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Tibetan Ritual Pendant Engraved Brass ‘Mirror’ (Melong)

circa 15th century

height including loop: 16cm, diameter of mirror: 14.4cm, weight: 188g



private collection, London, UK.

This mirror is of polished brass with a cast or chiselled copper suspension loop.

It has a wonderful patina and obvious age.

It comprises a disc of brass with a thickened edge. The suspension loop has been attached via a copper rivet. The plate of the loop is decorated on one side with a protective mask, and with leafy scrolls on the other.

The reverse of the mirror is engraved with leafy and petal scrollwork within concentric circles around a central yin-yang motif. The other side if the mirror is plain and would have been intended to function as the reflective surface.

Mirrors have special meaning in Tibetan Buddhism, although they seem to have their origins in the Bon religion that predates Tibetan Buddhism.

Ritually, they symbolise the voidness of the world and the emptiness of substances. Such mirrors were used ritually, often by oracles, and also worn as chest pieces, perhaps to repel evil. Examples of sets of mirrors that appear to have been worn by Tibetan soldiers are known. These seem to have served a talismanic, protective function. Polished metal mirrors also were hung above doors in temples and monasteries, again as protective devices.

A related example attributed to ‘circa 14th century’ is illustrated in Weldon & Casey Singer (1999, p. 141).

This example is beautiful and with a wonderful patina. The wear to the copper suspension loop particularly suggests the item’s significant age. The item could be worn readily as a large chest pendant.


Lama, M.N., Ritual Objects & Deities: An Iconography on Buddhism & Hinduism, Lama Art, 2003.

LaRocca, D.J., Warriors of the Himalayas: Rediscovering the Arms and Armor of Tibet, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2006.

Weldon, D., & J. Casey Singer, The Sculptural Heritage of Tibet: Buddhist Art in the Nyingjei Lam Collection, Laurence King/Weatherhill, 1999.

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