I find it interesting that mirror, kə33, is written thus in the Naxi Dongba script: week19.

For a start, it looks like a guy trapped in the sun. But it actually represents the reflection seen in a circular copper mirror, and the lines along the circle depict the shining, reflective nature of the mirror’s surface.

In contrast, the oracle bone character for the Chinese jian 监, observe from above, depicts a person looking into a bowl of water, to see their own relfection: jianoracle ; water being the most primitive form of mirror.

According to the oracle bone researcher Dong Zuobin, there is a pictographic Ruoka (‘若喀’, a branch of the Naxi ethnicity) character for mirror that looks something like this: mirror2.  Again, this is a copper mirror, and Dong proposes that the markings along the edge indicate that it is of a Tang dynasty style, and thus comes to the conclusion that these copper mirrors only reached the mountainous Naxi areas of Northwestern Yunnan by the Tang dynasty.

I’ve seen a lot of copper mirrors in museums around China, and they have never seemed particularly reflective; but I suppose that’s just due to age and a thick layer of copper oxide. Genuine antique copper mirrors are, naturally, extremely valuable, so they’re definitely something to look out for in Lijiang’s many antique and bric-a-brac shops.

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