Japanese bronze mirror

06.23.2010 - By A History of the World in 100 Objects

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The history of humanity as told through one hundred objects from the British Museum in London. This week Neil MacGregor is looking at objects from Tanzania, Britain, Java and central Europe, exploring the great arcs of trade that connected Africa, Europe and Asia around a thousand years ago. Today he arrives in Japan with an object that offers a dramatic twist on the week's theme. This small mirror from the bottom of a sacred pond comes from a time when the Japanese suddenly cut themselves off from the outside world and stopped all official contact with China, a country it had frequently borrowed ideas from. Neil tells the story of the Heian period of Japanese history, a moment of great cultural awakening in Japan, especially in literature. The object is a small mirror that was found at the bottom of a sacred pond. The writer Ian Buruma and the archaeologist Harada Masayuki help describe the Japan of this time.

Producer: Anthony Denselow

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