Place of Origin: Tibet
Date: 14th to 16th Century
Overall Diameter: 850mm
This large, dome-shaped cane shield from Tibet has a 19th century Buddhist mirror at its centre. The outer surface of the shield has black painted diamonds set against a red background. Such shields are shown in a photograph of armoured cavalrymen in Tibet taken circa 1903–4 (see Waddell, Lhasa and its Mysteries, 1906, facing p.172). Another such shield is photographed hanging on a column in Drepung monastery, Tibet. The photograph was taken by Steven Kossak, 2001, (see La Rocca, Warriors of the Himalayas: Rediscovering the Arms and Armour of Tibet, 2006, p.13, fig.14).
Mirrors, (me-long in Tibetan,) such as the one applied to this shield, play an important role in Tibetan Buddhist ritual. They are used in the consecration of thangka paintings and, in this case, have been mounted on shields perhaps to be hung in the chapels of a protective deity (gongkhang), where arms and armour were often displayed as votive objects. The iron hooks at the top of the shield and the lack of hand grips on the back are further confirmation of this theory. The mirror is of typical construction, with a slightly convex central iron disc which acts as the ‘mirror’. This is surrounded by an elaborate applied copper border embossed with complex scrollwork on a stippled background, richly gilded with some losses to highlights.
This shield comes from the same collection as the four-mirror armour published in an earlier catalogue (1).
(1) Singh, Arms & Armour from the East, 2016, p.79, no.33.