• East Asia

    Japanese fox mask with moving jaw

    Q:  I would appreciate you posting this old Japanese  mask of mine. Your viewers can see more on the eBay site by searching for “maskmonger.”  Nate, 1444 A:  Kitsune is the Japanese name for this fox mask. There’s patina attesting to multiple times that this mask was culturally danced. Note the articulating jaw that would move during the performance. Signed by “MOTONAGA” or “GENCHOU”. This mask was made and used at sacred Shinto performances during the Kagura shrine festivals. Given Japans rapidly shrinking population, which is making small towns and their shrines close, it seems all the more likely that this is an actual Shrine mask. The dancer wearing this…

  • East Asia

    Why such a distorted Japanese mask?

    The use of masks in Japan started from 10,000 BCE. They are used in plays and rituals, and for Noh theater. Today there are a wide range of characters, ranging from very realistic to extreme exaggerations.  This one is called Hyottoko. He can be used for comic interludes in Noh plays. The inexpensive papier mache version shown here can also be used by street performers and the general public.  In the USA it can show up for Halloween. Hyottoko, is probably the strangest-looking character of Japanese masquerade.  Of course, he is very funny looking and very strange.  But I think he would be disturbing enough to strike fear in somebody…

  • East Asia

    Red Korean old monk mask

    This old monk mask is worn by a character in the Pyolsandae dance performed in Yangju, South Korea. It is10 inches tall, painted wood with black cotton hood, and in new condition. Extras are always made for tourists and collectors, and they are quite affordable. In the dance drama this character becomes infatuated with the pretty girl and tries to seduce her. He is an ugly old guy. The yangju pyeolsandae nori is a very popular folk dance in korean history. There are over 20 characters. Red, black, white and other bright colors help to identify the character, many of which appear to have deformed features. Most of them are…

  • East Asia,  India & Himalayas

    Mongolian Buddhist mask

    Mongolia, once the second largest empire in the world, is north of both Tibet and China. So the prominent religion of Buddhism is shared with Tibet, and the Mahakala mask is also made for ceremony in Mongolia. This is a good example of the northern version of this famous mask. Can you tell the difference? It is very close, so I have archived this mask under both “East Asia” and “India & Himalayas.” Here is a little more history. Since time immemorial Mongolia has been occupied by tribes whose nomadic existence was dictated by the rugged topography and extreme climate of this vast region. More often fragmented than unified, these…

  • East Asia

    Mask from Timor, East Asia

    The island of Timor gave rise to a distinctive tradition of dance masks whose precise origins and significance remain uncertain. What information exists suggests that many of the masks originated in East Timor. Portraying both male and female ancestors, they were worn by men during dances and other ceremonies, including celebrations of victory in war. When in use, the masks were typically painted, adorned with strips of hide or bristles representing facial hair, and worn with a headdress or hood that covered the head to further conceal the dancer’s identity. Some masks were made from perishable materials, but wood examples, such as this highly polished and deeply patinated work, were…

  • East Asia

    Small copy of ancient Japanese mask

    Q:  If possible I would like to know more about this mask. I bought it at a yard sale for next to nothing. It’s not a mask I can identify anything about, so any information would be appreciated. Specifically interested in what culture, location or time frame it comes from and if it is a recent replica, what style it is based on.  Leander, 1421 A:  The inspiration for our little souvenir is a Gigaku mask that was used in 8th century Japan with music and dance for the upper classes. This scaled-down copy was probably made 2000 years later as an inexpensive piece of wall decor.  C And now,…

  • 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…

  • East Asia

    Beautiful Khon mask from Thailand

    Q:  This is one I researched and found good info on. It was picked up in Thailand, and is a Khon mask, worn by actors in the traditional Ramakien dramas. This particular mask is Thotsaken, who is the chief demon in their Hindu based drama. It is actually three pieces, the first main part that goes over the actor’s head is Thotsaken, the middle piece shows multiple faces and connects to the pleasant looking face on the third top piece, which is supposed to be an angel or female heavenly being. This mask has obviously been used, and it was  made with great care and painstaking attention to detail. I…

  • East Asia

    Chinese dragon mask

    On the biggest holiday of the year in the most populous country in the world, various masks are worn during week-long celebrations to ring in the new year. Made from materials including stones, metal and leather, these colorful masks are designed to display the moods and emotions associated with the festival. The masks represent the deities, spirits and fabled animals that Chinese New Year mythology originated from. This one is the famous dragon of the New Year’s parade. Because of the huge Chinese diaspora you can see them in many countries around the world. In yesterday’s post there are some masks that are only seen in a few, small countries…

  • East Asia

    Big bird from Borneo

    This is a rough but colorful hudoq mask. In the Dayak language hudoq means hornbill bird. These famous masks are worn during agricultural ceremonies and to welcome important guests. Like so many ethnographic artifacts from around the world, the design is highly abstracted art that can only be understood by members of the culture. The colors are always a strong red, white and black. Collectors love to display them and they are always in demand.  1364