Rare object known as the “Magic Mirror” on display at the Cincinnati Art Museum

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CINCINNATI (WXIX) – A new exhibit opens Saturday at the Cincinnati Art Museum. The artifact was stored for decades before a curator decided to research the object.

The artifact dates back to the 15th or 16th century. It’s so rare that there are only three known in the world. All three are in museums.

This is called a Buddhist prayer mirror. The back of the mirror has six letters which represent Amida Buddha. The mirror itself appears at first glance to be tarnished and no longer works.

The Cincinnati Art Museum’s curator of East Asian art, Hou-Mei Sung, did some research and discovered that these mirrors can sometimes be called magic mirrors.

“It’s the most exciting thing that’s happened.” Sung said. “I was researching trying to place this item in our Buddhist gallery, then while I was researching I realized there was the so-called Buddhist magic mirror.”

It was then that Sung had the idea to light up the mirror and see what was happening. Indeed, his instinct was right and the mirror returned this image as a projection. You can see what appears to be Buddha surrounded by light.

Sung says there are only two other mirrors like this in the world she knows. Both are on display in the museums of the MET in New York and in a museum in Tokyo.

“Of course, it’s for religious purposes to give people hope and salvation,” Sung said. “And I think people should be very excited to see this very rare item in our museum.”

The origin of the mirror is still unknown but it is probably China or Japan. Sung hopes others will come to see and learn the story behind this artifact. Admission to Cincinnati Museum of Art is free.

It is open Tuesday to Sunday from 11 a.m. from 5 p.m. to 5 p.m. and late on Thursday until 8 p.m.

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