Mirrors Among the Flowers: An Analysis of the Writing on Mirrors in Huajian ji
Keywords:花間集, 鏡, 詞, 文人詞, 唐五代, Huajian ji (Collection from Among the Flowers), mirrors, Ci-poetry, Ci-poems by literati, Tang and Five Dynasties
LANGUAGE NOTE | Document text in Chinese; abstract also in English.
This paper studies a variety of Chinese bronze mirrors mentioned in the Huajian ji (Collection from Among the Flowers). These mirrors are of different designs, such as mirrors inlaid with mother-of-pearl, mirrors with carved legendary birds, mirrors with handles, mirrors with carved petal-shaped octofoils. The paper also discusses relevant peripheral items including mirror cases, mirror chests, and mirror stands. It will start with the development and history of bronze mirrors from the pre-Qin to Tang and Five dynasties. In this way, we can interpret those words that have always been vague and ambiguous by utilizing the background knowledge about the physical objects mentioned above. As a result, the backgrounds and contexts of the relevant works in the Huajian ji can be clearly sorted and presented. Next, by comparing the cultural and literary meaning of mirrors with the writing of mirrors in the poetic tradition, the special expression and inner connotation of Ci-poems related to mirrors in the Huajian ji can be highlighted. In traditional poetry, poets mostly describe a real situation, such as unfulfilled ambition and weakening willpower; sentimental feelings when facing a mirror and being saddened by diminishing beauty and youth; and the depiction of the mirage of untouchable flowers and moons reflected on the mirror. On the other hand, Ci poets of the Huajian ji use the method of mirroring to represent interactions involving mirrors to reflect people, objects and scenes that may not necessarily exist. They include, for example: a lady in the boudoir making up in front of the mirror or covering her mirror speechlessly; an illusory paradise or historical scenes; expressing their will to overcome obstacles, to cultivate themselves, to search for paradise and salvation of love and beauty; and also the disappointment of failing to learn from history. In conclusion, such exquisite and delicate mirror-like illusions allow us to visualize the Ci poets’ affection, beliefs, and the truth they wished to deliver.
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