Masks and Puppets

Masks and Puppets:

Masks are utilized by all ethnic groups in China to portray operas and to participate in traditional celebrations. It is another part of old China that is no longer welcome apparently, nor useful, while TV and the internet is.

Note, not all of these may be Tibetan in origin.

For the places where people gather in number, religious celebrations or otherwise are often accompanied by masks, and people gathering in numbers may be seen as a threat to the Chinese regime, and for the most part have been banned except for tourist shows.  Masks are also heavily associated with shamanism.

  • See this auction: sold 01/26/2016 for $13.81 by arts-sun
  • See this auction : no sale 1/3/2016 at $23.24 by arts-sun
  • Another auction, same photos, same seller: sold 1/19/2016 for $16.50 by arts-sun
laughingbuddhadc
The eyes and mouth on this puppet of Laughing Buddha move.

Often sacred religious items were stored in caves for longterm preservation, this might have been the case with the mask- heavily covered in dirt- above before it was looted. Also if you look at the two names of the shops above, they are similar enough- and when you look at pictures of similar items for sale in each shop they only changed the watermark on- they are undoubtably the same person (or group of people) just using different aliases.

laughingbuddhaba

laughingbuddhaja

laughingbuddhaka

laughingbuddhaca

laughingbuddhaaa

Buddha here or Buddai (laughing Buddha) has recieved the royal fish and bird treatment on this mask. Very folky, and not something Chinese people in Beijing are going to mass produce.

longbeardmanaa longbeardmanab

  • Sold August 24, 2015 for $8.48

longbeardmanba

  • See this auction: sold 12/10/2015 for $15.80 by art_gem

The fresh paint is a testament that the people, the monks had not given up using these masks, part of explaining to the people who are largely illiterate the religious characters and plots handed down for generations. The backside of the mask is very darkened with age, giving a clue as to its great age.

Tibetan Red Man Mask

  • Sold 8/27/2015 for $17.51 (auction)
  • See this auction: sold 12/13/2015 for $12.79 by art_gem

The large lobed ears, dangling hugely as Buddha’s often are depicted, as well as leaves used as ornaments in the hair are indicative that the above mask may be closer related to India, than to China, though it is being sold by the Chinese and was probably found on their soil. It is not only Chinese history they rob by selling everything they find instead of studying it, but the history of the entire world.

oldmanmaskaa

beardedmanaa

These two bearded blue men are very similar, but their hair ornament has writing on it as well as other slight differences. In real life the hair piece would have been made from jade and is typically worn by the affluent and well-to-do in China since ancient times.

beardedmanba

  • See this auction: sold 1/12/2016 for 30.10 by art_gem

Not entirely just Tibetan masks are being sold, many of these may be from other oppressed ethnic minorities, and some like the general’s mask above represent very Chinese characters.

  • See this auction: sold 1/19/2016 for $23.67 by arts-sun

fishheadba

fishmanaa

beastmaskia

  • See this auction: sold 12/11/2015 for $22.57 by art_gem

hornedmaskaa

hornedmaskba

hornedmaskda

hornedmaskca

hornedmaskea

beastmaskpa

toothedmanaa

beastmaskja

  • See this auction: sold 12/18/2015 for $19.36 by art_gem

Chinese wooden mask

beastmaskbb

Many of these masks appear to have never been worn, and may have been placed in the home to ward off evil spirits, or even confiscated from families who sell tourists items like these. The red ribbon that is stapled to the backs so unceremoniously seems to be brand new, while the masks themselves may be much, much older and the original rigging to wear it or display them has been tossed in the trash or they didn’t have anything attached to begin with.

I was unable to find any references to these particular types of masks on a Google search besides ones being for sale- which all seem to be in larger cities like Beijing- no helpful when trying to identify which minority population these are from. Any information is certainly welcome, please feel free to leave comments below.

beastmaskqa

beastmaskna

  • See this auction: sold 1/1/2016 for $19.63 by arts-sun

beastmaskea

beastmaskga

beastmaskma

  • See this auction: sold 01/25/2015 for $25.57 by arts-sun

beastmaskva

beastmaskaa

beastmaskha

beastmaskua

beastmaskda

bigearsaa

bigearsba

This is probably a tiger- with spots- that also has the symbol for “King”- 王 on its’ forehead.

swordthroughheadaa

devilmaskba

devilmaskaa

devilmaskea

devilmaskca

mahakalamaskca


turtlemaskaa

Turtle shells like this are used in tantric Buddhist ceremonies and are called a  … in neolithic sculptures as well as material used to inscribe the very first wring in Oracle Bone Script, turtles have been an important and venerated part of Chinese-Tibetan culture.