This paper examines changes in the philosophical and literary representations of mirrors—and mirroring—in a foundational period of Chinese history beginning with the pre-classical period and ending in the medieval Tang Dynasty. Inspired by the peculiarity of this object, which acts upon subjects at least as much as it is acted upon by them, this study of the literary mirror, of reflection and reflexivity, provides a glimpse into the larger issue of the construction of subjectivity in premodern China. Through the examination of each stage of the literary mirror’s gradual transformation from metaphor, to lyrical stimulus, and ultimately to its subsumption as an evocative predicate, it is possible to observe concomitant shifts in the construction of the literary subject as it displays increasing—but never absolute—degrees of specificity, distinctness, and autonomy.

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