East Asia

Chinese Nuo Opera mask

Q: I acquired this special mask some 20 years ago. Seems to have good wear and tear to me. It’s a quite big mask (h 32cm w 33cm). I think it’s an ancient opera mask. But I’m not sure. Maybe you know more about it. Patrick, 1691

A: I only know this about your mask. Nuo opera is popular in southern China. Characterized by its special features such as ferocious appearance, unique dresses and adornments, it is also linked to exorcism. The opera is a religious performance intrinsic to the culture of Nuoism, a type of Chinese folk religion. The purpose of Nuo opera is to drive away devils, disease and evil influences, and also to petition for blessings from the gods.

Nowadays, it still remains popular among rural areas in southwest China, such as Guizhou, Anhui, Jiangxi, Hubei, Hunan provinces and Tibet. It is especially popular in the regions inhabited by ethnic minorities such as the Tujia, Miao, Dong and Yao. Looks to me like it’s old and used. I hope someone can tell us more about this one. A?

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