6 Different Types of Chinese Masks
Even in this day and age Chinese Masks are used within two main elements of Chinese culture.
Chinese masks have been in vogue throughout the centuries, accompanied by some rich history. This article tells you the history and meaning behind some popular Chinese masks, and the rich traditions behind them. Chinese Masks were primarily created to don the personality of another, but were used for communicating with the dearly departed. Since mourning for the dead always felt incomplete, a shaman was needed to perform the rites as well as provide a link between the living and the dead. Chinese masks have a rich history dating back to rock cave paintings found near the Yangtze River.
History of Chinese Masks
Origin of Chinese masks is in shamanic rituals of the old. They were used for exorcisms and during the funeral rituals. Masks developed during the time and entered other parts of life and culture and today they have many uses from births to funerals. They are used in dance performances, during celebrations, there are masks for newborns, masks made for protection against evil and theatrical masks. During ceremonies that are held as welcome celebrations of gods and spirits, groups of people wear “Sorcerer’s masks”. These masks are also used in rituals that are held as prayers for better tomorrow and during funerary rites to help a soul rest peacefully. These masks originate from totemic worshiping of Yunnan and Guizhou. “Shamanic” masks are used in exorcisms and in funeral rituals of northern parts of China.
About a thousand years ago in the central plains of China, cultures used masks for exorcising, or driving away evil spirits. The masks were also worn to celebrate births and to keep homes safe by scaring evil ghosts. This culture, located in the southern portions of the Yangtze River, was combined exorcism along with totem worship. This tradition much later evolved into operatic productions that were very popular with the army, because they praised the military.
The art of Tibetan masks forms an essential element of traditional Tibetan culture. The Chinese masks are famous culture for their unique style, diversity of shapes and characteristically simple, unsophisticated and primeval beauty. Tibetan masks are therefore an important area for research. This article intends to give a brief introduction to the masks in order to offer readers a basic overview of this art.
Xiangdong Nuo Mask
The Xiangdong Nuo Mask first appeared in the Hunan province and spread to the Xiangdong region of the Jiangxi province. This mask is an essential part of the Nuo culture, used specifically for rituals, dance and opera. The masks represent the high-quality Chinese masks artwork, with ornate painting and bright colors that define characteristics of the gods. Depending on the craftsman, the masks can have exaggerated lines or a more true-to-life appearance. They can depict a variety of masculine traits, such as savagery, power, arrogance, commitment, calm and friendliness.
Chinese masks, which are either made of wood or painted on faces, are donned either on a person’s head or face. Sorcerers’ masks from the Yunnan and Guizhou provinces were worn to welcome the god of fortune or to soothe the soul when someone had died. A number of different ethnic groups come from Yunnan and Guizhou. Their cultures incorporated totem worship and sorcerer rituals. Some of these societies are the Jingpo, Wa, Zhuang, Jinuo, Bai, and Dai.
These masks are influenced by the history of the Chinese masks kingdom, mostly the Song Dynasty. Each character has a different color painted on it to distinguish its quality. Although the masks are painted on the actor’s faces, they are available as a collector’s item too. They are made from wood or leather. The masks and their colors are explained here.
The dragon mask is a key symbol of fortune and prosperity for the New Year. The dragon mask is an important part of Chinese heritage and specifically New Year parades. While the dragon mask may not hold the same importance that it did during ancient times, no present day New Year’s parade is without it.