Ref. Number: 1004

Country: China

Material: Wood

Dimension: 17 x 14.8 x 8 cm

Chinese Mask in wood (side)

Masks ( 面具 Mianju) in Chinese culture are part and parcel of the world culture of masks. Masks first appeared in China during the Shang and Zhou periods, some 3500 years ago.

Chinese Masks are generally made of wood, and worn either on one’s face or head. Through colorfully painted images of people, ghosts, demons and celestial animals, they are purported to convey certain meanings. The Chinese masks fall into the following categories:

- Exorcising Dancers’ Masks, used at religious sacrigicial ceremonies among certain minority peoples, are designed to dispel ghosts and pestilence and ask gods for blessings.

Chinese Mask in wood (recto)

Chinese Mask in wood (verso)

- Masks for Festive Occasions, worn by people when they join exorcising dancers during festivals or memorial services.

- Masks for New Born Babies, used when members of society attend ceremonies marking the birth of a baby.

- Masks for Keeping Houses Safe, developed on the basis of those worn by exorcising dancers and hung on important positions of a house to scare away evil spirits.

- Masks for Theatrical Performances. In the theater of many ethnic minorities, masks are an important means to portray the images and personality of the characters.

On this particular mask, the symbol 王, could be a name as it is a popular Chinese last name, but it also means ‘king’, ‘ruler’, ‘royal’, or ‘prince’. The top is a line and the bottom represents a capable person, and the line on the top stands for ‘above the person’, so is the meaning ‘king’. Another interesting explanation is that the three horizontal lines represent heaven (the top line), land (the bottom line), and people (the middle line), respectively. The middle vertical line connects the three lines. Only the king has the power to govern heaven, land and people.

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