Taipei, July 18 (CAN) The National Palace Museum (NPM) on Monday announced that its latest exhibition will include a 400-year-old artifact, an obsidian mirror associated with the Aztec deity Tezcatlipoca.
The mirror came from European missionaries and belonged to the Qing dynasty court, the museum said in a press release Monday, noting that the upcoming exhibition will feature corrected and updated information on the artifact.
According to the museum, Emperor Shunzhi, the first Qing emperor after the founding of the dynasty, attempted to identify the mineral used in the making of the mirror to no avail.
Later Qing Emperors Qianlong and Daoguang both wrote songs and poetry in praise of the mirror, showcasing its value within the court.
The Qing dynasty even fashioned a protective pouch to keep the mirror in, the museum said.
As the function, properties and name of the mirror were unknown to the Qing court, it was called the Ink-Jade Mirror during the dynasty. The museum retained the name before renaming the piece the Ink-Crystal Mirror in its first modern update.
However, through the application of updated technology, a research team at the museum has since been able to confirm that the artifact is in fact a rare obsidian mirror from the Mesoamerican Aztec culture fashioned from the naturally occurring volcanic glass mineral obsidian.
This has resulted in the piece being renamed again “Aztecs Obsidian Mirror” from the Qing imperial collection, NPM said.
Mirrors were important relics in the mystic traditions of Mesoamerican cultures, as they were believed to be portals that linked our realm to ones that were intangible, such as the past, present and future, according to the museum.
The museum’s Aztecan obsidian mirror was 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.
After the Spanish conquistadors took control of Central and South America in the 16th century, these rare obsidian mirrors found their way into the hands of European collectors, the most famous of which was that of John Dee, an alchemist to Queen Elizabeth I.
Currently, Dee’s mirror is one of the most treasured items in the British Museum, with its now correctly identified counterpart to be displayed in Exhibition Room 302 at the National Palace Museum in Taipei starting July 19.
(By Wang Pao-er and James Lo)
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