Kin Sum (Sammy) Li 李建深
Art and Archaeology Department
This dissertation investigates how and why bronze mirrors from 500-200 BC Middle Yangzi Region of China were designed and manufactured. Study of the designs and manufacturing techniques of mirrors reveals the decision-making process of the producers and the organization of their factories. Before 500 BC, mirror decorations were executed via freehand carving on molds or models. After 500 BC, however, such direct carving of decorations was superseded by a technique called "the multiple-transfer method", which enabled the mass production of mirrors. The invention of the method implies that there was likely a market demand large enough to encourage mass production.
By reconstructing the production processes of the method, tracing the histories of diverse designs, and relating the producers' choices of designs to manufacturing techniques, we can postulate that there were at least two systems competing simultaneously in the mirror market. This dissertation revisits prevailing art historical and archaeological assumptions and offers new trajectories of research that incorporates socio-economic analyses in studies of ancient China. It also attempts to create methods of conducting experiments with images.