Those of you who have been following the latest story arc of Dark Horse’s Tomb Raider comic series will no doubt be familiar with the Wei Mirror - an ancient artefact dubbed the “Prison of Souls” - that Lara Croft is searching for in her bid to save her friend Sam’s soul from the clutches of the shaman queen Himiko.
But did you know that this mirror is modelled after real-life bronze mirrors found at a number of ancient sites in Japan and China?
In early January 2017, Tomb Raider China contributor Ade Tong went on her own research expedition to track down one such mirror in the historic city of Luoyang (洛阳), the capital city of the Wei state during the Three Kingdoms period.
The first part of her report gives readers a brief introduction to the Wei Dynasty (220-265 CE) before she moves on to the subject of bronze mirrors in Chinese and Japanese antiquity, noting the similarities (and differences) between Han Dynasty mirrors and those that the Wei ruler presented to Himiko’s emissary in the third century.
Ade then goes on to talk a little about the real Himiko based on what we know from historical records.
Precious little is actually known about the queen and her kingdom Yamatai since she isn’t mentioned in any of the oldest surviving Japanese historical records, but historians and archaeologists are slowing piecing together her story from Chinese texts such as the Records of the Three Kingdoms (三国志), the Korean historical text Samguk Sagi, and archaeological excavations conducted in the area of the Hashihaka kofun tomb in Sakurai, Japan.
The third and final part of Ade’s report is all about her visit to the Luoyang Museum, which not only houses over 400,000 artefacts excavated from archaeological sites throughout the city but also the real-life “Wei Mirror” that inspired the one seen in the comics.
Looking for more articles about Himiko and her bronze mirrors? Here’s a selection of articles to get you started:
- A Pilgrimage to Himiko’s Tomb (The Archaeology of Tomb Raider)
- Bronze Mirror Linked to Himiko Found in China For 1st Time (Kaogu.CN)
- Himiko’s Magic Mirror (Green Shinto)
- Mirrors to Japanese History (Archaeology Magazine)
- Queen Himiko: Bad-Ass Women in Japanese History (Tofugu)
- The Hunt for Himiko: Will Archaeologists Ever Excavate the Hashihaka Tomb? (The Archaeology of Tomb Raider)
- The Hunt for Himiko Continues: Has Himiko’s Palace Been Found? (The Archaeology of Tomb Raider)
- The Magic Mirror Maker (Kyoto Journal)
- The Magic Mirror of Shaman Queen Used in Ancient Japanese Rituals (Ancient Origins)