East Asia

Unused Shishi mask from Japan, circa 1960

for the lion dance
for the lion dance

Q: The head alone is 7” wide; with the ears included, it’s 14” across. The ears are removable. I’m pretty sure the material is a lightweight wood. My grandmother probably bought this on trips during the 1950’s or 1960’s. She also collected Satsuma ceramics, of which I have a few pieces. I’ve attached photos of the box it came in. Frank, 805

A: It always comes with a moveable jaw. Though this one is about 75 years old it is in brand-new condition. The Japanese love to give masks as a gift. Shishi-mai, a Lion Dance, is performed by people dressed in a headdress of a lion (really an imaginary beast with characteristics of a lion). It was probably brought to Japan by the 8th century through innumerable embassies sent to Tang Dynasty China. Shishi-mai dances spread across Japan and were performed at festivals to ward off evil spirits and to pray for peace in the land, a bountiful harvest, and health. came in. These masks are still being used all over Japan.

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