The Cincinnati Art Museum has discovered a century-old mirror

A once-in-a-lifetime discovery will be on display for the world to see at the Cincinnati Art Museum. A “magic” mirror was recently discovered during research on an ancient piece of art in the museum’s collection that had been in storage for more than 50 years, dating back to 1961. Cincinnati Art Museum Curator of East Asian Art, Dr. Hou-mei Sung , made the once-in-a-lifetime discovery. What may appear to be a simple-looking bronze mirror from the 16th century actually contains much more. Under special lighting conditions, the reflections reveal an image of the Buddha surrounded by multiple radiating rays of light. The museum said the “magical” mirror will be on display from July 23 for the world to finally see. Mirrors, known as “magic”, “transparent” or “light-penetrating” (透光鏡) mirrors, were first created in China during the Han Dynasty (202 BC – AD 220 . AD), the museum says. When under certain lighting conditions, the mirrors appear transparent and reveal characters or decorative design. “This is a national treasure for China, and we are so happy to have rediscovered this rare item and put it on display in Cincinnati,” Sung said in a statement. The front of the museum’s mirror shows a polished reflective surface, and the back is marked with six characters: 南無阿彌陀佛, the name of Amitabha Buddha. The museum said these types of mirrors are very difficult to make and therefore very rare to find. Apart from the Han dynasty magic mirrors in the Shanghai Museum, the museum said only two other such Buddhist magic mirrors are known: one in the Tokyo National Museum, and the other at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The museum said that based on their initial research on the Cincinnati mirror, it was probably made even earlier than the other two examples and was made in China. Visitors can see Secrets of the Mirror for free in the museum’s East Asian Gallery (Gallery 140) after July 23.

A once-in-a-lifetime discovery will be on display for the world to see at the Cincinnati Art Museum.

A “magical” mirror was recently discovered during an examination of an ancient artwork in the museum’s collection that had been in storage for more than 50 years, since 1961.

Curator of East Asian Art at the Cincinnati Art Museum, Dr. Hou-mei Sung, made the once-in-a-lifetime discovery.

What may appear to be a simple looking 16th century bronze mirror actually contains much more.

Under special lighting conditions, the reflections reveal an image of the Buddha surrounded by multiple radiating rays of light.

The museum said the “magical” mirror will be on display from July 23 for the world to finally see.

Mirrors, known as “magic”, “transparent” or “light-penetrating” (透光鏡) mirrors, were first created in China during the Han Dynasty (202 BC – AD 220 AD), the museum indicates.

When under certain lighting conditions the mirrors appear transparent and reveal characters or decorative design.

“This is a national treasure for China, and we are so happy to have rediscovered this rare item and to be able to see it in Cincinnati,” Sung said in a statement.

The front of the museum’s mirror shows a polished reflective surface, and the back is marked with six characters: 南無阿彌陀佛, the name of Amitabha Buddha.

The museum stated that these types of mirrors are very difficult to make and therefore very rare to find.

Besides the Han dynasty magic mirrors in the Shanghai museum, the museum said there are only two other such Buddhist magic mirrors known: one in the Tokyo National Museum and the other in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The museum said that based on their initial examination of the Cincinnati mirror, it is likely that it was made even earlier than the other two examples and was made in China.

Visitors can see Secrets of the Mirror for free in the museum’s East Asian Gallery (Gallery 140) after July 23.

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