrors from Han and Tang Dynasties.
Decorative motifs and embellishments engraved at the back of these japanese bronze mirrors have always been the appeal for antique collectors.About the origin of Tenka-ichi, some said it was a policy impelled by Oda Nobunaga, a powerful feudal lord whom is regarded as one of the three unifiers of Japan. The honorary title of Tenka-ichi(天下一), meaning ‘First under Heaven’ literally, was bestowed upon esteemed mirror casters as official recognition of their artistry, which had also become the drive for the craftspeople to keep on delivering such delicacies. Later on, it had become fashionable for mirror-makers that wish to flaunt their expertise to chase the characters of ‘天下一’ behind the mirrors, and with alongside their names, positions, and localities. From this collection of e-kagami, i.e. Japanese bronze mirrors with handles, one could closely appreciate the unique Japanese features, while taking a glance back into the Edo period through contemplating at the prevailing styles of folk mirror designs.
Dates: 2018.05.05-07.15
Courtesy of Simon FANG