Japanese Masks: Bugaku and Gyodo Masks
Japanese Gallery (Honkan) Room 14 : June 4, 2013 (Tue) - August 25, 2013 (Sun)
Masks transform a person by being worn, and they have been made in various shapes around the world. However, there are probably no countries with as many existing ancient masks as Japan. Masks were used in places of worship such as temples and shrines, at festivals to pray for large harvests, or on stage to entertain. As a result, masks have spread throughout Japan, where they have been carefully preserved and utilized.
This exhibition displays Japanese masks from the Heian period (794 - 1192) to the Nanbokucho period (1333 - 1392).
Bugaku masks are used in bugaku, a performing art that prospered from the Heian period onward and which features dance together with court music. The music and dance of bugaku originated in China, the Korean peninsula, Vietnam and other places. These were introduced to the Japanese imperial court, from where bugaku spread to shrines and temples throughout the country. Owing to this origin, bugaku is characterized by refined, stately movements.
Gyodo masks were worn to represent twelve Buddhist deities and twenty-eight guardians parading around temple buildings, or to perform as the twenty-five bodhisattvas who accompany the Buddha Amida to meet the dead in raigoe memorial services. Raigoe services are still held at such places as Taimadera temple, Nara, and Kuhonbutsu Joshinji temple in Setagaya ward, Tokyo.
Tsuina masks are used in tsuinae services held on the last day of winter in the old Japanese calendar (normally February 3 or 4) to drive away evil spirits. When beans are scattered in this service, tsuina masks are worn to play the role of the frightened ogres.
This exhibition displays the sculptural appeal of Japanese masks, as well as the methods used to create a variety of movable expressions, eyes, noses, and jaws.
Gigaku masks are also on display in the Gallery of Horyuji Treasures (July 23 to August 18).