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Horlyck, Charlotte (2005) Mirrors in Koryo society: Their history, use and meanings. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI: https://doi.org/10.25501/SOAS.00028949

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Abstract

The Koryoˇ dynasty (AD 918-1392) witnessed an unprecedented rise in the production of bronze mirrors that were cast in a large variety of shapes, sizes and motifs. This thesis explores the history, use and meanings of Koryoˇ mirrors and challenges preconceived interpretations viewing them as one-dimensional everyday objects whose mundane existence persisted irrespective of context. Through a detailed study of the surviving evidence, a complex picture emerges and mirrors are proven to be meaningful commodities that operate within unique social, political and religious settings. These conditions govern their production and consumption and determine their stylistic attributes and uses. The body of material examined consists of archaeologically recovered mirrors from tombs and pagodas and unprovenanced examples in museum collections. The former undergo a rigorous structuralist analysis within their known framework of use, whereas the latter expand and enrich the sample. Pre- Koryoˇ examples are also brought into the discussion in the belief that earlier traditions informed the ways in which Koryoˇ mirrors functioned. Stylistic comparisons are made with foreign examples and the few available written sources provide further insights into the use of mirrors in Koryoˇ. In this way, the multiple functions and meanings of Koryoˇ mirrors are brought to light and interpreted. As secular commodities, mirrors performed both ordinary and complex roles as grooming utensils, diplomatic and trade items, luxury artefacts and collectibles of aesthetic and antiquarian value. Their production was controlled by the government and the best specimens, apparently restricted to the aristocracy, came to manifest high social status, a quality that members of local elites sought to emulate through the consumption of similar items. As ritual objects, mirrors were associated with status and auspiciousness and assumed apotropaic qualities; they also embodied key concepts within the Buddhist teaching. For these reasons, they were used as burial goods and were also included alongside relics within pagodas. Their secular and ritual roles were thus interwoven and the one did not preclude the other.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier): https://doi.org/10.25501/SOAS.00028949
Date Deposited: 16 Oct 2018 15:04
URI: https://eprints.soas.ac.uk/id/eprint/28949

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