East Asia

Chinese character mask

Q:  I have another mask that I would like to ask you to please look at for me. This one is labeled Taiwan. It is a very dark red wood, perhaps mahogany? It is 1.5″ thick in parts, and is fairly heavy, almost 2 lbs.
An interesting feature is that there are 5 holes around the underside of its mouth. There are bristles that have been cut protruding from these holes, which makes me think it must have had whiskers at one time, which someone removed. It measures just about 10″ across, and 9″ in height. Do you have a any ideas about this one’s purpose or origins? It appears to be on the older side, with a number of boring bug holes in its back.  Mike, 1382

A:  I saw a mask from Nanfeng, Jiangxi, that was a different character, but carved in a similar manner. It was used as a traditional drama mask. Yours has Taiwan written on the back. Perhaps the carver was from Nanfeng. Of course, it could be that the Taiwanese carver made this drama masks for the tourist trade. I’m not sure. Let’s hope someone will help us out. Is it authentic or decorative? Don’t be afraid to comment!

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