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Zhang Mu Wood (Camphor).

Qing Dinasty (1664 - 1911) 18th c. or before.

Hunan, China

45 cm.

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Ritual Mask , made in Camphor Wood , with a large quantity of red ,yellow and black, original pigments remaining .It is a hand mask, with a movable jaw bone to display the "Lion Dance"The lion dance beguins in China 2000 years ago, during the Han dinasty (206 a.C.-220 d.C.) It attained its height during the Tang Dynasty (618-907 d.C.), where the first references about it appeared in the book about music. The texts describe that the Lion dance was performed with 5 lions , a big one and 4 smaller ones, each of them in different colours. The dance was only allowed for people belonging to the social structure of the governor , but more and more it became popular.Now a days it became : a tradicional dance performed by only one lion. It was also highly fashion during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911),when the Manchues abolished the practice of the martial arts to prevent rebelions against their despotic rulers. The majority of the Kung Fu practicers became rebels that wanted to re-establish the Ming Dynasty, because the Lion Dance was used to exchange information among rebels.Among all the Nuo rituals , it existed a concrete lion dance , very active in the population belonging to the the Han ethnic of Hunan. The mask was hold with the hand while the Chaman or the person wearing it , danced along the music´s rithm, making the jaw bone move.They sang and danced with music, so this way they could attract the spirits to a certain field and ask for their favours.This celebration was accompanied with voice games and shouts of plea ,along the repetition of the rithmic music and patrons movements, that have been fulfilled throughout times the function of unite men with the spiritual world. Their prominent black eyes, the thick eyebroys, and the large nose are really emphasized. The red pigments outstand the features, the glossy cheekbone and the central part of the face, where it used to be placed the king´s symbol. There are masks full of expressiveness, where the characteristics are emphasized with the use of pigments. This kind of art should be very decorative , based on the use of natural colours, without mixtures, of a deep intensity, and of a big visual impact. It is an Idealized Art , not realistic, where features are exagerated and they create imaginary characters. Each colour has a meaning, it symbolizes a concrete value, that let the spectator recognize each character, good or bad, of the beings invoked.In this case, the red colour alludes to royalty and the figure of a hero, it is related to fire, and also symbolizes vigour and dignity. Black colour could be associated to infernal beings but in general it has the attributions of power and wild. The image of a lion comes from India and the Budist tradition ( the lion is the Dharma´s protector) Nevertheless it is not an indigenous animal from china, in reality, the first lions were brought from merchants and it is said that the first one arrived to the country as a gift for Shun Emperor in the 2nd century CE. From ancient times, it has been associated to power and royalty. When Budhism arrived to China, it incorporated the lion as a defender of the Budist law. Symbol of power and protection , he appears in several occasions in pairs flanking the main door of temples, homes and palaces.