An exhibition that opened yesterday at the National Palace Museum in Taipei features a 400-year-old obsidian mirror associated with the Aztec deity Tezcatlipoca.
The mirror is being displayed in Exhibition Room 302, the museum said on Monday.
It was taken from Mesoamerica following the region’s conquest by Spain and found its way to the court of the Qing Dynasty through European missionaries, it said.
Photo courtesy of the National Palace Museum via CNA
The exhibition contains correct and updated information about the artifact, the museum said.
Emperor Shunzhi (順治), the first Qing emperor, attempted to identify the mineral used in the mirror to no avail, it said.
Later Qing emperors Qianlong (乾隆) and Daoguang (道光) wrote songs and poetry in praise of the mirror, showcasing its value within the court, it added.
The Qing court even had a protective pouch made for the mirror, the museum said, adding that the pouch is being displayed alongside the mirror at the exhibition.
As the function, properties and name of the mirror were unknown to the Qing court, it was called the “Ink-Jade Mirror.” The museum retained the name for some time before renaming the piece the “Ink-Crystal Mirror” in its first modern update.
Researchers at the museum have since confirmed that the artifact is a rare obsidian mirror from the Mesoamerican Aztec culture fashioned from the naturally occurring volcanic mineral.
This has resulted in the piece being renamed again to “Aztec Obsidian Mirror” from the Qing imperial collection, the museum said.
Mirrors were important relics in the mystic traditions of Mesoamerican cultures, as they were believed to be portals to intangible realms, such as the past and the future, the museum said.
The mirror is traditionally associated with the god Tezcatlipoca, often representing a wide range of concepts, including the night sky, night winds, the jaguar, sorcery, war and conflict, it said.
Other obsidian mirrors also found their way to European collectors following the fall of the Aztec Empire, the most famous of which belonged to John Dee, an astronomer, occultist and alchemist at the court of Queen Elizabeth I.
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