Collections •  Asia  


Asian masks are characterised by surprisingly sober shapes and by their great diversity. They are mainly used in theatre performances and dances. Initially, however, they were, like elsewhere, sacred and ritual objects supposed to show the invisible, i. e. demons, spirits, divinities etc. As at that time they were the carriers of the power of the spirits, masks have preserved part of this power and are therefore feared and worshipped objects, which is also the case in theatre where they are used in performances with a sacred character.
The theatre mask, the dance mask or the procession mask is also a charm which, due to its exorcising powers, chases away demons or illnesses by scaring them off or attracting them and making them fail. Not only is the mask quite often a talisman and chases away the evil, but it also has a beneficial influence, for example on harvest or rainfall.

Buddhism, too, makes use of masks. They are regarded as very precious, are preserved behind the walls of the temples and worn by the priests. For them, the masks personify the supernatural forces and unreachable divinities. It creates a link between the unknown world and earth. Like a mirror, the mask makes the invisible visible.
Besides wooden masks, sometimes other more ephemeral masks are created by means of make-up. It makes it possible to represent different human characters which the actor may express more easily. Opera, a form of theatre which has lost its initially sacred nature, often uses make-up.