• East Asia

    3 Japanese masks new to me

    A friend sent me an article titled “10 Things You Might Not Know About Traditional Japanese Masks” by Lucy Dayman. She is an Australian-born, Japan-based journalist, copywriter and editor. It is an excellent article, but I new only seven of the masks. So here are the remaining three. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did. The cherub-faced Okame is the wife of Hyottoko, a cheerful lady who’s a symbol of good luck. Technically Okame goes under two names; Otafuku and Okame. Otafuku means good fortune while Okame means tortoise a Japanese symbol of a long life, so no matter which name you’re using she’s a positive sign…

  • East Asia

    Japan’s magnificent Noh masks

    The Kasshiki-otoko noh mask you see here is from the Meiji period, an era of history which extended from 1868 to 1912. It is very carefully carved wood, painted, lacquered and polished several times. This beautiful piece can be found at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. The word Noh means talent, skill and craft in art performance. Noh is the oldest theater style played today. Noh is classical Japanese musical drama based on tales from traditional literature performed since the 14th century. In the story, supernatural creature transforms into human shape and tells the story. The actors tell a story through gestures and appearance in masks. They capture the…

  • East Asia

    Wuhan has masks also

    Nowadays we think of Wuhan as birthplace of the Coronavirus. It is located in the central part of China and is known for hi-tech and other industries. Not so much for folk art. I searched the internet for masks from Hubei Province and its capital, Wuhan, and only could find this. It shows a carver finishing off a mask for the Nuo opera… or it could be for sale to tourists. Let’s hope we survive this worldwide pandemic. Bob

  • 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…

  • East Asia

    Bugaku King Rangryo mask, Japan

    Our great friend, Aron Fellmeth of Second Face Museum of Cultural Masks has this to say: Bugaku is an official court dance of Japan, dating back to about 500 C.E. During the Heian period, Bugaku dances were so central to protocol that nearly all ceremonies and festivals included them. The dance was especially important in appeasing angry gods, purifying the village, and petitioning the gods for rain or a good harvest. The dance is performed to the music of drums and flutes. The dancers enter the stage singly in succession, then dance together in pairs, in synchronicity to varying tempos. Each dance has its own mask and is named after…

  • East Asia

    Recent Bugaku mask from Japan

    Q:  I’ve got a new mystery mask for you.  I was in Japan all December, filming ceremonies and collecting masks for the Museum, and I came across this one in an antique store in Kyoto, which I absolutely do not recognize.  This is not a tourist item, but I don’t recognize the type.  The back gives the date (1985) and what appears to be someone’s name, or possibly the name of a workshop, but the kanji is unclear.  Do any of your visitors have expertise in Japanese folk traditions?  Aaron,1655 A: My guess is Bugaku. These kind of masks can go back 800 years. I’ve heard a few of them…

  • East Asia

    Old Chinese bronze helmet mask

    Q: This was a gift. I am curious about it’s value. (later) I finally got in touch with the collector who gifted me the mask. He lived in China for a few years over 30 years ago as an employee of the Cuban government. This is where he purchased the helmet. I did a little more research and found an antique dealer on Etsy who recently sold an almost identical helmet to Kentuckyana Jones in July of this year. Shelly, 1639 A: Both masks are about 10.5 inches in height. The ornament on top is 3 inches. The circumference at the nose is roughly 24 inches. As you can see,…

  • East Asia,  India & Himalayas

    Traditional Buddhist mask from Mongolia

    Q: Slightly Mysterious… I recently purchased this mask at an online auction for approx $30. Not sure of origin since it was simply described as an “Asian Mask”. I don’t believe it was ever worn, but it’s very well made and certainly could have been . It measures 11″ X 9″ and carved from a lightweight wood. I’m guessing it’s from Bhutan or Nepal, based on the way the ears are carved and the exaggerated expression, but I could be wrong. Dan, 1622 A: I think of traditional Buddhist masks as being Himalayan, but they are also found as far north as Mongolia for use in the famous Tsam ceremony…

  • East Asia

    Huge Korean lion mask

    Q: I have a pair of large masks that I purchased from an antiques dealer several years ago. He collected a lot of strange/interesting things and I really liked these masks a lot. Both are almost identical with very subtle differences. They seem to be made of a paper mâché mix with possibly a fiberglass tape…not sure. The sizes are 22 inches wide by 24 inches high. I purchased a massive lot from him so there wasn’t an individual price. Both of them have two metal handles placed on each side (obviously to hold), and also a painted swing bar in a half moon shape that swings up and rests…

  • East Asia

    Chinese opera mask

    Q: This time I sent you a mask of the Beijing theater. I suppose it may be original because on the back, under the nostrils, I saw a stain that could be caused by the breath. I hope I got it right this time. Monica, 1572 A: You are right. Peking and Beijing opera, are the most dominant form of Chinese opera which combines music, vocal performance, mime, dance and acrobatics. These are performed all over the country. The number of these masks being made is huge. Papier mache opera mask are probably the favorite method performers use as makeup. Since such opera masks are used in representing various human…