Textbook to Testimonial: The Emperor"s Mirror, an Illustrated Discussion (Di jian tu shuo)
The Emperor"s Mirror, An Illustrated Discussion (Di jian tu shuo; in Japanese, Teikan zusetsu) is a late Ming compendium of 117 anecdotes about Chinese emperors from the semi-legendary Yao to Song Huizong (r. 1100-1125). Each story is punctuated, annotated, explained, and accompanied by a lively narrative illustration. Created in 1573 by Senior Grand Secretary Zhang Juzheng (1525-82) for the newly enthroned, nine-year-old Wanli emperor (r. 1572-1620), The Emperor"s Mirror initially was a deluxe album containing handwritten texts and paintings. Almost immediately, Zhang published the work as a woodblock-printed book for wider circulation among officials, and it was quickly appropriated by commercial publishers for other markets. Taken to Japan, the illustrations inspired large-scale paintings on sliding doors and screens in the late Momoyama and early Edo periods. The present article thoroughly documents the origins and subsequent evolution of The Emperor"s Mirror in China and Japan, examining the work"s physical configurations and accompanying paratexts, to shed light on its changing functions and significance for different groups of patrons and viewers over more than four centuries.