Decades of archaeological excavations have yielded a large number of bronze mirrors from late prehistoric sites in Xinjiang. Scholarly attention has been invested in fitting these specular discs into a singular origin story of the Chinese mirror. Repositioning them within the context of the eastern Eurasian steppe, this article instead takes Xingjiang mirrors as artifacts indexing both diverse local developments and transregional patterns of circulation. A typological framework is proposed based on shape and structure: knob mirror with a flat rim, knob mirror with a flanged rim, grip mirror with a long handle, tanged mirror with a short protrusion, and knobless and handleless mirror. The presence or absence of zoomorphic décor enables even finer distinctions. ArcGIS mapping is employed to investigate the geo-cultural distributions of the different mirror types across Xinjiang. As a result, this article argues that the circulation of bronze mirrors in late prehistoric Xinjiang entailed four aspects of creative processes of cultural exchange, including diversity, fluidity, connectivity, and adaptability. Diversity is manifest in the richness and variety of Xinjiang mirror types. Fluidity challenges the knob-versus-grip dichotomy long held in academia. Connectivity captures frequent and multiple exchanges across all parts of the steppe that generated pan-regional styles and facilitated transfer of mirror casting techniques and designs. Adaptability foregrounds the agency of local invention and adaptation. The combined local-global perspective brings into focus the intricacies of mirror circulation centered in Xinjiang, a pivotal geographic and cultural hub of East-West exchange long before the Han empire’s opening of the Silk Road in the second century B.C.
circulation, bronze mirrors, late prehistoric Xinjiang, center-periphery
© 2022 by the University of Hawai‘i Press
Guo, Yanlong, "The Circulation of Bronze Mirrors in Late Prehistoric Xinjiang (2000–200 B.C.)" (2022). Art: Faculty Publications, Smith College, Northampton, MA.
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