Like many early mirrors, the present lot is delightfully adorned with animals. The center figure is a tortoise, one of the four directional animals that rule the four quadrants. Like other bronze mirrors, the figure is raised from the surface and pierced to allow the fastening of a cord.
Arranged in a ring around the central tortoise boss are the twelve animals of the Twelve Terrestrial Branches, commonly known as the Chinese zodiac: rat, ox, tiger, hare, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, cock, dog, and boar. Animals were symbolic of the twelve earthly branches, which were match up with the which were matched up with the ten heavenly stems forming a cycle of sixty. Using this cycle, correspondence can be made between the different animals and each of the hours, days, months, and years. The animal cycle may have been taken from Turkic peoples in Central Asia.
Mirrors were thought to be the link between man and the heavens and to drive away evil.
A Tang mirror of lobed outline with a tortoise on a lotus pad encircled by the Eight Trigrams and the twelve animals of the zodiac is illustrated in Ancient Bronze Mirrors in the National Museum of History, Taipei, 1996, p. 125.