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The Huntington Presents Ancient Chinese Bronze Mirrors from the Lloyd Cotsen Collection

An important collection of ancient Chinese bronze mirrors spanning 3,000 years makes its first public appearance in an exhibition at The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. “Ancient Chinese Bronze Mirrors from the Lloyd Cotsen Collection” will be on view from Nov. 12, 2011, through May 14, 2012, in the Chandler Wing of the Virginia Steele Scott Galleries of American Art.

The exhibition will include some 80 highly decorative early bronze mirrors, ranging in date from the Qijia Culture (2100–1700 B.C.) of pre- and early Chinese history, the Warring States period (450-221 B.C.), and the Han (206 B.C.-220 A.D.), Tang (618–906 A.D.), and Jin (1115-1234 A.D.) dynasties. Several related textile fragments will also be displayed.

The Lloyd Cotsen Collection was established by Lloyd Cotsen, a Los Angeles businessman, philanthropist, art collector, and member of The Huntington’s Board of Overseers. Cotsen purchased his first Chinese bronze mirrors in Hong Kong in the early 1950s while serving in the Navy during the Korean War. Today his collection contains thousands of pieces, including substantial assemblages of textiles, basketry and folk art.

“The Huntington is a natural venue for this exhibition,” notes Steven Koblik, Huntington president. “Our Chinese garden—Liu Fang Yuan, the Garden of Flowing Fragrance—not only has attracted the active support of the local Chinese American community but also has helped introduce the beauty of Chinese culture to visitors of all backgrounds. Programmatic activities like this exhibition are an ideal educational opportunity.”

Few things provide a clearer picture of an ancient civilization than the study of its material culture: the objects that individuals created, used, and valued. “From the earliest periods of China’s history, bronze mirrors have played a significant role in reflecting, both literally and symbolically, the face of the Chinese people,” says June Li, curator of the Chinese garden at The Huntington and organizer of the exhibition. In the exquisitely wrought designs and inscriptions that decorate the backs of these mirrors, centuries of craftsmanship, aesthetic taste, dynastic change, philosophy, and consumer culture are revealed

The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens is a collections-based research and educational institution serving scholars and the general public. More information about The Huntington can be found online at

Image: Eight-lobed Mirror with Vines, Birds, and Mythical Animals, China, Tang dynasty (618–907).Cast bronze with silver amalgam. The Lloyd Cotsen Collection. Photograph by Bruce M. White, 2009.

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