During the Southern and Northern dynasties (420-589), in the state of Chen, there lived a beautiful, intelligent princess named Lechang. She and her husband, Xu Deyan, loved each other dearly. But before long, their country was in danger of being invaded by troops from the Sui Dynasty (581-618).
Princess Lechang and Xu Deyan had a premonition that their county would be occupied by the invaders, forcing them to leave the palace and go into exile. They might even be forced to separate and lose touch of each other. Thus, they broke a bronze mirror, a symbol of the unity between husband and wife, into two parts. Each kept a half of the mirror. They agreed that each would take their half of the mirror to the fair during the Lantern Festival (which falls on the 15th day of the first lunar month) the next year, in hopes that they would meet again.
Alas, their premonition soon came true. Amid the chaos of war, the princess lost touch with her husband and was taken to be a concubine of a powerful minister, Yang Su.
During the Lantern Festival the next year, Xu Deyan took his half of the mirror to the fair, hoping that he could see his wife again. It so happened that he came upon a servant who was selling the other half of the bronze mirror. Xu Deyan recognized it immediately and asked the servant about his wife. As he heard about her bitter experiences, tears rolled down his cheeks. Xu Deyan wrote a poem on the half of the mirror that was his wife’s: “You left me with your broken mirror, now the mirror is back but you are not. I can no longer see your reflection in the mirror, I can only see the bright moon.”
The servant then took the inscribed half of the mirror back to Princess Lechang. She cried for several days as she knew her husband was still alive and missed her, but how they could they find their way back again to each other.
When Yang Su heard of Princess Lechang’s sadness, he was moved by their true love for one another and realized it was impossible for him to capture her love. Thus, he sent for Xu Deyan and allowed them to reunite.
From this story comes the idiom “a broken mirror joined together.” It suggests the happy reunion of a separated couple.